I’ve never really connected with DC’s comic book heroes in the way I have with Marvel. As a child, I was more interested in the X-Men and the myriad of genders and non human characters on screen. That has started to change, as Diana has moved more into the forefront due to her more recent comic book adaptations and most notably the newest film with Gal Gadot – neither of which I’ve actually participated in yet.
When I heard Leigh Bardugo was writing a Wonder Woman novel, I was immediately interested. Leigh Bardugo is one of my favourite authors (not that you’d know here because somehow I’ve neglected to review any of her books??) and I completely trust in her writing and vision, even if she’d moved away from my beloved world of the Grisha to one of DC’s greatest superheroes.
I was completely right to trust her. Bardugo’s love for Wonder Woman is clear – as discussed in this Book Riot interview and her acknowledgements – leaving me in no doubt that she was the right person to author this book.
Warbringer is a great novel for those unfamiliar with Wonder Woman’s backstory and lore, the latter I realised I know little about. Warbringer predates Diana’s true origin story as Wonder Woman, so consider this a prequel to the movie.
While racing her sisters, Diana spots a shipwreck off the coast of the Amazon island Themyscira. Called to the chaos, Diana rescues a drowning girl, Alia Keralis, ensuring their fates entwine deeply. Alia is no mere ordinary mortal; she is a descendant of Helen of Troy and a person fated to bring about blood shed and disaster – a Warbringer. When the Oracle suggests Diana either leave her to die or attempt to cure Alia of the Warbringer’s curse, Diana chooses the latter, determined to prove herself as an Amazon like her sisters.
In Warbringer, Bardugo assembles a wonderful cast of characters to join Diana on the mission to save the world – stern focussed Jason, creative loyal Nim, and troubled Theo. Alia herself is a wonderful young science nerd, determined to live up to the Keralis scientific legacy with her brother’s help. In a race against time, the gang must travel from New York to the ruined spring of Helen of Troy in Greece.
Bardugo’s research into the mythology of Amazons and ancient Greece is clear (so much so that she provided a very handy bibliography at the back of the book!). In Warbringer, the mythology of the Amazons is brought closer to our world, stepping away from the Amazons as a super race and towards a kind of reincarnation for brave women. This change in their origin made me connect much more with the Amazons as a people, and in turn with Diana’s desire to prove herself as one of them.
Diana facing up to the realities of our world – particularly gross men on the New York subway – is a joy to read. I especially love Diana’s bafflement and literal interpretations – much like Drax the Destroyer of Guardians of the Galaxy – not just for the pure comedy, but also the solidarity that someone else feels relatively confused by the operational structure of our Western society.
Bardugo’s Diana feels her own fully fleshed creation, clearly the version that has lived in her mind since she was a child; she feels a completely full person of her own. Her compassion, strength and vitality leap from the page, in a book that is as much her story as it is Alia’s. In my opinion, this is contrary to most interpretations of comic book origin characters which rely on knowledge of canon and backstory to flesh out underwritten personalities – in Warbringer, Bardugo has soared beyond that and made Diana fully realised.
You can read the opening of the novel here!
Interested? Get it here.
What to read next:
Thank you kindly to Penguin Platform for sending me this copy, at which I screamed at very loudly.