Bardugo, Leigh. Wonder Woman: Warbringer. New York, Random House, 2017.
After seeing the Wonder Woman movie in theaters, I immediately returned home and posted my thoughts to Facebook: “Wow. We do not deserve Wonder Woman.”
I was blown away by Gal Gadot’s flawless performance and Wonder Woman’s penchant for peace. I was excited for the little girls who saw the movie wearing capes and carrying their own lassos of truth. And, most importantly, I was energized by the positive press surrounding an action movie with a female lead.
I was powerless, then, to Leigh Bardugo’s newest release: a YA Wonder Woman novelization.
Wonder Woman: Warbringer follows teenaged Diana, who is considered a runt and weakling among the Amazons on her home island of Themyscira. The daughter of the queen Hippolyta, Diana sees a foot race as an opportunity to prove herself and make her mother proud. After the race begins, however, Diana hears unnerving screams. A ship has wrecked just outside the wards of mystical Themyscira, and a young girl—the ship’s sole survivor—is quickly drowning in the choppy water. Diana decides to forfeit the race and bring the girl, Alia, to safety, even though Amazons and mortals are forbidden to mix.
Alia’s presence has an adverse effect on the island—earthquakes rattle Themyscira, and Diana’s best friend becomes violently ill. Desperate and guilty, Diana seeks the guidance of Themyscira’s Oracle. The Oracle says that Alia is a “Warbringer”—the latest descendent in a long line of women who bring strife and warfare to the mortal world. The Oracle advises Diana to let Alia die, but brave Diana can’t bear the thought of Alia’s suffering. She makes the decision, then, to return Alia to the world of man. Will Diana ever return to Themyscira? Will she be shunned in the modern world? Will Alia continue to cause conflict and chaos with her mere presence?
Fans of the movie will be just as enraptured with Bardugo’s novel. Diana’s super strength and endurance, literal way of speaking, and desire to do what is right are all present in the text. Alia, too, is an intriguing character. Her affliction and backstory are tragic, and, though she lacks Diana’s Amazonian attributes, she is, in many ways, just as brave as the burgeoning Wonder Woman.
There is a wide cast of characters in Wonder Woman: Warbringer: Alia’s brother Jason, best friend Nim, Jason’s friend Theo, Diana’s mother Hippolyta, adversary Tek, best friend Maeve, etc. Keeping up with their many personalities, backstories, and motivations was something of a juggling act.
As someone who teaches The Odyssey and sometimes struggles to drive home the many Greek gods and goddesses present in the text, this book presents a unique opportunity. Students could read excerpts from Wonder Woman: Warbringer and examine the ways the gods influence Diana’s story compared to the story of Odysseus. No matter how you use it, Bardugo’s novel would be a smart addition to a classroom library. Diana’s dedication to truth and righteousness makes her a hero worth emulating.