When I read April Daniels’ debut novel, Dreadnought I lamented the length of time I had to wait until the second in the series came out. What I didn’t realize then or now was that it was only in January of this year that I read Dreadnaught and less than five months later I was able to request Sovereign, the sequel.*
Sovereign picks up not long after the events of Dreadnought and Danny is coming more to terms with her powers as Dreadnought and coming more to terms with her transition. As much as I enjoyed this book, it’s not as strong as the first. It really felt that Daniels got too heavy-handed with the queer politics, as fascinating as they were, and it distracted too much from the story for my taste. I get that it’s an integral part of the story, but it honestly just felt too much like a crutch.
I also struggled a bit with Danny being a pain. If there’s one thing I struggle with when it comes to Young Adult novels is the growing pains and basically being pains in the asses. It doesn’t help I’m watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as I write this, but seriously. I know I wasn’t the nicest or most understandable teenager, but were we this angsty and self-centered?
I know I gripe about it above and below, but one of the cool things Daniels chose to do in this book was to introduce a genderqueer character, Kinetiq, who uses gender neutral pronouns.
“Being genderqueer is hard. Being Iranian-American is hard. Being a superhero without a steady paying gig is also hard.” (Loc. 289)
This was cool in that it gives a good example to provide to ‘old school’ writer show to write something from a gender neutral perspective. I’m also not sure if Daniels did this on purpose, but it was interesting that Kinetiq has employment issues like many non-binary/cis individuals. Daniels didn’t go into this so it’s my total projecting, but we’ll see where it goes.
I feel like I have a vague idea of where the series/trilogy is going, but I’m not 100% sure. Daniels appears to have wrapped up the drama with Graywitch, but you can never be certain. The one piece of queer politics/information that I found to be most interesting was the inclusion of the acronym TERF or Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (Geek Feminism Wiki). It was a concept I was familiar with, but not one I’d heard in those terms:
“The answer comes to me immediately: She’s a TERF—a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist, though I hesitate to use the word feminist in there. The difference between an actual feminist and a TERF is sort of like the difference between your average white dude and the KKK. She thinks I’m some sort of monster just because I’m trans, and in her mind, spite is its own reward.” (Loc.1135)
I think the white person and KKK is a bit dumbed down, but it does seem like a relatively decent comparison I guess.
Where both the book and Daniels’ strengths lie are in converting what’s happening today into fictional hilarity. The villain of the book, Sovereign, goes on and on about things that many people would agree with at this very moment. And let’s face it you could pretty much replace Sovereign with Trump and it wouldn’t be that too far of a stretch. It’s kind of scary really.
Recommendation: Although nowhere near as strong as the first book, it was still a good read. I think Daniels has a bit of work to do sorting out the character and the politics. Don’t get me wrong it’s interesting and they are intricately linked, but I really feel like the politics of queer identity was a bit heavy-handed this time, whereas the first time it was refreshing.
*I received a copy from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. No other goods or money were exchanged.
Opening Line: “‘Don’t let your wife hear you say that,’ he says.”
Closing Line: “We only have eyes for each other.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Sovereign
“God, I have a media strategy. This is not what I thought being a superhero would be like.” (Loc. 24)
“The old world is rotting. There are too many problems that are going undressed because of special interests and small-minded politicians. And it’s not just in government; the West’s culture is sick too. Flabby mediocrity is the order of the day. We’re raising generation after generation to believe that the worst thing you can do to someone is offend them. We’re told to pretend that everyone is equal, but excuse me, some of us can fly! Excellence isn’t celebrated anymore, and it’s suffocating humanity.” (Loc. 1672)
“Neoreactionaries on the other hand, are elitists who are all about bringing back the age of kings, and think that ‘common people’ should know their place and let themselves be ruled. They’ll use fascists as foot soldiers, but they don’t really care about things like ethnic purity among the labor classes, except as a bargaining chip to keep their toadies happy” (Loc. 2217)