Sunday, October 11, 2015

ARC Review: Black Widow: Forever Red - Margaret Stohl

Black Widow: Forever Red
Margaret Stohl 
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Superhero, Action
Release Date: October 13th, 2015
Publisher: Marvel Press
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Natasha Romanov hates pierogies and that's more insight into her character than we've seen from all her scenes in every Marvel movie she's been in combined -- and that's from the first line of this book.

Black Widow is my heart and soul. I want her to pull a gun out of a cleverly concealed spot in her clothing and shoot me in the face. I welcome the sweet embrace of death if it's being delivered by a swift punch from Agent Romanov's gauntlet clad fists. So when I heard this book existed it was a big deal to me, because her on-screen scenes are not enough for me. Margaret Stohl was giving me a full length novel about the queen of my heart, and I could have it months in advance, signed and everything by arguably the sweetest author in existence? A dream come true.

The story Stohl tells in her book is of Ava Orvola, a girl Natasha Romanov saved eight years ago from Ivan Somodorov, the same man who ran the Red Room where Natasha became the Black Widow. Now, he's back and down to even shadier shenanigans and of course now only does Nat have to get Ava involved (whose just trying to live an innocent civilian life at this point) but another homie, Alex, gets mixed up in this business as well.

The book was full of action. From page one to the end, I don't feel like it ever lost its momentum or it pacing. It was a short book but because of the way it was paced, so many things happened one after the other (or all at once) that content-wise, nothing was lacking.

The characterization was the most interesting part to me. There were some scenes where I could see the Black Widow I had in my head saying and doing those things and there were some scenes where she seemed slightly out of character, like the dialogue didn't quite match up with the mouth of the person saying it. I wasn't sure if I just had a false perception of her or if Stohl's representation of her was a little off, but ultimately, she still displayed the signature Black Widow characteristics, and considering I have mostly the movies to go off of, my view of her is probably skewed as it is, so I don't want to knock Margaret Stohl for her characterization. I do think some of the lines read a little bit choppy/awkward, but I think that might have been a dialogue issue, not a character issue. Overall, I liked her imagining of Natasha: she had the sarcasm, -- especially evident in the bits of dialogue from the case files inserted after each chapter -- the closed-off nature, the intelligence.

The other two main characters, I totally loved. They were well-written and well developed and even though I wished there was slightly more Black Widow point of view compared to their point of views, I still loved their point of views. Ava had the same tormented past and her snark and loner lifestyle mirroring Natasha's was just too interesting not too be drawn into. And Alex was hilarious and endearing and once Black Widow starts digging deeper, a mystery. I did think they were a little insta-lovey (more from his side considering she saw him in her dreams so at least she thought she knew him kinda???) but they were cute and not obnoxious and not the point of the story so I'm willing to let it go. Also, on the topic of characters, I loved the appearances from Tony Stark and Phil Coulson and the references to the Avengers. Stohl did a great job tying everything to the universe.

Some of the writing was a little awkward, particularly the fight sequences. I enjoyed the parts about analyzing the scenes, but other than that, the fight scenes didn't really hold my attention and I didn't enjoy reading them, even the internal monologue-y parts. I don't know if that's just me or if they truly were awkward to read but throughout the book there were just bits and pieces of weird phrasing.

However, there were also beautifully phrased parts and most of the story was enjoyable enough that I plowed through, trying to figure out the next plot point. I liked all the directions the story took (speaking of directions, there was a One Direction joke in the book, which is automatic grounds for recommendation) and a lot of them I didn't see coming at all. It was cool how all the characters were interconnected and there was always a little more to the story.

I'm still waiting for that novel all about Nat's grueling Red Room training so that better be next, but until then, I totally liked the book, shortcomings and all, and would definitely suggest fans of Black Widow pick it up, if not for the story, for the sole fact that Alex Manor's longest inside joke is "Taylor Stark" -- a poster of Tony Stark with Taylor Swift's head taped on -- and if that doesn't inspire you, nothing can.

- Noor

Black Widow movie? Yes or Yes?
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