CATWOMAN: SOULSTEALER (DC ICONS SERIES), BY SARAH J. MAAS

Review by Mrs. Collins

Upon beginning this book, I found myself reading with a healthy dose of skepticism. I started out as a huge fan of Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series, and then eventually grew tired of the increasing amounts of sex in what started as a young adult series, and of reading characters that were all brilliant, deadly, and physically gorgeous but emotionally tortured. It was starting to feel formulaic.

Then I started reading this book and, guess what? Catwoman and Batwing are both brilliant, deadly, and physically gorgeous but emotionally tortured, and of course inexplicably drawn to each other, and I groaned to myself in exasperation. And yet. Even though the formulation of the characters was weirdly familiar (just in modern Gotham instead of a fantasy world), and even though even the way the main characters operated was very familiar (a cocky, overconfident, and morally-gray woman paired with a strong but sensitive do-gooder man who everyone wants, but who only wants her), I got sucked into the story and couldn't stop reading. And I was definitely surprised and touched by the ending.

I also liked a couple of the twists Maas added to the Catwoman story in this retelling. Selina Kyle is a hood kid from the bad side of town who has taken up with a gang of female fighters called the leopards, and competes in underground prize fights for money to help take care of her younger sister Maggie who has Cystic Fibrosis. She and Maggie have been abandoned by their deadbeat, abusive drug-addict mother and are on their own.Then Selina gets caught, but instead of going to jail, she is given a chance to get out, and have her sister taken care of, by joining the league of assassins. In this retelling, Ras'al Ghul has been recast as two sisters, Nissa and Talia, and all of the assassins they train are women, whose skills at blending into the upper echelons of society are just as important as their ability to fight and kill. I really liked that Catwoman's prowess wasn't attributed to dying and being magically revived by cats, but rather was a product of her past, her skill, and her training. On the other side is Batwing, or Luke Fox, who is a marine with severe PTSD after fighting in Iraq and losing his entire team to a roadside bomb. Fox also happens to be the heir to the Fox fortune and son of the CEO of Wayne Industries.

These two characters inevitably come together when Selina comes back to Gotham as the wealthy socialite Holly Vanderhees by day and Catwoman by night, forms a girl-power team with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and starts pulling off very public heists from the Gotham elite. I loved the girl bonding between these characters, and found their depth and complexity refreshing in a genre that usually has pretty one-dimensional bad guys.

So I'm giving this four stars. Because I think that readers who don't have Sarah J. Maas exhaustion will come to this fresh and will be intrigued and interested by the tortured-but-beautiful characters and their backstory, and will be kept reading by the non-stop action and quick pacing of the book. Students who enjoy Sarah J. Maas will like this book, as will anyone who likes superhero books, and anyone who just wants a good fast-paced, action packed book with a hint of romance.

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