ARC review – ‘Sovereign’ by April Daniels

Title:  Sovereign
Author: April Daniels
Genre:  Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT+
Date of Publication: 25th July, 2017
Page Count: 350pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Only nine months after her debut as the fourth superhero to fight under the name Dreadnought, Danny Tozer 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 supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s no trick too dirty and 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 to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever.

I loved the first book so much that I gave it a 5-star rating and was absolutely thrilled to be approved for an ARC of the second book – so how did I fare?

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I thought after weathering all the ups and downs of Dreadnought, I was prepared for the sequel, but I was SO wrong. This book hurt me on a deep spiritual level because of how much pain and suffering the protagonist went through, and yet I couldn’t stop reading. I was up til 3am finishing this off because I needed to know how it ended and if it would all be okay for Danny at any stage EVER.

Spoiler warning: there is light at the end of the tunnel! But you’re gonna feel like a train ran over you by the time you get there.

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Props to the author for an addictive and compelling novel – I’m going to be bold and say this is the pinnacle of YA storytelling and we need more like it. I LOVE that the plot is complex and labyrinthine and you need to pay attention otherwise you may get lost! Sometimes I find YA a little too simplified or issues skimmed over because it’s for ‘young adults’, so it’s great when authors aren’t afraid to load on the convoluted story arcs and heavy themes and trust their audience to keep up.

I still love Danny as much as I did when I first met her in Dreadnought – she’s only fifteen, but her resilience, her steadfast determination to do the right thing and refusal to back down in the face of adversity shows such astounding maturity. And yet she’s not flawless, she’s still a believable, well-rounded character; we see her grappling with the morality & ethics of being a superhero, how she saves the day but enjoys the violence and danger a little too much. It’s exciting to follow Danny’s journey because I never knew which side she would land on, whether she’d give in to the recklessness of her inner  adrenaline junkie or if she’d pull back in time.

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The diversity in this series also continues to impress – of course we have Danny herself, a trans protagonist, but we’re also introduced to Kinetiq, a Iranian-American gender-queer character. I thought it was cool how Kinetiq’s introduction shed some light on the world’s view of superheroes and how even people with superpowers were still marginalized because of their background; Kinetiq’s massive battle and eventual victory over a 300-foot tall rampaging fire-breathing psycho was overshadowed by Danny, because she’s ‘a pretty white girl with an easy-to-understand narrative‘. If that had been the only appearance Kinetiq made, I would’ve thought nothing of it and been glad for the inclusion of a nonbinary character, but instead April Daniels continued to feature them and in fact Kinetiq became part of the main cast! I’m used to the one ‘token’ character, and it’s such an amazing feeling when you get MULTIPLE characters representing different ethnicities, sexual orientations and diverse backgrounds. A feast instead of the usual famine!

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But what frustrated me was some of the returning characters, specifically Calamity and Doc Impossible. Their relationships with Danny were a highlight in Dreadnought, but in Sovereign, both of them failed Danny badly in the first half of the book and I would feel more forgiving if I thought we were meant to recognize these as flaws, but instead it felt like we were supposed to sympathize and forgive them for their shitty behavior because they turned it around later because Danny never calls them out for it or apologizes straight away as if she’s in the wrong.

Calamity abandoned Danny, stopped responding to her calls or acknowledging her, and even when they did run into each other, she was judgmental and touchy – jealousy and insecurity are NOT good reasons to treat people like crap! If it was implied that her PTSD after the events of Dreadnought were responsible, I would totally understand, but the way it plays out instead is that she’s so overwhelmed by her crush that she can’t behave decently to Danny and then tries to guilt-trip her about the distance between them when she’s the one ignoring Danny’s calls.

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Meanwhile, Doc became an alcoholic, and I would go easy on her if it weren’t for the fact that SHE’S AN ANDROID AND COULD PROGRAM THIS PROBLEM TO GO AWAY. If she wanted to wreck her own life, that’s her prerogative, but she was fostering Danny and still couldn’t pull herself together enough to provide her with a stable home! She actively endangered lives because she was too drunk to function properly and gave Danny incorrect flight coordinates, with the implication being this wasn’t the first time, but that wasn’t enough to motivate her to do something about it.

Even once these ladies wised up and provided the love and support that Danny deserves, they had some really odd moral codes at work – a constant theme throughout the story was whether or not Danny’s violence was justified. It’s an interesting question and one I wish more superhero stories would consider, but it was unnecessarily inserted into the story over and over at really inappropriate times. Danny would be fighting a supervillain and finally, after taking beating after beating, she’d gain an advantage and nearly manage to kill them (justifiably so), but then one of her teammates would pull her back at the last second because it would be ‘murder’ and they have to be ‘better than that’…so then the villain escapes and causes more chaos & destruction and more people die.

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Ummm? No? That’s not murder? It’s SELF-DEFENSE. It’s preventing more loss of life! If you’re weighing the life of a murderer who is actively trying to kill or enslave millions against the FATE OF THE WORLD, there is no question that killing them to prevent their plans coming to fruition is the right thing to do. And yet Danny had people preaching at her over and over that she can’t take a life, it made no sense to me at all.

In Summary

Things I didn’t like:  the decisions made by some of the characters perplexed and exasperated me, and it seemed contrived to add some drama or insert unnecessary obstacles to prevent the story from finishing too soon.

Things I liked: fantastic lead character, insightful and thought-provoking world-building, intelligent plot-lines and an ending that rewards the reader handsomely.

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties approve this book!

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Diversion Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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One thought on “ARC review – ‘Sovereign’ by April Daniels

  1. I haven’t read book one but it does sound amazing! I’m so glad you enjoyed the sequel as well, despite a few flaws. Superhero narratives tend to frustrate me a lot because of the “ethics” element to them. I would make a terrible superhero XD
    Great review! 🙂

    Like

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