Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
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.
“We cannot spend our lives in hiding, wondering what we might accomplish if given the chance. We have to take that chance ourselves.”
Wonder Woman: Warbringer wasn’t what I expected and I mean that in a positive way. I pre-ordered this book last year because Wonder Woman is my favorite superhero and I enjoy Leigh Bardugo’s writing. It was fun and beautifully written, but for most of the book Diana is a secondary character in her own story. Actually, Warbringer didn’t feel quite like a fantasy novel or comic book origins story. It was more of a “Diana-in-a-contemporary-novel” with a cast of YA contemporary characters and some Greek mythology. Obviously, this wasn’t a bad thing in my eyes because I truly enjoyed Warbringer and it helped drag me out of my reading slump.
One aspect of this book that I enjoyed tremendously was the writing. Leigh Bardugo’s writing is exceptional and there are notable quotes in here. Her action scenes are thrilling and her depiction of the Amazons and Themyscira is perfect. I loved how she uses her creativity to add her own spin to this already established world and loved the references to Greek myth. The writing in this book is not comparable to Six of Crows because this one is a little less mature, but it works. It works because Bardugo develops memorable and multifaceted characters with fun dialogue and banter, intricate world-building, and fascinating friendships. What’s not to love about Diana in man’s world and experiencing how different things are from Themyscira?
I loved the characters in Warbringer. When we meet Diana she is desperate to prove herself to her sisters and her strength as a warrior in battle. This desperation is weaved throughout the book and makes Diana much more relatable. One of the reasons I fell in love with Leigh Bardugo’s writing is because she writes diverse characters well and doesn’t write them as sidekicks or caricatures. Alia and her brother, Jason, are African American and Greek, Theo is Brazilian, and Nim is a queer women of color. I loved the characters, their dynamics, and I would even go far as to say Alia and her friends shine and have more personality than Diana. The characters are not one-dimensional and Jason, Theo, and Nim, made Warbringer interesting and advanced the plot to the point that I wanted more from them.
I loved that Bardugo didn’t shy away from discussing privilege and discrimination throughout the book. While this is a book about empowering female friendships, it acknowledges that there are differences in how women of color and marginalized women experience the world. I was shocked she brought up racial differences and perception, but extremely happy and pleased with how it was brought up. As a black women reading this book, I had a moment where I connected with Alia as she discussed her hair because my hair is an important aspect of my black womenhood and experiences.
Feminism, friendship, and agency. Warbringer does a fantastic job of showcasing empowering female friendships and girls operating with agency. From Diana choosing to save Alia and leave Themyscira for man’s world to Alia choosing her own path once she knows the truth about who she is, this book demonstrates what it means for girls and women to have agency, to be angry, and to have control. At the beginning of the book, I was annoyed with Jason’s protectiveness towards Alia. While I understood that their circumstances were responsible for that, I still couldn’t help being annoyed with him deciding what’s best for her. I loved that Alia stood up to her brother and I also loved that Diana encouraged her to be autonomous.
“Sisters in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine.”
― Leigh Bardugo,
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I was a little disappointed Warbringer didn’t take the opportunity to explore Diana’s sexuality, especially since the beginning of this book seemed poised to do this. The plot wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped it would be and I did not expect the entire story to revolve around Alia. If Warbringer were a contemporary novel, then this book would’ve received a higher rating from me. It’s not contemporary. The fantasy details didn’t stand out that much for me and Diana was a secondary character for most of the book. If anything, this book made realize that I need a Leigh Bardugo contemporary series in my life.
Warbringer is an excellent book about friendship and female empowerment. It doesn’t follow comic canon, but if you’re looking for an original and modern take on Diana’s origins this is worth checking out. The pacing is slow at first, but once it picks up it’s an entertaining read and the plot twist is rather shocking.
Have you read Wonder Woman: Warbringer? What are your thoughts?
Let me know in the comments.