Title: Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy/Action Adventure
My Rating: 2.5/5 stars
This is probably one of my bigger disappointments of 2017. Warbringer was such an anticipated read for me, especially after the success of the film (disclaimer: the book and film are not related), and I’ve loved Leigh Bardugo’s work in the past. Shadow & Bone is one of my all-time favorite series, so of course I was going to read this.
Bardugo begins Diana’s story on Themyscira, the remote island that Amazon women inhabit. Diana struggles to fit in with the Amazons and prove herself, fully aware that she’s different from the rest of them. While the other women have seen battle and proved themselves as warriors, Diana has never had to and is seen as inferior.
While running a race, hoping to win and show her mother how strong she has become, Diana witnesses the explosion of a ship off the coast of Themyscira. Against her better judgement, she dives into the water to survey the wreckage, only to find a lone survivor, Alia, who she saves. Shortly after performing this good deed, Diana discovers that Alia comes from a line of Warbringers, women that are descendants of Helen and are catalysts of aggression and violence among humans. Alia’s presence on the island causes the Amazons to get sick and for the island to begin to die. Unwilling to sacrifice Alia, Diana hopes to end the line of Warbringers once and for all by taking Alia to Helen’s resting place and letting her bathe in the nearby springs. However, this means exposure to the real world, something that Diana has never seen before. Can she reach Helen’s resting place before Alia is killed by those hoping to prevent war?
Let’s start with the things I liked about this book. Of course, I loved Diana; she’s such a good, pure, innocent character. Her desire to help everyone and ensure that no one has to die is admirable, and she constantly puts her life on the line for people she barely knows. Most of these sacrifices are born initially from her love for her fellow Amazons, but she could have let Themyscira kill Alia if she cared for only her people. She was also a fun character to read after she and Alia reached New York; poor Diana was so naive and had some very unintentionally funny moments.
And to be honest, that’s all I enjoyed. Alia was a solid character, I suppose, but I just didn’t sympathize with her like I feel I was supposed to. Jason was dull, as were the other supporting characters, Nim and Theo, who were both too one-dimensional. All in all, I just didn’t care what happened to any of them, whether they lived or died. They didn’t make me feel anything.
As far as the story, I kept going back and forth on it. The first few chapters had me concerned, but once we were told Alia’s heritage, I was interested. Unfortunately, as soon as they reached New York, I feel that the plot sort of plateaued. There was no story development, and the characters stayed in one place for too long. They spent too long deciding what to do, and then spent too long waiting to act on that decision.
Honestly, this book had a very Percy Jackson feel to it, but I didn’t like it. With Percy Jackson books, you come to expect some ridiculousness because that’s kind of the point; Rick Riordan parodies some of these gods and goddesses so that they aren’t even intimidating anymore; the whole thing is basically a joke, but in the best possible way. The books are meant for middle graders and are meant to entertain. The characters crack stupid jokes during battles and high-action scenes not because it’s realistic, but because it’s hilarious.
I didn’t want Wonder Woman to feel like a middle grade read. I expected this to be more mature, and while I realize it’s fantasy and there’s no way this could have been completely realistic, there has to be some semblance of practicality in the way the characters react and interact.
Not to mention, there’s a good chunk of about 200 pages in the middle of the book that had me bored to tears. It’s almost as if Bardugo had this great idea for a story (it really was!) and knew where the characters were going to end up, but not how they were going to get there. So we spend the entire center of the book in limbo waiting for something to happen, and by the time we get to the end, I didn’t care anymore.
I feel I was really generous with my 2.5 star rating, mostly due to my love for Leigh Bardugo. This book doesn’t affect my opinion of the lovely author; I just don’t think urban fantasy is her thing. I’ve read many raving reviews about the book and I’m so glad that others were able to enjoy what I could not, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!