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.
Leigh Bardugo writing a YA novel about a teen Diana? Of course I was interested and half in love with the idea before I even read the synopsis. We know her as Wonder Woman but this is like her origin story of sorts – her first quest as she slowly moves from mere Princess of Themyscira to being one step closer to the hero we all adore. Additionally, since I read this in audio, I would like to say it is also has an awesome narrator in Mozhan Marno.
The story starts off with a trained but untested Diana saving a mortal girl Alia off the shore of her island and then upon learning (through the Oracle) she is a descendant of Helen of Troy, and a catalyst for war, embarks on a quest to purify Alia of being a Warbringer, a journey that takes them from New York to Greece in the modern world. (Yep, no WWI story here fellas and no Steve). Diana has a theoretical knowledge of the mortal world and she has been warned several times of the violence of men, but she is also idealistic and wants to try to save the world. There’s also the fact that on her island she’s the only one who was born an Amazon and not made one (in a Valhalla-like fashion, warrior women are given a place on Themyscira) so she thinks this quest will grant her the glory and respect she needs to feel like a proper Amazon.
Obviously we know the journey is not going to be easy, even with Diana’s god-like powers. There’s the fact that Alia is initially reluctant to believe, then they are stuck on the wrong side of the planet, and the faction of people out to kill Alia before she fully becomes a Warbringer. Coupled with Alia’s overprotective older brother Jason, gentle mortals Nim and Theo, and Diana’s job becomes much more complicated.
A central theme of the story is sisterhood. First about Diana being connected to her sisters on the island but feeling she doesn’t measure up to them. Then her slow growing bond with Alia, and finally the power of Amazonian blood itself that binds the Amazons together in pain. Diana is a warrior, but she also knows the virtue of peace and mercy. She may not have experienced war first hand but damn if she’s not going to do her best to prevent it. The story also provides a juxtaposition of the Amazonian notion of honor and glory against those of legendary male heroes of Greek mythology, and how twisted the notion of glory in war is.
“If you cannot bear our pain, you are not fit to carry our strength.”
As for the characters, we have an amazing character in Alia, a girl who is meek but finally shows her brave side. Nim is an awesome sidekick character that doesn’t get pushed to the sidelines and also helps out on their mission and is not reduced to comic relief or the spunky best friend cliche. Theo is also amazing, and he’s more comic relief than helpful but he comes through. Jason is, well, complicated to explain without going into spoiler territory, but all I’ll say is that boy didn’t even think Diana is way out of his league. There is a minor romance arc but it’s mostly brushed aside for important things like saving the damn world from war, you know.
Finally, what more can I say – this was glorious and epic and I’ll even forgive the small scenes that didn’t make sense in the overall plot because overall, this was amazing. Like, I want Bardugo to write like a whole 10 book series on Diana’s adventures!
P.S. I totally loved that there’s a famous legend about a warrior woman named Zoraida. *wink*
Also nice nod to Diana’s possible bisexuality but I wish it was made more obvious. (I totally ship Maeve and her, by the way)
Most of the characters in this book are of color. Alia (who is a POV character) is biracial, and so is her brother Jason and friend Theo. Nim is a queer Indian-American girl. The warriors on Themyscira are of different cultures and are brought by goddesses of different mythologies.