Book Review – Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
Also by this author: Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1), Crooked Kingdom
Series: DC Icons,
Published by Random House Children's Books on August 28th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
I hardly even know where to begin with my review of Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer. As a lifelong Wonder Woman fan and a huge fan of Bardugo’s, my expectations for this book were extremely high. And I’m just going to say that the fact that it has taken me two weeks to stop flailing about this book long enough to write down my thoughts should tell you how much I loved it! Wonder Woman: Warbringer was everything I wanted it to be and so much more. I found the strong women, the sisterhood of the Amazons, and the fierce action scenes that I expected to find, but then I also found so much more that really took this book to the next level for me. In addition to all of those elements you would expect to find in a superhero novel, there is also a focus on friendship and on finding oneself that made the characters so easily to relate to.
Wonder Woman: Warbringer begins on the island of Themyscira, more commonly known as Paradise Island. We follow Princess Diana as she is competing in a contest, hoping to prove herself once and for all to her Amazonian sisters. Even though she is a princess and destined to be their queen someday, many of the Amazons look down on Diana (thus making her look down on herself) because of her origins. Whereas all of the other Amazons came to Themyscira as warriors, Diana was born from the earth on Themyscira when Hippolyta created her out of clay and begged Zeus to bring her to life. Because of her origins and because they live in peace on Themyscira, Diana has never been battle tested and is often perceived as weak.
In the middle of this contest which is so important to Diana, she happens to see an explosion off the island’s coast and goes to investigate. She sees a ship on fire and can tell that there is at least one survivor, a girl. Even though it is against Amazonian law to bring mortals back to Themyscira, Diana decides she can’t just watch this girl die so she swims out to save her, deciding that she’ll figure out what to do with the girl afterwards (and hopefully before she is caught).
Diana gets more trouble than she bargains for though because no sooner does she bring the girl, whose name is Alia Keralis, back to the island, than the Amazons start to fall ill one after the other. When Alia starts to show signs of illness too and the island starts to experience earthquake-like tremors, Diana quickly makes the connection that it must have something to do with Alia and goes to the Oracle to seek guidance. What she learns is shocking and unexpected: Alia is known as a Warbringer. What that means is whether she realizes it or not, wherever Alia goes, fighting, war, and ultimately death follows right along behind her. The Oracle advises Diana that she doesn’t need to do anything at this point – that nature is already working its magic and Alia will soon die, thus ending the Warbringer cycle and returning the earth (and the island) to a healthy, peaceful state.
Diana balks at this. She didn’t just save this girl and risk banishment from Themyscira only to have her die anyway. She begs the Oracle to tell her if there is another way to save both the Warbringer and the world. The Oracle advises her that the only possible way to save both is to take Alia to southern Greece, to the place where Helen of Troy is buried. There is a spring there, and if Alia is purified in that spring before the sun sets on the first day of Hekatombaion, then she should be stripped of her Warbringer status and peace should return to the world. The Oracle also advises Diana, however, that this quest is far beyond her strength and skill level and that it would be foolish of her to risk the world just for the sake of her own vanity, to prove herself. The more prudent action at this point is to just let the natural correction run its course and let Alia die.
Knowing that the tremors are increasing and that her Amazonian sisters are getting sicker, Diana refuses, and tells Alia what she has learned and what they need to do.
Even though she’s a bit hesitant to trust Diana at first, Alia ultimately believes what Diana tells her because all her life, she has noticed that everywhere she goes, bad things seem to happen. She has usually chalked it up to coincidence, but the Warbringer story makes sense and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it all stop. She does not want to be responsible for any violence or death in the world. In fact, the idea of being responsible for it is so repugnant to Alia, she makes Diana vow to end her life herself if they cannot make it to the spring in time.
The whole reason she was on that ship in the first place was because she was trying to prove to her overprotective older brother (her only living relative) that she can live just fine on her own and doesn’t need his constant protection and supervision. Because Alia and Diana both feel like they have so much to prove, the two of them agree to team up and thus set out on a quest to save Alia and the world.
It’s not only a race against the clock to get Alia to the spring in time, especially when the magic they’re using misfires and they make an unexpected trip to New York City instead of Greece, but it’s also a race against unexpected enemies, both mortal and otherworldly. The Oracle apparently is not the only one who knows about Alia’s Warbringer status and there are many who want to kill her to keep the world from war as well as many others who not only want to keep her alive but they also want to prevent her from purging her Warbringer powers because they crave war.
It’s a high stakes mission for both Diana and Alia. Can Diana and Alia work together as a team and complete this seemingly impossible quest and what will happen to both of their worlds if they are not successful? Will Diana keep her vow to Alia and end her life if that ends up being the only way to stop the world from descending into war?
This is one of those times where I just want to type ‘I LOVED EVERYTHING’ and leave it at that, but I’ll try to be a little more specific, lol.
It goes without saying that I loved Diana and it was no surprise that she was a total badass, especially when she and Alia accidentally detour to New York, and encounter more than their share of bad guys. I loved Diana’s strength, both her physical and emotional strength, as well as her strength of character. I loved that she was willing to risk everything, even banishment from her home, to save a mortal in distress. What made me feel the most connected to Diana, however, was that Bardugo also infused her with enough vulnerability and self-doubt to make her very relatable. She might be an Amazonian Princess, but she’s also a teenage girl who is doubting that she is worthy of her own destiny.
There’s so much more to love in this book than just Diana herself, however. I also adored her friendship with Alia. Even though she is a mere mortal, in many ways, Alia is just as much of a badass as Diana. I loved how quickly they bonded and how fiercely protective of one another they are. As we move through the story, the sisterhood Diana and Alia share seems to grow even stronger than Diana’s bond with any of her sisters from Themyscira.
There are also several other epic friendships that really made this book a winner for me. When Alia and Diana end up in New York, Diana gets to meet several of Alia’s friends, in particular Nim and Theo. In many ways, Nim was my favorite character in the book. She is the friend that is there for Alia at a moment’s notice, no questions asked, and she’s also a sassy, lesbian fashionista whose wit and sarcasm kept me in stitches everytime she opened her mouth. She also has a bit of a crush on Diana, which is just precious to watch. Theo is a fantastic character as well. He’s kind of a super dork, which is adorable, but like Nim, he’s there when you need him, no questions asked. Theo and Nim are fun to watch because they have a love/hate relationship. They are constantly trading barbs and threatening to end each other, which provides a lot of comic relief in the midst of the otherwise very serious situation of trying to save the world. It also appears that Theo, the super dork, might have a crush on Alia, so there’s a bit of subtle romance in the air for those who enjoy that sort of thing.
I’ve already mentioned that Wonder Woman: Warbringer is action-packed, which is another win for me. Bardugo starts the story off with the adrenaline rush of this huge contest that Diana is participating in, followed immediately by the boat explosion and the ensuing chaos, and expertly keeps that action going as we move into the ensuing quest that Diana and Alia set out on and all of its dangers. The story was fast-paced, the action never lagged, and I devoured the book in less than two days.
As is expected with any novel from Bardugo, the world building is fantastic. She paints an incredibly vivid portrait of Themyscira (Paradise Island), which is especially helpful for anyone who might be unfamiliar with Wonder Woman’s story. I also loved how she skillfully wove so much Greek Mythology into the tale and how seamlessly the story flowed from the immortal realm of Themyscira to the bright lights, big city environment of New York City, and finally to the rustic Mediterranean landscape of southern Greece.
The last thing I want to touch on is the Diversity. I hadn’t really given Diversity any thought going into this book because I was so tunnel-visioned on the Wonder Woman aspect of the story, but I was pleased to see how diverse the characters in the book are. Alia and her brother Jason are half-Greek, half African American, while Nim is Indian and a lesbian, and I believe Theo mentions that his family comes from South America.
I have absolutely nothing for this section. This is the third book of Bardugo’s I have read and I am consistently impressed with the quality of her writing and her ability to create characters and worlds that I just fall in love with. She is now an auto-buy author for me and I look forward to reading more of her works.
Filled with strong women, fabulous friendships, and non-stop action, I think Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a book that is sure to please both readers who were already fans of Wonder Woman, as well as those readers who know nothing about Wonder Woman going in. If this first installment of the D.C. Icons series is any indication, readers are in for a real treat as more of the books are released. I know I’m excited for them!
Daughter of immortals.
Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.
Daughter of death.
Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.
Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.
I love Leigh Bardugo and I enjoyed the book. But I didn’t like the twists towards the end (the gods coming and possessing the friends etc). And I didn’t think that they could enjoy a day swimming near the waterfalls when the dead line to save the world is the next day! That was a let-down for me. I loved how witty the dialogues were. 😀
Those parts didn’t really bother me, but I do see your point about the swimming being a little unrealistic considering their deadline. I did love the dialogue though, especially between Nim and Theo.
I’ve actually never read anything by this author but I do really want to read this one. I’m so glad you loved it and that there was a lot of diversity.
So far I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her, so i would definitely recommend her if you’re looking for a new author to try.
I haven’t read anything by Leigh Bardugo (probably the last person in the world!) but this book sounds so fun! I love that it’s action-packed – I feel like I would have a movie running through my head the whole time I was reading!
Yep, I think that’s probably the perfect way to describe it. If a Wonder Woman movie hadn’t already just come out, I’d say this book would be a great choice to turn into a script for one.
I really don’t much about Wonder Woman. *hides face* But from the sounds of this, I need to pick this up and now. It sounds amazing, I like that it is fast paced and I don’t have to know all about her to enjoy it. Wonderful review! I’ll be on the lookout for it.
Yeah, I think the author provides enough background that you would be up to speed on the story of Wonder Woman pretty quickly. It’s a fun read too!
I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book, so I am so glad you enjoyed it so much as well! It sounds absolutely amazing. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3
Thanks! It’s a pretty great read and has made me even more of a hardcore Bardugo fan than I already was 🙂
I’ve been so apprehensive about this one, even with the author, but I am so pleased it so absolutely brilliant! YES! And what a sad story around the title Warbringer! It’s such an awful responsibility to have thrust on anyone!
Yes, the story surrounding the Warbringer title really added an unexpected layer of depth to the story for me. It is definitely a heavy burden to carry.