Wonder Woman by Leigh BardugoWonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo
Series: DC Icons #1
Published by Random House on August 29th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Sci-fi
Pages: 384
Goodreads

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.

4 Stars

‘‘Sister in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine.’’

Going into Wonder Woman, I was both excited and apprehensive. Leigh Bardugo is one of my all-time favourite authors but I had hitherto only read fantasy novels written by her, never an urban fantasy/sci-fi and a superheroine origin story, at that.

Though Wonder Woman doesn’t read like Shadow and Bone or Six of Crows, I’m now convinced this woman can write any genre. Her magic for writing multi-layered characters, sassy dialogue, and electrifying plot twists will never cease to amaze me! Leigh Bardugo can do no wrong. 

Bardugo’s characters have always been one of the elements I love most about her books – I mean, she invented the Darkling and Kaz Brekker, so no one is surprised – and this was no different in Wonder Woman. She created an engaging and diverse cast, using the individual storylines to address important themes. Bardugo used this Wonder Woman origin story to shine some light on a heroine with a thirst to prove herself. I was delighted to see that Diana was portrayed as “the weak one” among the Amazons which put things into proportions. Her loyality and curiosity made her a main character to root for. It was a positive surprise to me that most of the human cast was dark-skinned, most of them African American and one of Indian origin. By bringing race into play, Bardugo addressed identity and racism. Since I’m white myself, you might want to take this with a grain of salt, but: You learn to appreciate a white author’s talent when they pull off African American characters without making an apparent blunder. The supporting protagonists are equally as interesting as the female lead(s). Bardugo created multi-layered characters who struggled with various problems, such as being a closeted lesbian or standing in a best friend’s shadow. Bardugo has a gift for depicting group dynamics, spiced with wit and sass. Diana’s cluelessness about the modern world was often an opening line for a grin-worthy exchange between her and the other characters.

The plot was fast-paced and action-packed, which is what you’d expect from a Wonder Woman origin story. Though the overall story sported some predictability, there were some game-changing twists that I did not see coming, and obviously, those are the most enjoyable. I really appreciate that Bardugo prioritised friendships over romance. Diana’s and Alia’s strong female friendship is one of the almost swoon-worthy kind, and though there are some sparks, there is fairly little to no romance. Wonder Woman excellently weaves together contemporary, urban fantasy, and sci-fi elements – and Greek mythology. On one hand, we have a fantasy figure from a fictional island with human side characters and a (mostly) urban setting in NYC. I have no idea if Greek mythology is part of Wonder Woman in any case but it added a lot to the story. Further, some of the storylines were influenced by science fiction, which made Wonder Woman a clash between ancient and futuristic elements. What I really missed was more painting of the scene. Bardugo sets her stages so beautifully in fantasy but she didn’t use this skill of hers for Wonder Woman.  For example, descriptions fell rather short in this book. Perhaps she didn’t think it necessary because it’s not pure fantasy, I don’t know, but this was something I noticed right from the start – perhaps it’s also why I thought this didn’t read like your typical Bardugo book. This, obviously, also influenced my love for the writing. I can easily pick out her prose when it’s fantasy but I couldn’t quite point out anything special about Wonder Woman‘s prose. However, this did, by no means, impact my enjoyment of the story overall. Sometimes, the story felt juvenile to me, and I thought the ending was a little easy (even though the crew was put through shit), but the story as a whole compensated for that by being gripping and entertaining.

Though Wonder Woman was not my favourite of Bardugo’s, it was certainly impressive to see what this woman can do when thrown out of her comfort zone. I’d definitely recommend Wonder Woman, even if you have no clue about DC Icons comics. Since this is an origin story, no pre-knowledge is needed – only a pair of eyes and the ability to read.

**Many thanks to Random House for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts are my own. Quotations may be subject to change in the final edition.**