The DC ICONS COLLECTION is a series of four YA novels that take a famous DC superhero and explores their background before they became the stuff of legends. This means having a look at their adolescence, whether it’s Clark tending the farm in Smallvillle, Bruce doing voluntary work in Arkham Asylum, or Selena Kyle struggling to survive the streets of Gotham City.
In the case of Princess Diana, she’s a young Amazonian warrior on the island of Themyscira, just beginning to understand her incredible power, but mostly eager to use it to impress her mother. That changes when a young woman is washed ashore, and Diana decides to break the law of the island by rescuing her.
Her new friend is called Alia, who is naturally baffled by her own environment — but has a secret of her own. After consulting with the Oracle, Diana is told that Alia is what’s known as a “Warbringer”. Like Helen of Troy before her, a warbringer is a woman who inevitably and unconsciously causes strife and conflict wherever she goes. Dark forces are gathering around Alia, and it’s now Diana’s responsibility to travel with her to the human world in the attempt to find a cure.
It’s an interesting story choice to make; that although Diana is the protagonist, Alia is focus of the plot. The advantage is that this places Diana in the role of protector, and is as loyal, fierce and brave as you’d expect from our beloved Amazonian Princess. As an original character, Alia is also well-drawn, grappling with plenty of anguish and fear concerning what she’s capable of, and it’s great to have a story that focuses on the forged-in-fire friendship between two young women (not even the 2017 film did that!)
If you were disappointed that the recent Wonder Woman film didn’t spend much time on Themyscira, then Leigh Bardugo ensures that although Warbringer’s story follows the same trajectory as the film (starting on the island, moving to the human world in the second act, before culminating in a showdown with the gods) the reader gets to spend a lot more time with the Amazons, learning more about the individual women who live there, their history and culture.
As with the rest of the DC ICONS COLLECTION, this story doesn’t exist in the same continuity of any films or comic books — here Diana is seventeen when she leaves the island for the first time, and a loophole ensures that she can return one day. It’s best to read all these books as standalone adventures, and in this case Bardugo delivers: Warbringer is interesting, insightful and is a great showcase for Diana’s abilities, kindness and sense of duty — that which will one day make her a hero.