Sovereign by April Daniels: 2/10 Stars

 

32565582

Only nine months after her debut as the superhero 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 billionaire supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s 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, ready to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever.

 

Add it on Goodreads or buy it on Amazon.

 

 

Overall Rating: 2/10 stars

Matt’s Review: 0/5 Stars

This book made me want to cry. And not in a good way.

Firstly, nobody going to mention the big middle finger to intersex people that’s given by this book? Okay, I will. The supervillain is a hardcore TERF, and creates a spell/technology hybrid that tries to kill off everyone with a Y chromosome. But haha! She gets her comeuppance when her curse hits her as well. Turns out she’s got a Y chromosome herself, take that!

How fucking dare you.

How dare you use being intersex as a punishment. How dare you use being intersex as a cruel last laugh at the villain. This is no better than mocking homophobes by photoshopping pictures of them in same-sex kisses. It mocks gay people, and this mocks intersex people. Their identity is a befitting joke played on the villain, and nothing more. There is nothing else there about intersex identities except this, and it’s beyond revolting. It’s cruel. It’s demeaning. And it’s not something I expected to find in a trans book—and an own voices one, no less. It destroyed everything that came before. Even without the other issues, that in and of itself would have been a zero stars from me. If anybody recommends me anything by this author again, I’m going to point straight to this review and follow it up with a middle finger salute.

But that was the grand finale of what was already a dubious book for me.

I mentioned the supervillain’s plan: kill off all the men. So there’s thing I’ve noticed since coming out as a trans man: that rhetoric about men being scum, men being trash, men being garbage, masculinity being this horrible, toxic thing? That’s everywhere. It’s constant and pervading and it leads directly to heightened rates of mental illness and suicide for men, both cisgender and transgender ones. But you’re not allowed to discuss it, because God forbid anyone but women have problems. And God forbid anyone but trans women speak about trans issues, so trans men sit in a double-whammy of do not discuss.

So I was sceptical about this plan, and how this author would pull it off.

And I was right to be. Three million men drop dead. And yes, it’s that casual. Three million men, boom, gone, but oh my God, the real tragedy here is the poor women who died too. The women on planes piloted by men; the women on operating tables when the surgeon keeled over. That’s the real tragedy here. That’s where all the focus goes within a single line. Not on a single one of those men who have died, but on the women caught up in her plan.

Because clearly, why would anyone ever mourn a man? Clearly the murder of three million men isn’t enough to paint Greywytch as having done something wrong. No-no-no. It’s wrong because women died too. That’s the real tragedy here.

And what about the trans men? No idea. I presume they live, except that would be to assume they exist because there is zero hint of that. Men would have survived that curse. Hundreds upon thousands of men. Because trans is not just women. Trans includes men. I am sick to death of repeating this and I nearly burst into tears when I reached this casual “oh yeah some men died too BUT OH MY GOD THE WOMEN WHO WERE CAUGHT UP IN THAT CURSE!” and then not a whisper of the men who would have survived.

Because being trans? Yeah. Trans men aren’t a thing.

I just—how. How can you really be so blind. There is nothing here to refute Greywytch’s TERF ideology on behalf of men, only on behalf of trans women. But again, trans men get hit by TERFs too. There is nothing here about trans men even existing, and yet this book is about nothing but gender. The supervillain is a TERF, for crying out loud! It is obsessed with gender, and yet somehow, there’s no such thing as a trans man or a man who deserves to be mourned.

How can you just throw an entire gender under the bus, knowing—KNOWING—trans men are going to read this. Knowing that we’re desperate for these stories too. Only when we read them, this happens. We are the enemy. Our lives are worthless. Our lives don’t exist. And the lives of their cisgender counterparts mean nothing.

Because men? Men are scum.

Fuck this book. Just—fuck it, and everything to do with it.

Maria’s Review: 2/5 Stars

In a lot of ways this book was exactly what I was expecting and hoping for after DREADNOUGHT left me so breathless. Danny is still trying to figure out her life as a superhero, but without a real support system or a safety net to fall back on when things get hard.

One of the things I do like about Daniel’s work is how real her characters feel. Especially Danny. After everything she went through – and is still going through – she has grown and experienced things way beyond her years, and yet she is at her heart still a teenager trying to figure out what her limits are, her morals and what is right or wrong, and how to control herr impulses in favor of figuring out consequences of actions first. I really liked that part.

What I also liked was how her struggles with the media were portrayed. Danny is not the first trans superhero, and yet the media is hounding her relentlessly while ignoring every other issue – and every other trans superhero – right under their noses. The portrayal was awful and grim, and therefore exactly what I would expect of the press writing about a teenage trans girl fighting her family, some powerful members of society and super villains all at the same time.

All in all, the superhero part of this book was good. I liked the action scenes, the twists and turns the story took. It was also interesting to see Danny struggle with the responsibility that comes with her powers, and how her mental health was affecting her in all aspects of her life. Traumatic experiences and domestic abuse both aren’t things you brush aside and will never be affected by again just because you are more powerful now. This part reminded me a bit of The Physicists in a way. The responsibility that comes with being able to protect and/or kill human beings because of special skills you have – directly or indirectly? Is a very interesting, very human and very real problem and I enjoyed how it was handled here. Although there are parts in Danny’s redemption story arc I could have done without. But that was just me.

What I was disappointed in was the romantic relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see Sarah and Danny to get together. And I was intrigued by the weird tension and the growing distance between them in the beginning. What bugged me was the solution of that – it felt flat, rushed and not really fleshed out. It came out of the blue and was over extremely fast and left me feeling all kinds of confused and… without a real emotional connection to them both as a couple. Plus, and this one is a bit out of my lane, Sarah as a Black teenage girl has VERY different experiences and thoughts, on both the legal system and the system of superhero institutions. There are some signs of just how different their perspectives are once the police are after them both, but it wasn’t really pursued to the end. What I can see is Danny making a lot more of her ignorant comments and assumptions out of the position of privilege she has a white person, and Sarah ending up doing all the emotional labor and swallowing a lot of hurts and pains to make this work long term. I just couldn’t help but notice how… unexplored and potentially awful that part of their relationship felt. It was part of why I couldn’t really root for them in the end.

While I also anticipated a high amount of bigotry, cissexism and hatred directed towards Danny again, I was still surprised how bad it got. With Graywytch still on the loose I knew we would get another round of her TERF rhetoric, I didn’t anticipate her getting physical and torturing Danny though. Which is something I would definitely add a trigger warning for – in the blurb and the book – because those scenes are seriously graphic. I liked the solution of things with Graywytch in the end, but the inbetween was hard to read and to digest at points.

Overall I had some issues with the pacing of the story. It felt off, and took weird detours I couldn’t really understand. The whole subplot around Valkyrja’s daughter Karen felt like an awkward add-on, neither really pursued, nor left out, and without any of the fleshed out parts I would’ve wanted. She felt like a plot device, not a character, and I couldn’t help but think of her as a prop. That did disappoint me a lot. The greatness that were the other side characters couldn’t really make up for that.

Overall I enjoyed Nemesis, I liked the main plot and most of the characters, but pacing was off too much and some of the story lines too vague and almost unfinished. There’s also a big part of me that struggles with the underlying ableism in April Daniel’s work. It’s not something I feel confident discussing much because I’m not well-versed enough in that area, but there are snide remarks as well as offhand comments the story could have done without, and to be really honest? Using the r-word in a completely artificial and fabricated way to make your supervillain seem more evil when he has already explained his vision of a world where weakness should mean death and servitude? Unnecessary. I don’t care how “fitting” it might have felt to others, to me it wasn’t fitting or okay, it was unnecessary, jarring and the only reason I saw for using it here was “making the villain more evil”. Ableism as a plot device? Hard pass.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s