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On The Shelf: ‘Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1) by Leigh Bardugo

‘Sup readers? Welcome back to On The Shelf, Fan Fest’s premiere book review column, in which I speed-read a newly-released piece of literature every week, and let you know if it’s the sort of thing you want on your shelf, or if an e-copy is the way to go. I should let you know, from the outset, that I broke one of this column’s cardinal rules with this week’s read. Typically, I’ll buy books on my ereader to see if I’m interested in the physical copy; if not, I didn’t waste any shelf space on a book I hated. But this week, I preordered a physical copy of the book, because I figured I would love it anyway.

This novel is none other than Wonder Woman: Warbringer, the first in DC Comics’ line of young adult novels, called DC Icons, featuring a host of their more popular characters, each written by a prolific voice in YA’s landscape. As far as I know, this series is unrelated to Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane series. Warbringer is written by bestselling author Leigh Bardugo (Six Of Crows) and attempts to update DC’s First Lady for a modern audience.

And, let’s be honest: with their DC Icons series, DC is probably hoping to attract the attention of voracious readers who have never picked up a comic in their life. With this in mind, of course, it’s probably best to consider the Icons series as something entirely separate from the comics, or something on an entirely different Earth.

Or not. Whatever. I’m not here to tell you how to read your books.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer follows a teenaged Diana, the only true daughter of the paradisiacal island of Themyscira (she was born of its soil. A baby made of clay and willpower), and, for that reason, an outcast amongst her fellow Amazons (reborn warrior women who died before being reincarnated as Amazons on the island). Diana is also Themyscira’s princess, and because of her royal standing and godly conception, she is held to a different standard than the rest of her Sisters. During a race that Diana was initially desperate to win, she witnesses a horrific shipwreck beyond Themyscira’s boundary. Despite the island’s strict mandates (namely: no outsiders, on punishment of exile), Diana realizes there is at least one survivor, a girl named Alia, and she doesn’t think twice before she saves the girl’s life, bringing her onto Themyscira, rules be utterly damned. Except… shortly thereafter, the other Amazons start getting sick (that, like, never happens) and the island starts physically trying to kill Alia, because she is, of course, no ordinary human. No, of course not. The girl Diana saved is the unwitting descendent of Helen of Troy, AKA, a Warbringer, meaning she sows discord, destruction, and death wherever she goes. Alia is, of course, unaware of her uniquely terrifying nature, but Diana, desperate to save everyone, drags Alia off the island, intent on bringing her to Greece, to Helen of Troy’s grave, to renounce her deadly gifts, thus ending the genetic curse of Warbringers.

What follows is a fun, disaster-filled, friendship-centric romp that both YA fans and comic readers will enjoy. Bardugo has captured Diana’s voice deftly and readily, and despite a few, nitpicky, inconsequential things (which is why I intend to consider the DC Icons series as its own thing, even if it does borrow a lot from the source material), it’s a solid superhero novel. I especially enjoyed how much care Bardugo gave to the description and time spent on Themyscira, turning it into not just a paradise in the mind, but something built up by beautiful words and a strong vision.

Obviously, I am biased. But also, obviously, I highly recommend this, especially if you dug Patty Jenkins’ movie. Bardugo’s writing was so fluid, I ended up preordering the next in the series, Marie Lu’s Batman novel.

If Wonder Woman: Warbringer sounds like something you’d enjoy, you can snag a copy here.

On The Shelf Rating: 4 magical lariats out of 5.

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