The Tie-ins That Bind: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

This was a commission by Will Binns.

And so we’re back to the YA tie-in novel realm. This is where we visited the early days of the heroine of Jurassic World and Fox Mulder. It’s where we will in time learn how Carol Danvers got on her feet and encounter Loki in a solo story as well as discussing one of my favorite new characters. This is rich territory.

And it’s extra rich when you’re finding a new spin on a great origin. Wonder Woman has a perfect origin. She’s from outside our world and must answer the call to enter and protect it. It’s mythic as befits an amazon heroine. So I don’t mind yet another trip down this story. It’s a story that can be retold.

And writer Leigh Bardugo finds a new angle to do just that. The DC Icons quartet was an attempt to radically reimagine the origins of the characters to fit them in a YA realm. The characters were given new histories centered around their YA years. There’s a lot of standard tropes of the format in these books but they’re good.

And this is just that. Good. It’s not bold or unexpected. But it’s good.

The story takes a slightly different approach to the premise of an outsider landing on Thermyscira which draws Diana out. This time it’s a young woman, Alia, who seems to bring conflict wherever she goes. Diana discovers she belongs to a lineage of Warbringers, women whose very existence sets great wars in motion. She sets out to purify the girl, which means leaving the island and encountering her friends and her brother who will either prove a love interest or foe.

Using a girl to start Diana’s entrance into Man’s world is a new take that sets this book apart. Usually Wonder Woman’s story is linked to a man so I liked the twist. It gives it a different energy and keeps the story feminine at its core. A running thread of the book is how men distort the history of women. Does this sound preachy? Why the hell would you pick up a Wonder Woman novel if you didn’t want a feminist text. I dug it.

And this is a good WW book. It moves fast. Bardugo is a brisk writer with a clean style that doesn’t call attention to itself. There’s a lot of fun ideas here but the book isn’t caught in them at the expense of the story. It’s not anonymous but also never distracting. I’m down to read more by her.

That said, this is good, not great. Why? Well there’s a lot of tropes here that get really tiring after a while and I wasn’t always happy to see them. Alia, the titular warbringer, is about as generic a heroine as it gets. She’s a tough girl who still has her girlish traits. Very much an audience stand-in, something the Catwoman book did without. I also found her friends as cloying as could be. Very generic. Again, the Catwoman book gave her friends but they were at least Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, great characters!

The villain is also super predictable. Say what you want about Ares in the movie but he was at least a fun concept, depicting war as the bluster of small, minor men. This villain might as well introduce themselves as the villain. You don’t care.

But I don’t really mind. This is what it is and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Mid tier but mid tier is still fun. Definitely worth a read.

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