Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo was powerful, emotional and exhilarating

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1)Title: Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Series: DC Icons #1
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication: 29th August 2017, Penguin Publishers
Pages: 384 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Penguin Publishers for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 4.5/5 cupcakes!

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .
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 mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.
Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. 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.
Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

Warbringer was my most anticipated release of 2017 and I most definitely fell in love with this dazzling book. It was rich in emotion, in humour, in suspense, and in mythology. It brought to light issues regarding sexism and racism; it featured romance, diversity, stellar storytelling and the reminder of the burning fire of a hero's heart that lies within us all. Leigh Bardugo's take on Wonder Woman was ferociously splendid and by the time you're done reading it, you'll be a changed person. Inspired to be courageously and fearlessly you - inspired to save the world and fight for justice. Which is a pretty incredible way to feel.

There were several ingredients poured into this book that resulted in a brilliant, explosive story of one of the most iconic DC heroes of all time, and I loved most of them. 

I loved how Leigh Bardugo made Wonder Woman her own. Diana in Warbringer isn't like Diana in the movie or even like Diana in the comics. She's young and slightly tempestuous, holding the kind of recklessness within her that only comes with youth. I loved glimpsing into the life of the Warrior Princess before she became Wonder Woman. Leigh Bardugo uses the model of Diana but she moulds her into her own wonderfully fearsome creation. Diano is a true hero and I adored her character. She's brutally loyal and incredibly kind. She's brave, she's selfless and she will risk everything, including the ultimate death, in order to save a single human life. I loved the complexities of Diana's character. Yes, she was brave, loyal, kind and honest but she also had insecurities and doubts that fuelled her private mission to prove herself to her Amazon sisters; to show them that although she was born into Amazonian life, she was worthy to have a place there. She felt like she needed to not only prove her worth to them, but also to herself. She experienced doubt, fear and uncertainty regarding the decisions she made – her feelings were raw and honest and it made her that much more realistic. I also liked how perfectly Leigh Bardugo captured Diana's immense strength and power, whilst still allowing her to be comprised of sensitivity, vulnerability, unfailing compassion and a fierce desire to love and protect. Leigh Bardugo perfectly portrayed Diana and all she represents – her cautious uncertainty and her breathless bravery, her warrior's heart, and her overflowing compassion. She's a young Warrior Princess: a hurricane of tender ferocity and relentless love.

I also adored Alia. I was quite surprised that the book focused primarily on her and not Diana but I really enjoyed that. I really liked Alia and I feel like she's a character that a lot of people will see themselves in. She doesn't always feel confident, she'd rather read up on biological facts than go out to parties, she sometimes feels insecure and as if nobody will ever want her. She struggles with feeling as if she's not enough which I think everyone will be able to relate to at some point in their lives. She feels stifled by her overprotective brother and she's still reeling from the loss of her parents. She's also incredibly brave and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world. I loved the complexities of Alia as well. People underestimated her, the insecurity that grew because of that, the prejudice she faced because of her skin colour...but she took it head on. She's an incredibly strong female character, different in strength to Diana, but strong all the same. She picks herself up and keeps going when everything seems to be caving in - is that not true strength? Also, it's awesome seeing a female character interested in STEM subjects. As I am also a young woman interested in pursuing a career in science, I adore reading about female characters who are interested in going into a career to do with biology, maths, physics etc too! 

There were other characters that completed the fantastic cast: Nim, Theo and Jason I really liked Nim's effervescent personality and her headstrong determination to be herself. I wasn't sure on Theo at first but by the end of the book, I had fallen completely in love with him and his brilliant personality. Then there was Jason with his fierce desire to protect Alia, his little sister, as well as his pursuit to be a hero in a warring world. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the dynamics between the group unfold and evolve and the intricate dynamics between the group. However, despite the great cast of characters I didn't feel fully connected to them at all times. Although I loved Diana and Alia and the others, I didn't feel as if I knew them as well as I would've liked. They didn't always feel three-dimensional to me and I sometimes found it hard to fully establish a deep connection with the others besides Diana and Alia, which was one of the reasons for not giving the book a full five stars.

Another thing that I struggled with was the dialogue. I've heard that Leigh Bardugo excels at complex, authentic dialogues which people love so I think this is a case of “It's not you, it's me”. I really enjoyed the dialogue for the most part; the banter had me laughing several times and it definitely aided in fleshing out the relationships and forming the dynamics of the group. However, I found the constant sniping between Nim and Theo to be too frequent, especially given the context of the situation. They were thrown into several deadly situations and I just found it highly improbable that given what they had just been through they would still make constant jibes at one another. I understand that Alia's power influenced and grew their annoyance with one another but it just felt too exaggerated at times and made the situation seem less serious than it actually was. Especially after something awful had just happened to them, they were quick to fall back into the pattern of banter and sarcasm and given the circumstances, it didn't feel as if they expressed adequate fear and sorrow for what they had just experienced. But again, that's probably just me!

Besides those two things, everything else was brilliant. I adored the plot and the writing and I'm SO excited to read more of Bardugo's writing! I absolutely LOVED the plot and I was just thinking to myself “WOW WOW WOW” whilst reading it - I found the concept of warbringers so fascinating! I loved the usage of Greek mythology and how it was woven through mundane life. It was such a brilliant concept and I appreciated that whilst it maintained the idea of Wonder Woman having to face down the personification of War, it was completely new and refreshing and utterly exhilarating. War had basically arrived in the shape of a petite seventeen-year-old girl genius – it's heartbreaking and brilliant and I LOVED IT. The writing was gorgeous, too. The descriptions were rich and vibrant, the figurative language was breathtaking and the startling honesty on human lives, their fragility and their beauty was eye-opening. This was my first Leigh Bardugo book and it certainly won't be my last. The action scenes were written with elegant fluidity and concise clarity. The actions scenes were like something out of a blockbuster and it was awesome seeing more of Diana's powers in action. The plot was beautifully developed as well. It was laden with suspense and plot twists and the pressure of time constraints which provided for a twisting, heart-racing read. There were several times I clapped my hand to my mouth and whispered no. There were tears, too. And the near stopping of my heart. It was intense and I loved it.

I loved the setting of Themyscira and although it wasn't featured much in Warbringer, I thought it was described brilliantly. I'm hoping that Leigh Bardugo will write more Wonder Woman books in the future and include the mystical isles of Diana's home as it seems like such an incredible place to live! I loved the different settings that lay as a backdrop for this book. The deliciously described landscapes made it easy to fall into a whole other place and have reality melt away.

I also adored all the important themes featured in Warbringer. One of my favourite parts of the book was when Diana entered into the mortal world and utterly annihilated the derogatory comments made by men. I LOVED IT. She challenged the stereotypes surrounding women and the damaging view society has developed about us in the most brilliant way possible. YOU GO, GIRL.

Racism was also something that was talked about. Alia is a wealthy girl of colour and it was heartbreaking to see that people would undermine her abilities and immediately assume awful things about her because she wasn't white. It was eye-opening for me to see things from Alia's perspective. Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that racism is still very much prevalent, not only as I've had my rose-coloured glasses on, but because I just can't grasp the fact that there is still prejudice and injustice surrounding people of colour. IT'S THE TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY, DARN IT. I'm grateful that both sexism and racism were explored in a book about an iconic character by a best-selling author as it's things that many people will be enlightened on whilst reading this book. 

Another great thing about this book is that it's incredibly diverse! The whole cast of characters are pretty much people of colour. Alia and her brother are both black, Theo is alluded to being Portuguese and Nim, Alia's best friend is Indian, lesbian and curvy. I know it will mean a heck of a lot to those of ethnic minorities and varying sexualities to see themselves in such an iconic story!

Something else I ADORED about Warbringer is the focus on empowering, strong female friendships. For far too long it's been the norm for women to tear other women down out of jealousy, desire for power and such and I'm loving this new movement that women are working on to empower other females instead of allowing their own insecurities to bring others down. Alia and Diana forge an unbreakable bond and consider themselves to be not just friends, but sisters. There's unwavering loyalty, honour and love between Alia, Nim and Diana and I loved seeing that. I loved Alia and Nim's friendship; their banter and their constant support of one another. The dialogue between the three girls were always ones of compliments and praise, be it about their physical appearance or their beautiful strength and zeal.

Lastly, the romance. Romance isn't the main focus and I appreciated that. Now, I'm a reader that loves romance in books but sometimes when there are wars to be stopped and worlds to save, I'm more than happy to have kissing scenes take a back seat. There was romance in Warbringer but it was eclipsed by the strength of Diana and her comrades, a quest to save the world and incredible friendships which I think is how it should be. I won't say much about the romance as it would probably be spoilery...but let's just say I ship Alia and Theo a heck of a lot.

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Wonder Woman: Warbringer was fast-paced, mesmerizing and immensely powerful. It not only featured a brilliantly recreated version of Diana, Princess of the Amazons but it also featured a host of splendid other characters. The writing was sensational, the plot was exhilarating and the profound truths about human nature were hard-hitting. This book made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me feel empowered. It made me want to love others and love myself, it made me want to fight the injustice of the world with my bare hands and it made me want to live as courageously as Diana and her comrades. It made me realise who the true heroes are. It's inspiring, it's emotional, it's evocative and I loved it.

I give it: 4.5/5 cupcakes!