Wonder Woman: Warbringer, part of the DC Icons Series from Random House, provides a chance to see Diana of Themyscira as something other than Wonder Woman. The young adult novel is a classic coming-of-age story that blends mythology with modern warfare, and also happens to be one of Den of Geek’s Summer Reading Recommendations.
Here’s our full review of Wonder Woman: Warbringer…
Although Warbringer feels like a tie-in to the recent blockbuster film by Patty Jenkins, it’s actually a stand-alone story, with the time period and some of the mythology surrounding the Amazons notably different from the feature film’s interpretation.
A story exploring Diana’s Amazonian upbringing would have been fascinating enough, but author Leigh Bardugo goes for extra points when she introduces Alia, a New Yorker who is shipwrecked while on a YOLO trip at sea. This story becomes the first time Diana explores Man’s World — not as Wonder Woman, but as a girl on a quest to prove herself.
The stakes in Warbringer are world-endingly high. It turns out Alia is one in a long list of Warbringers, the descendents of Helen of Troy. When Warbringers come of age, their very presence in the world causes strife and war. Diana and Alia work together to reach the place where Alia’s influence can be neutralized before a terrible future occurs. In true, race-against-the-clock fashion, this is an adventure that keeps you desperate to turn the page.
Half of the story is told from Diana’s point of view in close third person. From here, we observe the girl who will one day join the Justice League. For now, however, she is the outsider in a group of highly-trained warriors. Diana is not thought of as an equal amongst her Amazonian sisters on Themyscira, given her unusual upbringing. She is not as strong or as fast as the others, and often feels left out.
Diana has her doubts about whether she deserves to be an Amazon, but her attitude in battle is distinctly what we have come to expect from this iconic character. She has a fierce loyalty and a sense of honor that she uses to her advantage as she plays bodyguard to Alia, who faces deadly threats on all sides.
The dialogue is also well-handled. “I think you’ve grown too used to people saying yes to you,” Diana says to Alia’s rich, powerful brother. “Have I?” he asks in response. Her answer: “But you have no idea how much I enjoy saying no.” Diana’s personality is embodied by that stubborn refusal to give in to those seeking power, but also by her acceptance of people different from herself. Through Alia, she meets all sorts of people and is able to judge for herself that mortals aren’t all bad, setting the stage for what will come in the Wonder Woman film.
Bardugo blends the mythology and stories of the past into a struggle for the future. Not only is Alia’s heritage causing trouble everywhere she goes, but later we see evil gods toss their will into the battle. The final struggle at the end contains a few key twists, a mix of science fiction and mythological fantasy to raise the stakes even higher.
What could have been a make-or-break selling point of this book was the cast of characters Bardugo planted alongside Diana. Sure, we’re interested in the origin of Wonder Woman, but do we care about these other people? Alia, her friends, and her brother Jason could have felt like bland filler, but, instead, are imbued with unique characteristics that made them interesting beyond their connection to Diana.
It also helps that these characters are also notably diverse. I can’t stress the enough the importance that media, especially media targeted at young adults, should reflect their diverse world. These characters give us that diversity without bashing us over the head with it.
My one critique? I wish the entire book, or at least more of it, was written from Diana’s point of view. There are times when the viewpoint is switched to Alia that I wish it had stayed with Diana. Through Diana, we can see our modern world through Amazonian eyes. However, Alia’s perspective does better articulate her own internal struggle coming to grips with what her Warbringer side could unleash. In that sense, the split viewpoint narrative has power.
Ultimately, Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a fast-paced read with plenty of action to keep you invested in the story. Better yet, Bardugo’s characterization elevates it above the usual superhero novels that often forget to humanize its superpowered characters.
Pro tip: If you’re one of the lucky ones with a first printing, you get a neat little poster of Diana on the inside!