Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

September 28, 2020

"What do you think people see when they look at you?"
Nim turned to her. "What do you see?"
"A bold girl. Talented and audacious."
Nim dropped backward in an exaggerated swoon. "Could you just stay forever?"

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

DC Icons #1
Release - August 29, 2017
Genre - YA Fantasy - Superhero
Dual POV - 3rd person
Format - hardcover
Length - 384 pages
Publisher - Random House Books for Young Readers

Daughter of immortals.

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.

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Formed from clay, Diana had never belonged. While every other woman had earned their place on Themyscira, she had been created to fulfill the queen's need for a child. She felt the need to prove herself... if only to herself.

There are many rules for the residents of Themyscira, chief among them is limiting one's involvement in the World of Man. When Diana witnesses an explosion on a ship, she knows not to interfere. However, when she sees a girl clinging to life, she has to try to help her. The cost? The island can't handle the contamination of a human in its midst and the Amazons are falling sick... and the human girl is dying. After consulting the Oracle and learning that the human is a descendant of Helen of Troy and a Warbringer that must be taken from the island, Diana finally accepts that saving this girl and the world just might be the quest she's been looking for.
I was in the worst book slump I've experienced in a long time and this story gave me LIFE! Thank you, Leigh Bardugo, an author I've never read before (but will definitely read again) for bringing me so much joy with your words. The fact that you seem to love Diana as much as I do only makes me appreciate you more!

The Characters

Diana - white?/immortal/Amazonian Princess/rulebreaker/destined to save the world
Alia - half-black half-Greek/human/orphan/Warbringer/destined to destroy the world
Jason - half-black half-Greek/human/orphan/Alia's older brother/protective
Theo - Afro-Latino/human/tech whiz/comic relief?
Nim - Indian/human/multi-talented/queer and amazing!!

I had a deep affection for these people and I crave more of them.

I loved Diana's fierce determination, her invulnerability and the fact that she allowed herself to be vulnerable, her heart and her bravery. I loved Alia's courage and acceptance and how she was able to face her own flaws. I loved the lengths Jason seemed willing to go to protect his sister and his parents' legacy. I loved Theo, his irreverence, his intelligence, and his unconditional friendship. I loved Nim for so many reasons. This girl was such a colorful yet unassuming character. She gave her all in every scene and made her presence such a joy to witness.

While these villains didn't take up a lot of 'screen time', their existence in this book was definitely felt. They gave such a creepy vibe, which I enjoyed the heck out of. Nothing like some warmongering gods to bring chills down my spine. I have most of Bardugo's books on my shelves and I'm so glad I finally took the plunge. If this is what I can expect from this author, I cannot wait to get started on them!

Chapter One

You do not enter a race to lose.

Diana bounced lightly on her toes at the starting line, her calves taut as bowstrings, her mother’s words reverberating in her ears. A noisy crowd had gathered for the wrestling matches and javelin throws that would mark the start of the Nemeseian Games, but the real event was the footrace, and now the stands were buzzing with word that the queen’s daughter had entered the competition.

When Hippolyta had seen Diana amid the runners clustered on the arena sands, she’d displayed no surprise. As was tradition, she’d descended from her viewing platform to wish the athletes luck in their endeavors, sharing a joke here or offering a kind word of encouragement there. She had nodded briefly to Diana, showing her no special favor, but she’d whispered, so low that only her daughter could hear, “You do not enter a race to lose.”

Amazons lined the path that led out of the arena, already stamping their feet and chanting for the games to begin.

On Diana’s right, Rani flashed her a radiant smile. “Good luck today.” She was always kind, always gracious, and, of course, always victorious.

To Diana’s left, Thyra snorted and shook her head. “She’s going to need it.”

Diana ignored her. She’d been looking forward to this race for weeks—a trek across the island to retrieve one of the red flags hung beneath the great dome in Bana-Mighdall. In a flat-out sprint, she didn’t have a chance. She still hadn’t come into the fullness of her Amazon strength. You will in time, her mother had promised. But her mother promised a lot of things.

This race was different. It required strategy, and Diana was ready. She’d been training in secret, running sprints with Maeve, and plotting a route that had rougher terrain but was definitely a straighter shot to the western tip of the island. She’d even—well, she hadn’t exactly spied… She’d gathered intelligence on the other Amazons in the race. She was still the smallest, and of course the youngest, but she’d shot up in the last year, and she was nearly as tall as Thyra now.

I don’t need luck, she told herself. I have a plan. She glanced down the row of Amazons gathered at the starting line like troops readying for war and amended, But a little luck wouldn’t hurt, either. She wanted that laurel crown. It was better than any royal circlet or tiara. It was something she could earn instead of just be given.

She found Maeve’s red hair and freckled face in the crowd and grinned, trying to project confidence. Maeve returned the smile and gestured with both hands as if she were tamping down the air. She mouthed the words, “Steady on.”

Diana rolled her eyes but nodded and tried to slow her breathing. She had a bad habit of coming out too fast and wasting her speed too early.

Now she cleared her mind and forced herself to concentrate on the course as Tekmessa walked the line, surveying the runners, jewels glinting in her thick corona of curls, silver bands flashing on her brown arms. She was Hippolyta’s closest advisor, second in rank only to the queen, and she carried herself as if her belted indigo shift were battle armor.

“Take it easy, Pyxis,” Tek murmured to Diana as she passed. “Wouldn’t want to see you crack.” Diana heard Thyra snort again, but she refused to flinch at the nickname. You won’t be smirking when I’m on the victors’ podium, she promised.

Tek raised her hands for silence and bowed to Hippolyta, who sat between two other members of the Amazon Council in the royal loge—a high platform shaded by a silken overhang dyed in the vibrant red and blue of the queen’s colors. Diana knew that was where her mother wanted her right now, seated beside her, waiting for the start of the games instead of competing. None of that would matter when she won.

Hippolyta dipped her chin the barest amount, elegant in her white tunic and riding trousers, a simple circlet resting against her forehead. She looked relaxed, at her ease, as if she might decide to leap down and join the competition at any time, but still every inch the queen.

Tek addressed the athletes gathered on the arena sands. “In whose honor do you compete?”

“For the glory of the Amazons,” they replied in unison. “For the glory of our queen.” Diana felt her heart beat harder. She’d never said the words before, not as a competitor.

“To whom do we give praise each day?” Tek trumpeted.

“Hera,” they chorused. “Athena, Demeter, Hestia, Aphrodite, Artemis.” The goddesses who had created Themyscira and gifted it to Hippolyta as a place of refuge.

Tek paused, and along the line, Diana heard the whispers of other names: Oya, Durga, Freyja, Mary, Yael. Names once cried out in death, the last prayers of female warriors fallen in battle, the words that had brought them to this island and given them new life as Amazons. Beside Diana, Rani murmured the names of the demon-fighting Matri, the seven mothers, and pressed the rectangular amulet she always wore to her lips.

Tek raised a blood-red flag identical to those that would be waiting for the runners in Bana-Mighdall.

“May the island guide you to just victory,” she shouted.

She dropped the red silk. The crowd roared. The runners surged toward the eastern arch. Like that, the race had begun.

Diana and Maeve had anticipated a bottleneck, but Diana still felt a pang of frustration as runners clogged the stone throat of the tunnel, a tangle of white tunics and muscled limbs, footsteps echoing off the stone, all of them trying to get clear of the arena at once. Then they were on the road, sprinting off across the island, each runner choosing her own course.

You do not enter a race to lose.

Diana set her pace to the rhythm of those words, bare feet slapping the packed earth of the road that would lead her through the tangle of the Cybelian Woods to the island’s northern coast.

Ordinarily, a miles-long trek through this forest would be a slow one, hampered by fallen trees and tangles of vines so thick they had to be hacked through with a blade you didn’t mind dulling. But Diana had plotted her way well. An hour after she entered the woods, she burst from the trees onto the deserted coast road. The wind lifted her hair, and salt spray lashed her face. She breathed deep, checked the position of the sun. She was going to win—not just place but win.

She’d mapped out the course the week before with Maeve, and they’d run it twice in secret, in the gray-light hours of early morning, when their sisters were only just rising from their beds, when the kitchen fires were still being kindled, and the only curious eyes they’d had to worry about belonged to anyone up early to hunt game or cast nets for the day’s catch. But hunters kept to the woods and meadows farther south, and no one fished off this part of the coast; there was no good place to launch a boat, just the steep steel-colored cliffs plunging straight down to the sea, and a tiny, unwelcoming cove that could only be reached by a path so narrow you had to shuffle down sideways, back pressed to the rock.

The northern shore was gray, grim, and inhospitable, and Diana knew every inch of its secret landscape, its crags and caves, its tide pools teeming with limpets and anemones. It was a good place to be alone. The island seeks to please, her mother had told her. It was why Themyscira was forested by redwoods in some places and rubber trees in others; why you could spend an afternoon roaming the grasslands on a scoop-neck pony and the evening atop a camel, scaling a moonlit dragonback of sand dunes. They were all pieces of the lives the Amazons had led before they came to the island, little landscapes of the heart.

Diana sometimes wondered if Themyscira had called the northern coast into being just for her so that she could challenge herself climbing on the sheer drop of its cliffs, so that she could have a place to herself when the weight of being Hippolyta’s daughter got to be too much.

You do not enter a race to lose.

Her mother had not been issuing a general warning. Diana’s losses meant something different, and they both knew it—and not just because she was a princess.

Diana could almost feel Tek’s knowing gaze on her, hear the mocking in her voice. Take it easy, Pyxis. That was the nickname Tek had given her. Pyxis. A little clay pot made to store jewels or a tincture of carmine for pinking the lips. The name was harmless, meant to tease, always said in love—or so Tek claimed. But it stung every time: a reminder that Diana was not like the other Amazons, and never would be. Her sisters were battle-proven warriors, steel forged from suffering and honed to greatness as they passed from life to immortality. All of them had earned their place on Themyscira. All but Diana, born of the island’s soil and Hippolyta’s longing for a child, fashioned from clay by her mother’s hands—hollow and breakable. Take it easy, Pyxis. Wouldn’t want to see you crack.

Diana steadied her breathing, kept her pace steady. Not today, Tek. This day the laurel belongs to me.

She spared the briefest glance at the horizon, letting the sea breeze cool the sweat on her brow. Through the mists, she glimpsed the white shape of a ship. It had come close enough to the boundary that Diana could make out its sails. The craft was small—a schooner maybe? She had trouble remembering nautical details. Mainmast, mizzenmast, a thousand names for sails, and knots for rigging. It was one thing to be out on a boat, learning from Teuta, who had sailed with Illyrian pirates, but quite another to be stuck in the library at the Epheseum, staring glazed-eyed at diagrams of a brigantine or a caravel.

Sometimes she and Maeve made a game of trying to spot ships or planes, and once they’d even seen the fat blot of a cruise ship on the horizon. But most mortals knew to steer clear of their particular corner of the Aegean, where compasses spun and instruments suddenly refused to obey.

Today it looked like a storm was picking up past the mists of the boundary, and Diana was sorry she couldn’t stop to watch it. The rains that came to Themyscira were tediously gentle and predictable, nothing like the threatening rumble of thunder, the shimmer of a far-off lightning strike.

“Do you ever miss storms?” Diana had asked one afternoon as she and Maeve had lazed on the palace’s sun-soaked rooftop terrace, listening to the distant roar and clatter of a tempest. Maeve had died in the Crossbarry Ambush, the last words on her lips a prayer to Saint Brigid of Kildare. She was new to the island by Amazon standards, and came from Cork, where storms were common.

“No,” Maeve had said in her lilting voice. “I miss a good cup of tea, dancing, boys—definitely not rain.”

“We dance,” Diana protested.

Maeve had just laughed. “You dance differently when you know you won’t live forever.” Then she’d stretched, freckles like dense clouds of pollen on her white skin. “I think I was a cat in another life, because all I want is to lie around sleeping in the world’s biggest sunbeam.”

Steady on. Diana resisted the urge to speed forward. It was hard to remember to keep something in reserve with the early-morning sun on her shoulders and the wind at her back. She felt strong. But it was easy to feel strong when she was on her own.

A boom sounded over the waves, a hard metallic clap like a door slamming shut. Diana’s steps faltered. On the blue horizon, a billowing column of smoke rose, flames licking at its base. The schooner was on fire, its prow blown to splinters and one of its masts smashed, the sail dragging over the rails.

Diana found herself slowing but forced her stride back on pace. There was nothing she could do for the schooner. Planes crashed. Ships were wrecked upon the rocks. That was the nature of the mortal world. It was a place where disaster could happen and often did. Human life was a tide of suffering, one that never reached the island’s shores. Diana focused her eyes on the path. Far, far ahead she could see sunlight gleaming gold off the great dome at Bana-Mighdall. First the red flag, then the laurel crown. That was the plan.

From somewhere on the wind, she heard a cry.

A gull, she told herself. A girl, some other voice within her insisted. Impossible. A human shout couldn’t carry over such a great distance, could it?

It didn’t matter. There was nothing she could do.

And yet her eyes strayed back to the horizon. I just want to get a better view, she told herself. I have plenty of time. I’m ahead.

There was no good reason to leave the ruts of the old cart track, no logic to veering out over the rocky point, but she did it anyway.

The waters near the shore were calm, clear, vibrant turquoise. The ocean beyond was something else—wild, deep-well blue, a sea gone almost black. The island might seek to please her and her sisters, but the world beyond the boundary didn’t concern itself with the happiness or safety of its inhabitants.

Even from a distance, she could tell the schooner was sinking. But she saw no lifeboats, no distress flares, only pieces of the broken craft carried along by rolling waves. It was done. Diana rubbed her hands briskly over her arms, dispelling a sudden chill, and started making her way back to the cart track. That was the way of human life. She and Maeve had dived out by the boundary many times, swum the wrecks of airplanes and clipper ships and sleek motorboats. The salt water changed the wood, hardened it so it did not rot. Mortals were not the same. They were food for deep-sea fishes, for sharks—and for time that ate at them slowly, inevitably, whether they were on water or on land.

Diana checked the sun’s position again. She could be at Bana-Mighdall in forty minutes, maybe less. She told her legs to move. She’d only lost a few minutes. She could make up the time. Instead, she looked over her shoulder.

There were stories in all the old books about women who made the mistake of looking back. On the way out of burning cities. On the way out of hell. But Diana looked anyway at that ship sinking in the great waves, tilting like a bird’s broken wing.

She measured the length of the cliff top. There were jagged rocks at the base. If she didn’t leap with enough momentum, the impact would be ugly. Still, the fall wouldn’t kill her. That’s true of a real Amazon, she thought. Is it true for you? Well, she hoped the fall wouldn’t kill her. Of course, if the fall didn’t, her mother would.

Diana looked once more at the wreck and pushed off, running full out, arms pumping, stride long, picking up speed, closing the distance to the cliff’s edge. Stop stop stop, her mind clamored. This is madness. Even if there were survivors, she could do nothing for them. To try to save them was to court exile, and there would be no exception to the rule—not even for a princess. Stop. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t obey. She wanted to believe it was because a hero’s heart beat in her chest and demanded an answer to that frightened call. But even as she launched herself off the cliff and into the empty sky, she knew part of what drew her on was the challenge of that great gray sea that did not care if she loved it.

Her body cut a smooth arc through the air, arms pointing like a compass needle, directing her course. She plummeted toward the water and broke the surface in a clean plunge, ears full of sudden silence, muscles tensed for the brutal impact of the rocks. None came. She shot upward, drew in a breath, and swam straight for the boundary, arms slicing through the warm water.

There was always a little thrill when she neared the boundary, when the temperature of the water began to change, the cold touching her fingertips first, then settling over her scalp and shoulders. Diana and Maeve liked to swim out from the southern beaches, daring themselves to go farther, farther. Once they’d glimpsed a ship passing in the mist, sailors standing at the stern. One of the men had lifted an arm, pointing in their direction. They’d plunged to safety, gesturing wildly to each other beneath the waves, laughing so hard that by the time they reached shore, they were both choking on salt water. We could be sirens, Maeve had shrieked as they’d flopped on the warm sand, except neither of them could carry a tune. They’d spent the rest of the afternoon singing violently off-key Irish drinking songs and laughing themselves silly until Tek had found them. Then they’d shut up quick. Breaking the boundary was a minor infraction. Being seen by mortals anywhere near the island was cause for serious disciplinary action. And what Diana was doing now?

Stop. But she couldn’t. Not when that high human cry still rang in her ears.

Diana felt the cold of the water beyond the boundary engulf her fully. The sea had her now, and it was not friendly. The current seized her legs, dragging her down, a massive, rolling force, the barest shrug of a god. You have to fight it, she realized, forcing her muscles to correct her course. She’d never had to work against the ocean.

She bobbed for a moment on the surface, trying to get her bearings as the waves crested around her. The water was full of debris, papers floating on the surface, shards of wood, broken fiberglass, orange life jackets that the crew must not have had time to don. It was nearly impossible to see through the falling rain and the mists that shrouded the island.

What am I doing out here? she asked herself. Ships come and go. Human lives are lost. She dove again, peered through the rushing gray waters, but saw no one.

Diana surfaced, her own stupidity carving a growing ache in her gut. She’d sacrificed the race. This was supposed to be the moment her sisters saw her truly, the chance to make her mother proud. Instead, she’d thrown away her lead, and for what? There was nothing here but destruction.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of white, a big chunk of what might have been the ship’s hull. It rose on a wave, vanished, rose again, and as it did, Diana glimpsed a slender brown arm holding tight to the side, fingers spread, knuckles bent. Then it was gone.

Another wave rose, a great gray mountain. Diana dove beneath it, kicking hard, then surfaced, searching, bits of lumber and fiberglass everywhere, impossible to sort one piece of flotsam from another.

There it was again—an arm, two arms, a body, bowed head and hunched shoulders, lemon-colored shirt, a tangle of dark hair. A girl—she lifted her head, gasped for breath, dark eyes wild with fear. A wave crashed over her in a spray of white water. The chunk of hull surfaced. The girl was gone.

Down again. Diana aimed for the place she’d seen the girl go under. She glimpsed a flash of yellow and lunged for it, seizing the fabric and using it to reel her in. A ghost’s face loomed out at her from the cloudy water—golden hair, blue gaze wide and lifeless. She’d never seen a corpse up close before. She’d never seen a boy up close before. She recoiled, hand releasing his shirt, but even as she watched him disappear, she marked the differences—hard jaw, broad brow, just like the pictures in books.

She dove again, but she’d lost all sense of direction now—the waves, the wreck, the bare shadow of the island in the mists. If she drifted out much farther, she might not be able to find her way back.

Diana could not stop seeing the image of that slender arm, the ferocity in those fingers, clinging hard to life. Once more, she told herself. She dove, the chill of the water fastening tight around her bones now, burrowing deeper.

One moment the world was gray current and cloudy sea, and the next the girl was there in her lemon-colored shirt, face down, arms and legs outstretched like a star. Her eyes were closed.

Diana grabbed her around the waist and launched them toward the surface. For a terrifying second, she could not find the shape of the island, and then the mists parted. She kicked forward, wrapping the girl awkwardly against her chest with one arm, fingers questing for a pulse with the other. There—beneath the jaw, thready, indistinct, but there. Though the girl wasn’t breathing, her heart still beat.

Diana hesitated. She could see the outlines of Filos and Ecthros, the rocks that marked the rough beginnings of the boundary. The rules were clear. You could not stop the mortal tide of life and death, and the island must never be touched by it. There were no exceptions. No human could be brought to Themyscira, even if it meant saving a life. Breaking that rule meant only one thing: exile.

Exile. The word was a stone, unwanted ballast, the weight unbearable. It was one thing to breach the boundary, but what she did next might untether her from the island, her sisters, her mother forever. The world seemed too large, the sea too deep. Let go. It was that simple. Let this girl slip from her grasp and it would be as if Diana had never leapt from those cliffs. She would be light again, free of this burden.

Diana thought of the girl’s hand, the ferocious grip of her knuckles, the steel-blade determination in her eyes before the wave took her under. She felt the ragged rhythm of the girl’s pulse, a distant drum—alive, alive.

She swam for shore.

As she passed through the boundary with the girl clutched to her, the mists dissolved and the rain abated. Warmth flooded her body. The calm water felt oddly lifeless after the thrashing of the sea, but Diana wasn’t about to complain.

When her feet touched the sandy bottom, she shoved up, shifting her grip to carry the girl from the shallows. She was eerily light, almost insubstantial. It was like holding a sparrow’s body between her cupped hands. No wonder the sea had made such easy sport of this creature and her crewmates; she felt temporary, an artist’s cast of a body rendered in plaster.

Diana laid her gently on the sand and checked her pulse again. No heartbeat now. She knew she needed to get the girl’s heart going, get the water out of her lungs, but her memory on just how to do that was a bit hazy. Diana had studied the basics of reviving a drowning victim, but she hadn’t ever had to put it into practice outside the classroom. It was also possible she hadn’t paid close attention at the time. How likely was it that an Amazon was going to drown, especially in the calm waters off Themyscira? And now her daydreaming might cost this girl her life.

Do something, she told herself, trying to think past her panic. Why did you drag her out of the water if you’re just going to sit staring at her like a frightened rabbit?

Diana placed two fingers on the girl’s sternum, then tracked lower to what she hoped was the right spot. She locked her hands together and pressed. The girl’s bones bent beneath her palms. Hurriedly, Diana drew back. What was this girl made of, anyway? Balsa wood? She felt about as solid as the little models of world monuments Diana had been forced to build for class. Gently, she pressed down again, then again. She shut the girl’s nose with her fingers, closed her mouth over cooling mortal lips, and breathed.

The gust drove into the girl’s chest, and Diana saw it rise, but this time the extra force seemed to be a good thing. Suddenly, the girl was coughing, her body convulsing as she spat up salt water. Diana sat back on her knees and released a short laugh. She’d done it. The girl was alive.

The reality of what she’d just dared struck her. All the hounds of Hades: She’d done it. The girl was alive.
Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse (coming soon to Netflix) which spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars— with more to come.

Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, and graduated from Yale University. These days she lives and writes in Los Angeles.


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