Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on August 29th 2017
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She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .
Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.
Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.
Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.
Imagine my surprise when I picked up a Wonder Woman Warbringer, a Wonder Woman spinoff, only for it not to be about Wonder Woman at all. Instead, what I got was a book mainly about an original character and her friends in high school, who just happened to meet Wonder Woman. Though this book had its good points—mainly in the parts pertaining to Greek mythology—it read more like a middle school book—rather than a young adult one—with extremely simplistic writing and all of the characters acting like they were in a sitcom. To make matters worse, I found that I simply wasn’t interested in reading about a young Wonder Woman, let alone one that isn’t the titular Warbringer. The sum of all these parts is a very stale novel that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, let alone Wonder Woman fans.
Even the way the novel starts, with Wonder Woman (who is simply Diana Price and very much not Wonder Woman), participating in a race in order to prove her worth to the other Amazonians—who consider her not special, but unworthy of her place among them, felt insulting to the spirit of perfected sisterhood and female strength exemplified in the Amazon’s world of Themyscira. And when a scorned Diana was actually told, “Among all of us, only you will never know the pain of death,” I couldn’t believe that the book thought it was a good idea to pit these powerful woman against each other in such an undermining way.
I was even more appalled when, in a complete rip-off of the same movie that the book had just completely insulted the spirit of, Diana spotted a shipwreck—only to break the taboos of an island that doesn’t allow mortals and saved the survivor. This was so much like Steve Trevor’s plane crash in the movie, that I was shocked to read it. Granted, I reasoned there were only so many ways of ending up in Amazonian world of Themyscira, so it was to be expected. But the fact that the rest of the novel wasn’t any better, was not at all what I would’ve predicted from the wildly successful young adult author of the Grisha novels, Leigh Bardugo.
And my disappointment didn’t end there, as before long, I learned that the book wasn’t actually about Diana bringing war to the unjust like the title implied. Instead, Alia Keralis, the young woman whom Diana saved from the shipwreck was the Warbringer, a descendant of Helen of Troy—who carries the death of the world in her bloodline. After this knowledge, I felt very much duped by the title. The Oracle of Themyscira told Diana:
“When a Warbringer is born, destruction is inevitable. One has been the catalyst for every great conflict in the World of Man. With the coming of the new moon, Alia’s powers will reach their apex, and war will come. Unless she dies before then.”
Diana, of course, was not able to let Alia simply die from the wounds of her shipwreck and from the very island of Themyscira poisoning the mortal intruder—even though it would temporarily save the world until a next Warbringer was born. Desperate to save Alia and the world by any means necessary, Diana took up the lasso of truth (just like in the movie) and set out for Therapne, Greece, where the body of Helen rested and the Warbringer could be purified, thus ending the line of Warbringers once and for all. Unfortunately, Alia and Diana got lost in a storm and ended up in Alia’s home of New York City, of all places.
Once again, the book followed the exact same model of the movie, and had Diana humorously bewildered by everything in the modern world. And while these moments were slightly funny, they did not have the humor or charm of the movie, which did it completely better. What really frustrated me at this point, was that the book, which was marketed as a book about female strength and sisterhood, quickly grew into something cheaper, as Alia and Diana met up with Alia’s brother, Jason, and their friends Theo and Nim.
Things became even more bizarre, as even though Diana and Alia were on a strict time limit to save the world (and Alia’s life—as multiple entities were trying to kill her all over the world to prevent its destruction), they ended up going to a ball gown party in New York City. There, typical high school drama ensued, as Diana and Jason squabbled over their different methods of protecting Alia while slow dancing, Alia attempted to get the attention of Theo, and Nim flirted with another girl. I simply did not care about any of this and was frustrated that Diana could even consider flirting with Jason, who wasn’t even half the man Steve Trevor was. As I read, I continually asked myself how anyone could think this kind of plotline was a good or even remotely interesting idea for Wonder Woman?
Things got slightly better when the gang, who the author tried so hard to make edgy and diverse that it felt like she had a young adult diversity checklist, left the party after, obviously, an attempt on Alia’s life was made and Diana’s powers were revealed and they finally left for Greece. Though even that excitement was short-lived as more time was spent bonding among one another over teenage strife and romantic feelings, which never even felt authentic in the first place. It was all so cheesy and obvious—Jason and Diana pairing off, Theo finally recognizing Alia’s longtime feelings, and Nim realizing that she didn’t really hate Theo at all—that it made me want to gag. It was then, that I really gave up on the book ever getting better and started to skim through the rest of the book.
There were brief moments of reprieve from the edgy sitcom when the very gods of war and chaos, Phobos Deimos, and Eris tried to stop the crew from reaching Helen’s resting place, but there was not nearly enough time spent on them to make the book worth reading. And when a traitor in their midst was discovered in a last ditch attempt to again pull at the reader’s heartstrings or to make the teenagers seem even more conflicted, it was so predictable that I could’ve laughed. When the drama was over and the battles were won, View Spoiler » Theo and Nim were predictably resurrected, and Alia and the world were saved, the teenagers’ lives went back to normal and Diana went back home to Themyscira and, of course, the Amazons conveniently had no idea that she even went missing. « Hide Spoiler
When the Amazonians had no idea that Diana even accomplished any of this, I felt that the entire book really was a waste. I never really understood why so much of the movie was rehashed, why so much time was spent on people who were not Diana and making them diverse—black brothers and sisters, a fashion designing closeted gay Indian, and a Spanish hacker with daddy issues, when the focus could have been on the interesting bloodline of the Warbringer or the Greek mythology. I’m all for diversity and complex characters, but it wasn’t done in a way that ever felt natural or realistic. Though a victory for acceptance, it certainly wasn’t one for writing. And finally, I also couldn’t comprehend how this book supposedly took place before the events of the movie, but was also somehow in the modern world and not World War II, but Diana was also younger than the events of the movie.
The bottom line was that this book was definitely not for me, a twenty something fan of Wonder Woman and I wouldn’t recommend it to fans of Wonder Woman or even Leigh Bardugo’s other books. I felt duped by the title and the blurb on the back of the book from the very beginning, and even considered trading it in or donating it to the library. Perhaps this book would be better marketed to a younger audience, such as middle graders, who might better enjoy the simple writing and predictable events and romances.