HEROINE COMPLEX: Review and Giveaway
One of the best things about writing for DAW is that they occasionally shoot me an ARC or finished copy of one of their new releases. Which is how I got my hands on an advanced review copy of Sarah Kuhn‘s debut novel Heroine Complex [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound].
The cover shows a scene from the beginning of the book, in which our two heroines take on a group of demonic cupcakes. Which should tell you most of what you need to know. But for the sake of completeness, here’s the publisher’s description:
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job — blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.
Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.
But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest secret comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right … or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.
Review: This is a fun read. It took me a few chapters to get drawn into the story, but the more Evie started settling into her role as substitute hero, the more I was hooked. There’s a nice balance of demon-fighting action and actual character-building and messed-up relationships, including Evie and her best friend Aveda, Evie and her troubled sister, Evie and her romantic interest (a demon-studying scientist who raided Neil Gaiman’s wardrobe), as well as a lot of secondary relationships and interactions.
The violence is all relatively light. There’s also some sexual content.
I suspect you’ll have some readers complaining, “Why aren’t there more male characters? Why are the only guys the love interests and background players?” I also suspect many other readers will find those complaints to be a strong recommendation for reading the book.
Some revelations were a bit predictable, though there were also twists I didn’t see coming. And that’s okay. This isn’t a story that attempts to be super-deep and mysterious and profound. It’s an unapologetically fun story of two Asian-American women fighting demon cupcakes in San Francisco and doing their best to save the world.
Giveaway: DAW sent me not one, but two ARCs of this book. So I figured one of them should go to a reader. If you’re interested, leave a comment about your favorite superheroine. I’ll pick a winner at random and mail you a copy early next week.
August 4, 2016 @ 4:46 pm
Wow, I’ve never heard of these before! I don’t have a favorite, but if I win and I this one I just might discover one! 😉
August 4, 2016 @ 4:50 pm
I’m salivating over this book. I’d love to get my hands on a copy. As for my favorite superheroine, if you’ll pardon the nonfiction bent, I have to give that honor to Ada Lovelace. I have a real soft spot for trailblazers. 🙂
August 4, 2016 @ 4:53 pm
I know, it’s mushy, but my super heroine is my Mom. She’s long gone now, but she always told me I could do whatever I wanted to, as long as I put my mind to it. I’m over 60, and I still miss her every day.
August 4, 2016 @ 4:56 pm
This book looks like so much fun! As for favorite superheroines, I have to go with Batgirl, since my mom made me a Batgirl Halloween costume when I was four. Thanks for the great giveaway!
August 4, 2016 @ 4:58 pm
My favorite superheroine is Wonder Woman. There are times when I would love to have her golden lasso of truth.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:03 pm
My fave superheroine is…wait no, she didn’t have powers….probably Velveteen from Seanan McGuire. She just wants to live a normal life and keeps getting drawn into the weirdness. My next fave is Oracle cause she has the super techie powers!
August 4, 2016 @ 5:03 pm
I think my favorite superhero is Batwoman (I stopped reading the series after Williams and Blackman left, but DC Comic’s Bombshells has been good so far). This book looks fun!
August 4, 2016 @ 5:04 pm
Does Blind Al count as a superheroine? Because I love her with all my heart and I wish she’d had more screentime in Deadpool.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:05 pm
Auri from the Kingkiller Chronicles (and her own book, The Slow Regard for Silent Things). While she doesn’t have superhuman powers, she creates, defends her underground home, is kind and helpful. She does not bemoan that she lives in tunnels or doesn’t have much to eat yet lives her days with joy and no sense of victimhood. To me, that is a superheroine.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:05 pm
Shameless plug: Danielle, Talia, and Snow. And of course, Queen Bea.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:10 pm
Squirrel Girl, of course, because she’s the best 🙂 No, I’m not biased, why do you ask?
August 4, 2016 @ 5:10 pm
Batgirl, because she is a librarian!
August 4, 2016 @ 5:11 pm
I’ve been looking forward to this one, and would love an early look.
Favourite superheroine is a rough choice, but I’d have to say Misty Knight from Heroes for Hire.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:12 pm
I’ve never really read a whole lot of comics and I don’t have a favorite superheroine. At least, not one in the classical sense that we normally mean when we say ‘superhero’: some sort of power(s), going about saving the world/universe/city, and generally doing good. Capes are usually involved. 🙂
I mean, don’t get me wrong… I like Black Widow, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Rogue, Rainbow Brite*, and a host of others. They’re fun to watch and read about.
But I’ve always been drawn more toward the heroines like Harimad-sol from Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword. Or Tamora Pierce’s Alanna. Or your own Princesses. Flawed, learning, doing the best they can and, most times, succeeding.
In any case, this book does sound like a lot of fun and I’d like the chance to read it!
*What?? Rainbow Brite totally counts as a superheroine!
August 4, 2016 @ 5:16 pm
I’ve heard good things about Kate headlining Detective Comics again, post Re-whateveritwasthistime.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:24 pm
This sounds amazing!
My favorite is Batgirl. Librarian by day, superheroine by night! Yes please.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:28 pm
This book sounds like a lot of fun; I’d like a copy to read. My favorite superheroine these days is Velveteen from Seanan McGuire’s “Velveteen Vs.” stories.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:39 pm
Of course, my number one favorite is Lena Greenwood. She’s awesome! If I had to pick a more traditional comic book type superheroine, I would go with Raven.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:48 pm
I’m going to have to pick Wonder Woman as my favorite. While I love the variety superheroines to choose from today, when I was small, it was much slimmer pickings. So I’ve loved her the longest. I remember clearly, playing with my Wonder Woman colorforms as a kid. Since my only other set was Curious George, my scenes often involved Wonder Woman attacking, or saving the world from Curious George.
August 4, 2016 @ 5:50 pm
I almost bought this yesterday but held off, this review puts it next on my to get list now.
And my favorite superheroine? I’m in my mid-30s. By law it had to be Shadowcat growing up. And giving how they actually *let* her grow up and change and evolve, it still is (though I have been away from comics for a bit so maybe they Cyclopsed her or something)
August 4, 2016 @ 5:57 pm
I have been looking forward to this book since you wrote about it. Right kw my favorite superhero is probably Unbeatable Squirrelgirl with Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel a close 2nd. I love that Doreen often finds creative ways to defuse situations utilizing her smarts and humor. It really is a delightful series.
August 4, 2016 @ 6:23 pm
I gotta go with Black Widow…kickass redhead FTW!
August 4, 2016 @ 6:31 pm
I imprinted early on Wonder Woman. But my other favorite is Barbara Gordon–as Oracle, not as Batgirl.
August 4, 2016 @ 6:55 pm
Well, it’s between Supergirl & Wonder Woman.
OK, gotta go with Wonder Woman. She is iconic.
August 4, 2016 @ 7:02 pm
My favorite right now would be Kitty Pryde.
August 4, 2016 @ 7:10 pm
Love Super Hero Girl — http://superherogirladventures.blogspot.com/
August 4, 2016 @ 7:19 pm
While I really like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Firehawk, and Shadowcat, my favorite must be when Dr Fate was Inza Nelson. Powerful arcane and ancient without the backwards speak without the dark witch/sorcery aspect that females with magic like the Enchantress and Zatanna often struggle with.
August 4, 2016 @ 7:20 pm
My favorite superheroine is probably Velveteen. In all her reluctant hero glory.
August 4, 2016 @ 7:29 pm
Current favourite superhero is Hellcat (Pansy Walker), in all her fierce and failure-strewn glory.
August 4, 2016 @ 7:47 pm
My favorite superheroine is Jaime from PC Hodgell’s books starting with God Stalk.
August 4, 2016 @ 7:58 pm
October Daye. While not technically a superheroine, she is to me.
August 4, 2016 @ 8:01 pm
Hmmm. I don’t know if Tank Girl counts. But she should.
August 4, 2016 @ 8:21 pm
I’d have to choose Wonder Woman as a favorite. She’s one of the few who was never called “girl,” and her identity is not a shadow of some male superhero.
August 4, 2016 @ 8:24 pm
Sounds like fun!
I’m going to have to go for Kitty Pryde.
August 4, 2016 @ 10:14 pm
Too many to pick from!
How about Beka Cooper, from Tamora Pierce?
Or Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel, if you prefer the four color version 🙂
August 4, 2016 @ 10:20 pm
Hmm. I have actually never really thought about my favorite female superhero before even though I totally have favorite male ones (Nightcrawler, incidentally). I almost feel like I have uncovered a failure in myself as a lady geek. If Vin from the Mistborn books counts, then probably her because her powers are cool, she’s an interesting, dynamic character, and her plot is cool, although it gets pretty dark and intense there before the climax explodes out.
My formative superhero experience was pretty much the cartoon X-Men. Probably Storm was my favorite female character. She’s strong, classy, a wonderful mentor. She was interesting to me as a white kid for having an accent and being from a part of the world unfamiliar to me. And I find dark skin and pale hair visually compelling. And she played the piano! Storm driven in combat and Storm at her ease among friends would seem very different but they were both her. But I don’t really remember any of her plot, unfortunately.
August 4, 2016 @ 11:05 pm
Growing up, I inhaled all things X-Men and I’d have to go with Jean Grey. Even though now as an adult, I realize that she didn’t have a lot of agency (she constantly needed saving), as a kid, she seemed powerful 🙂 thanks for sharing!
August 4, 2016 @ 11:15 pm
So many great ones (big Shadowcat fan growing up, too!), but current comics, I’m Carol Corps all the way and have to go with Captain Marvel!
August 4, 2016 @ 11:15 pm
Mercy Thompson for the win! Her main “superpower” is turning into a 30 pound (14 kilos, maybe?) coyote. And she fights evil fae, vampires, volcano gods, and… sundry other things.
August 4, 2016 @ 11:48 pm
Lady Jane from Swamp Thing is my favorite.
August 5, 2016 @ 12:22 am
As a child growing up it was a tie between Wonder Woman and Red Sonja…not sure what that says about my childhood :O)
Currently I’d say Madame Xanadu though I’ve never been completely satisfied with how she has been used.
August 5, 2016 @ 9:49 am
Favorite superheroine has to be Squirrel Girl, no contest. She’s a breath of fresh air after so many years of gritty heroes and heroines. Strong enough to stand against any foe, smart and sympathetic enough to win without fighting: how could she not be the greatest?
August 5, 2016 @ 10:34 am
October Daye. Love that series.
August 5, 2016 @ 10:50 am
I admit, I’m focused on the demon cupcakes, and wondering if I can get the recipe……
Rebecca van Velzen
August 5, 2016 @ 10:54 am
Does Peggy Carter count? She’s probably my favorite character in the MCU, which is about the extent of my involvement in comics.
August 5, 2016 @ 11:49 am
Sounds cool. I like fun superhero(ine) books.
August 5, 2016 @ 11:52 am
Forgot to mention my favorite superheroine. Constance Verity springs immediately to mind since I just read that book.
August 5, 2016 @ 12:31 pm
Evil cupcakes? Sign me up!
My favorite superheroine is Miss Martian, as played by Danica McKeller on Young Justice. Followed closely by the kickbutt sister duo Kara and Alex Danvers on Supergirl.
August 5, 2016 @ 12:43 pm
Rogue (X-Men). The /real/ Rogue. Not that sad imposter in that vapid mainstream [un]smoothie known as the X-Men movie franchise.
August 5, 2016 @ 1:07 pm
Sounds like a fun read. As for my favorite superheroine, right now it has to be Harley Quinn. Not the Harley from the movie or even from Batman: TAS, no, I’m talking about the Harley currently in DC Comics who’s trying to get her life back on track after finally breaking free from the Joker’s orbit. She’s a really strong, complex character who’s both sexy and strong.
Eric J. Ehlers
August 5, 2016 @ 2:42 pm
There are so many, mostly under-read. Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel come to mind.
But I’ve always loved Supergirl. She’s got the powers of Superman, but not the experience or the recognition. Because of the family name and uniform, everyone has expectations for her, not all of which she’s chosen.
While early versions just were a way to insert dating into Superhero comics, later versions got interesting. Matrix became Supergirl to try to be like Superman, only to realize that was hard, even if you could mimic the power set, her sacrifice to save a life made her life even weirder. New 52 Supergirl had enough anger to become a Red Lantern. She resented the role people tried to force on her but found friends and, I think, some peace in the end.
I could talk a while, how she opened my mind to seeing the problems of representation in comics, but that’s probably more than you wanted to hear.
August 5, 2016 @ 2:55 pm
“I also suspect many other readers will find those complaints to be a strong recommendation for reading the book.” SO TRUE! This book sounds like soooo much fun! Will totally buy it as soon as I get paid next month!
Also I wouldn’t mind win a ARC *o* thanks for the chance!
My favourite are(I can’t just pick one!) Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, Barbara Gardon as Batgirl, also Rey from the new Star Wars is totally a new fave, she’s super and she’s a heroine so let’s say she counts! I have so many more but I’m going to try and stop now!
Again, great review!!
August 5, 2016 @ 3:53 pm
I’ve got to go for nostalgia and pick Wonder Woman. I LOVED her when I was a kid. I even had one of those plastic mask Halloween costumes.
August 5, 2016 @ 5:47 pm
I think Shadowcat from the Xmen is probably my all-time favorite superheroine but I also really liked Wonder Woman back in the day (the trailer for her new movie released at SDCC looked very promising). These days I only rarely read comics, so to pick something more “current”; I’ll say the Flying Squirrel from Red Panda Adventures, which is one of the pulpy “shows” put out by the Decoder Ring Theatre podcast.
August 5, 2016 @ 6:44 pm
I really wish that saying one liked one thing came without ragging on another thing. A lot of people got into comics via the X-Men movies, and a lot of people quite liked that version of Rogue, myself included. I like comics Rogue, too, for the record.
August 6, 2016 @ 4:30 am
This sounds like an interesting read. Count me in.
August 6, 2016 @ 6:09 pm
I admit I haven’t read too many comics, but my favorites are probably Barbara Gordon as Oracle and Carol Danvers as Captain America
August 6, 2016 @ 7:58 pm
There’s an indie writer Paul Swardstrom. In this case he wrote a short story with his brother Will. Plain Jane vs. the Super City… It’s about a mom, Janie and all she wants to do is get home!
August 6, 2016 @ 8:14 pm
Always loved wonder woman and superior. I grew up watching so many of the DC cartoons and reading all the comics I could get my hands on, all those heroines were great. The heroine that stood out though, was Hermione from Harry Potter. No, she doesn’t have super powers but magical ones, but she was smart and fought for what she believed in. She didn’t need any one to save her she could hold her own but helped everyone. As a kid reading those books such strong female character that started out as a kid really stood out to me
August 6, 2016 @ 11:42 pm
Love any good superhero, but my current favorite is the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl – maybe because she’s the first that my daughter seems to really love too!
August 7, 2016 @ 1:40 pm
Hands down, my favorite superheroine is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who embodies all the characteristics of a real person as well as a role model and stars in the best-written show ever made.
August 7, 2016 @ 1:53 pm
My favorite superheroine is Wonder Woman, because of the nostalgia of the old 70’s TV show and especially the special effect when she transformed.
August 7, 2016 @ 1:54 pm
Right now, my fave heroine is probably Skye/Daisy/Quake on Agents of SHIELD. I can’t wait to see where they’re going with her character this coming season.
August 8, 2016 @ 2:03 am
Think I was sold at “demonic cupcakes.”
Favorite superheroine would be either Sailor Mercury or Sailor Jupiter.
August 8, 2016 @ 1:36 pm
Helen Parr. Not only a cool superpower, but patient, resourceful, assertive, self-sacrificing, and a good mom.
August 9, 2016 @ 7:38 am
Hi, Jim. Thanks for the shot at your spare ARC. She’s not the classic, comic book sort, but I’d have to say my favorite superheroine is Tiffany Aching, from Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men series. She has magical abilities, impressive ones, but she works out most of her problems with intelligence and determination.
August 9, 2016 @ 3:16 pm
Batgirl (the Barbara Gordon/Oracle version). Her stuffie is staring at me right now, reminding me to get to work.
August 9, 2016 @ 3:52 pm
Black Widow, because she’s awesome and I don’t read many comics.
If I’m allowed books, Tamora Pierce’s Alanna should qualify.
August 10, 2016 @ 5:56 am
Wonder Woman is the first to come to mind, but there’s so many amazing ones!
Signing Pics and Book Winner
August 10, 2016 @ 8:31 pm
[…] also realized I hadn’t yet picked a winner on the Heroine Complex giveaway. Shame on me! That has now been remedied, and an email sent off to Heather, who was blessed by the […]