Superhero

Review: Sovereign

Cover of "Sovereign," featuring a silhouette of a short-haired female supherhero hovering in space with the earth in the background
Image from Tor

Title: Sovereign

Series: Nemesis #2

Author: April Daniels

Genre: Superhero

Trigger warnings: Extreme transphobia, rape mention, domestic abuse mention

This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of book one, Dreadnought.

Back Cover:

Only nine months after her debut as the superhero Dreadnought, Danny Tozer is is already a scarred veteran. Protecting a city the size of New Port is a team-sized job and she’s doing it alone. Between her newfound celebrity and her demanding cape duties, Dreadnought is stretched thin, and it’s only going to get worse.

When she crosses a newly discovered billionaire supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s no lever too cruel for this villain to use against her.

She might be hard to kill, but there’s more than one way to destroy a hero. Before the war is over, Dreadnought will be forced to confront parts of herself she never wanted to acknowledge.

And behind it all, an old enemy waits in the wings, ready to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever.

Review:

After the difficult but absolutely fantastic story that was DreadnoughtI got my hands on this book as soon as it came out … a month ago.

I actually had to take a several-week break in the middle of reading this book. Remember how I said Dreadnought was “difficult” with all the transphobia? This book is worse.

So, if you remember Graywytch from the last book, she’s a major player in this one. With all of her TERF transphobia and man-hating. And I’m really trying to avoid spoilers here, but there’s a point about right in the middle of the book where really really bad things happen and there was so much pain and hatred and transphobia that I just had to put the book down and back away for a while. So heads up if transphobia is an issue for you – that section is going to pack one hell of a punch.

Once I came back to it after that, though, it was much easier and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some of the greatest things it has going for it:

  • The master plot was fantastic and there’s a massive twist and you don’t find until AFTER the final battle what the actual evil plan is
  • Relationship issues between Calamity/Sarah and Danny
    • Pros: Great tension in the story and they’d-better-figure-this-out tension for me reading it
    • Cons: You don’t get as much Calamity epicness in this book
  • Character development! Danny grows SO MUCH in this book and it’s amazing watching her mature
  • Superhero/law enforcement politics – yes, it’s a thing, and it’s kinda cool
  • A superhero secondary character who’s genderqueer/nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns

My only actual plot problem with the book was all the legal stuff. Danny gets involved in a lot of legal battles, and they wrap up a little more conveniently than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind – I was dreading getting through all the superhero action and then having to deal with frustrating legal stuff – the resolution just seemed to come out of the blue.

This book was really difficult, even more so than the first book. I kept anticipating transphobia around every corner, and it was hard when it showed up and a relief when it didn’t. But it came out to a happy ending with some cute romance and I’m glad I finished it. Sovereign wraps up neatly, but if there is an upcoming book three, I certainly wouldn’t object.

The Nemesis series:

  1. Dreadnought
  2. Sovereign
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Superhero

Review: Dreadnought

Book cover of Dreadnought by April Daniels, featuring a silhouette of a superhero standing on a hill with a blue cape blowing out behind her.
Image from Booktopia

Title: Dreadnought

Series: Nemesis #1

Author: April Daniels

Genre: Superhero

Trigger warnings: Domestic abuse (verbal and emotional), transphobia

Back Cover:

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer – a cyborg named Utopia – still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

Review:

I heard about this book on Tumblr somewhere when I was looking for some good novels with queer characters. And then I reserved it at the library because A) it was one of the only non-contemporary LGBT books I could find, and B) heck yeah trans girl superheroes!

I read the entire thing in one sitting. Which honestly surprised me because some parts were really difficult – but I just couldn’t put it down.

Not being transgender, I can’t say anything about the realistic-ness of Danny’s struggles, but holy hell were they heart-wrenching. Between her asshole “best friend,” her abusive father (just how abusive gets slowly revealed as the book goes on), and the rampant transphobia among the superhero league in the city, I just wanted to hug her and fix everything for her. And there were several times I found myself mentally screaming to her that none of it was her fault and she’s a wonderful person and … well, I got really, really attached to her.

(Side note: If you’re an abuse survivor, you may find some scenes difficult. I did, but for me it didn’t take away too much from the book – you might have a different experience, though, so proceed with caution.)

The other major character is Calamity, a “graycape” (vigilante) that Danny ends up doing superhero stuff with for a lot of the book. I really liked her – she was the kind of badass been-doing-this-my-whole-life type you’d expect from a book like this, and I liked how her and Danny’s relationship developed. My only problem was that Danny knows her as her alter ego, too, but we only get one (very, very short) scene with her non-superhero side so it felt like I knew a lot about Calamity but nothing about the girl under the mask.

The plot actually has a lot more going on than gets mentioned on the back cover. There’s a major question of “is the Legion Pacifica (the city’s superhero league) trustworthy or not?” There’s Danny and Calamity trying to find Utopia (because besides killing Dreadnought she doesn’t show up until the end). There’s Danny’s coming out to her family and standing up (or not) to her abusive father. And there’s figuring out her powers (which are pretty dang epic), and of course the obligatory rescues and fight scenes and giant mechas destroying the city …

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t obligatory. But it sure made for some awesome mecha-on-apparently-not-indestructible-girl battles.

Overall, some parts were really hard for me to read as an abuse survivor (and other parts would probably be hard for you if you’ve experienced transphobia). But it has a mostly happy ending, the potential for bit of romance in the next book (fingers crossed!) and I couldn’t put it down. I give it two hearty thumbs up and I’m really looking forward to book two!

The Nemesis series:

  1. Dreadnought
  2. Sovereign (July 25, 2017)

 

Superhero

Review: Realm by Jennifer Hartz

Realm
Image from Jennifer Hartz

Title: Realm (Heroes of the Horde #3)

Author: Jennifer Hartz

Genre: Superhero

WARNING: This book is third in a series, so this review might contain spoilers of the first two books. Read at your own risk.

Back cover:

With one of the Heroes Of The Horde kidnapped by the demons, the remaining five members attempt to rescue her. But the most likely location of their kidnapped friend is inside the demon realm. The only Heroes member to breach the demon realm is the very one who had been taken. How can they enter the realm to save her?

Relationships crumble and morale is weak. The Heroes have reached a breaking point. Surprises lurk not only in the demon realm, but in the very midst of the Heroes as their powers grow. Throwing even more tension into the mix is a newcomer to the group who may hold the key to eradicating the Horde once and for all.

Review:

After the last book, Siege, ended on a cliffhanger, I jumped at the opportunity to read Realm. I had planned to read it in quick succession with the previous book, but then college happened and that didn’t. But when I finally found some spare time over a break, I devoured the story in an afternoon.

Once again, the biggest problem I had with this book was the sheer amount of main characters. Jennifer Hartz did a much better job balancing the Heroes members than I think she did in the last book, but I still sometimes had a hard time keeping track of who was doing what (and occasionally even who was talking). Adding in another Heroes member didn’t help. That’s not to say I didn’t like the new guy, because I did. But it didn’t help me keep track of characters.

This plot seemed twofold to me. First, there was the whole Caitlyn-is-missing, demon-fighting plot. There’s a lot to learn about demons and the demon realm, too – for about the first third of the story, there’s Caitlyn’s first-person narration from inside it, then the Heroes find a portal and are in and out quite a bit. (The finding-the-portal part kind of annoyed me, because I put together the pieces almost before they knew there was a puzzle.)

And the demons are getting smart. There’s a lot of demon-fighting and battles and stuff, and a hint of somebody who may be a main antagonist in future books. Plus, the first death of a Heroes-ignorant civilian, who also happened to be a love interest – even though I didn’t know the person really well, I had to put the book down and stare at the wall for a minute.

The second part of the plot was all the tangled romantic things. They were messy in Unleashed, even messier in Siege, and by the time we get to Realm, they resemble the Gordian Knot. One couple I’ve been shipping since Unleashed falls apart, there were two Heroes member and ignorant-of-Heroes person relationships, and the Heroes gets a new member who throws a wrench in the romantic works because now there’s NOT an even number of perfect couples among them. Romance isn’t usually my thing, but this romance – I’m going to say co-plot, since it’s bigger than a subplot – is somehow keeping me interested and rooting for various couples.

So I thought this was going to be a trilogy and this was the last book … I was wrong. There is more. Or, at least, there had better be more, because it ended on a cliffhanger/twist that completely threw me for a loop. Plus there’s so freaking many loose ends, and I feel like Pastor Alex is going to get really important in the future.

So, long story short, book four had better happen soon. Because I am looking forward to continuing this series.

I received a free review copy of Realm from the author. Her generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Heroes of the Horde series:

  1. Unleashed
  2. Siege
  3. Realm
  4. Whatever the heck book 4 is going to be

Report Card

For a run-down of my grading system, check out this page.

REALM (Heroes of the Horde #3) scored a 3.9 (A)

Superhero

Review: The Vindico

The Vindico book cover
Image from ishtamercurio. blogspot.com

Title:  The Vindico

Author:  Wesley King

Genre:  Superhero

Back Cover:

Kidnapped from their average lives, five teenagers are given the chance to change their lives forever.  They are promised super powers – something they thought you had to be born with.  But these powers come with a price.  To get them, they must join a league of the world’s most notorious villains:  the Vindico.

Review:

I picked this book up for two reasons.  One was because Cat at Beyond Books [note: a currently-deactivated book review blog I used to follow] liked it so much.  The other was because I’m a huge fan of well-done superhero books.

I expected a somewhat light-hearted, good-versus-evil kind of story.  But that wasn’t what I got at all.

I only had two problems with the book.  Number one was the sheer amount of characters.  Five teenagers, six villains, a few random friends, a bazillion superheroes from the League…all of whom were mentioned by names that all started sounding the same after a while.

And besides the fact that I couldn’t keep them straight, there were so many of them that I didn’t really get to know any of them.  James seemed to be a totally average kid.  Lana I hardly got a feel for at all.  Hayden thought he was God’s gift to women.  Emily was detached, calculating, and brilliant.  Sam acted like a little kid – which was explained at the end in a perfectly logical yet highly annoying way.

It was annoying because of problem number two – character details.  Emily was Asian, apparently, a fact that was NOT mentioned in describing her appearance, but was dropped in the middle of the book in a “hey, you already knew this” way. And Sam was apparently younger than twelve, a fact that was not mentioned until the last chapter.  I went through the whole book thinking he was a teenager, while I would have liked him much better if I’d have known he was about ten, not just immature.  A few details mentioned earlier on would have spared me a lot of frustration.

I really enjoyed the plot.  It was delightfully superhero-ish, including confrontations between good and evil, and even one spot where nobody (including me) knew who the good guys were.  It was just a whole lot…darker than I expected.

I’d expected more of a light-hearted, comic-book-style, bad-guys-go-to-jail kind of story.  Instead, the Vindico and the League were just killing each other.  That’s not to say it wasn’t bad, it’s just … well, if this were a comic book, I wouldn’t give it to my nine-year-old sister.

This book was hardly what I expected, but I still enjoyed it.  So, I think, would any superhero or comic book fan.

The Vindico series:

  1. The Vindico
  2. The Feros