Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Random House
Review by Stephanie Cooke
Wonder Woman: Warbringer is the first in a new series of Young Adult novels from the DC Icons line. This is a series that I’m beyond excited about for a number of reasons, including the characters that they feature and the writers that DC has chosen to tackle these projects. Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows) wrote Wonder Woman: Warbringer. Upcoming are: a Catwoman novel by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series, A Court of Thorns and Roses series), a Batman book by Marie Lu (Legend), and Superman story by Matt De La Pena.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to find out that a YA Wonder Woman book was being made, and I was even more excited when it showed up on my doorstep. I read absolutely nothing of the synopsis before diving into the book; I knew I needed to own it and support it without knowing anything else about it.
In case you don’t have the same faith that I do (in that I just REALLY hoped this book would be good), the story follows a young Diana, pre-Wonder Woman shenanigans. She’s living her life on Themyscira and trying to prove her worth to the other Amazons when an opportunity arises after a young woman’s ship sinks off the coast of the island. Forbidden to save her, Diana risks everything to do it anyways only to discover that the young girl is from a long line of Warbringers — which is EXACTLY what it sounds like… people who bring war. They don’t MEAN to, but they do.
Armed with a way to make things right and end the line of Warbringers, Diana sets off with the young girl. She faces the world for the very first time, which tests her abilities in completely different ways than she ever thought.
SO… let me just get this right out of the way and say this: I LOVED this book SO FREAKING MUCH. Bardugo absolutely nailed the tone and the character of Wonder Woman for me and brought her to life in a way that I hadn’t seen before.
In Wonder Woman: Warbringer, we get a glimpse at Diana’s internal monologue before she becomes the superhero we all know and love. A look at a girl trying to prove her worth. For a book about an incredibly good looking, superpowered badass, it’s surprisingly relatable at its core. Unlike the rest of her sisters, Diana was born into the Amazons while the rest earned their place on Themyscira. She’s on a mission to prove her worth not only to them, but to herself, and to show everyone that there’s more to her than just being the princess and heir to her mother’s throne. Diana wants them to look at her and see an equal, someone they’d be proud to fight alongside.
The continuity of Wonder Woman is forever shifting, but Bardugo takes many elements from the “true origin” of the character, the Amazons, and Themyscira and weaves in her own bits of mythology. She makes everything fit together beautifully. She gave a mythology to the island and to the Amazons that I really loved and appreciated, and shone a different sort of light on them for me. Even having read the comics growing up, I don’t think I had ever really put a lot of thought into the Amazons’ paradise before, but within the book, it’s almost a character of its own that lives, breathes, and dictates parts of Diana’s life whether she wants it to or not. The island gives and it takes like all those around Diana and it was interesting to see that written into the story.
The narration shifts between Diana and the young Warbringer, Alia, which keeps things fresh from chapter to chapter. YA novels like Margaret Stohl’s Black Widow series left much to be desired in terms of Natasha’s innermost precious thoughts (although I get why you’d go that route), but the thing I craved was exactly that in the story. Wonder Woman: Warbringer could’ve suffered from too much internal monologue from Diana trying to figure things out. Adding in Alia’s voice to help give some outsider context to Diana’s actions really made it special.
While I love Wonder Woman, there can be a lot of arcs with her character that revolve around men (ie. Steve Trevor and Superman). In Warbringer, things are driven forward by Diana and the relationship that she’s formed with Alia. They’re very different but similar at heart. As the story progresses and as Diana figures these things out, you become more and more fond of them as individuals and as friends. The characters are diverse and interesting and each have their own unique voice and agency, which is hard to pull off. You can’t help but enjoy reading about the characters and the arcs they have within.
BUY IT! I found Wonder Woman: Warbringer to be a wholly satisfying read. As I mentioned, I loved the characters, I loved the overall story and I loved how Diana was written and portrayed throughout the book. A number of different themes arise that, as mentioned, are so relatable to readers of all ages.
No matter what your knowledge level of Wonder Woman is, you can jump into this novel. It stands alone from everything else that’s come before, the movie included, and provides you with all the information and context that you could possibly need. It is important to note that this is a standalone book that has its own continuity. If you’re coming to this book off of the film, a few things might confuse you on that front. Example: in the film, Diana is leaving the island for the first time ever and hasn’t experienced the world before. The same sort of plot is happening here with young teenager Diana… she’s leaving the island for the first time and hasn’t experienced anything else outside of Themyscira before. If you’re going into the book, just remember that they are definitely separate things and don’t overthink things too much.
Wonder Woman: Warbringer is great story that’s well-written and a lot of fun. Diana fights for what she believes in and displays her true heart, which is filled with love for those around her. I couldn’t have been happier with how this first book in the DC Icons YA series turned out and I can’t wait for more.