Non-spoiler plot: Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, leads a rough life growing up in Gotham City and is recruited by the League of Assassins, who take her away from the crime-ridden streets in order to train. After two years, Selina is back in Gotham, ready to bring the city to its knees.
Who would like this book: Those who are interested in the DC universe would enjoy reading this book about Catwoman and the various other characters of the Batman world, particularly some of the notorious female “villains.” Those who fell in love with Sarah J. Mass either through the Throne of Glass or Court of Thorns and Roses series might feel like the book is missing Mass’s special touch, but nevertheless, it is a mediocre quick read.
Overall Rank: 3/5
Review and Plot Summary: Let me preface everything in this review by saying that Sarah J. Mass is one of my all-time favorite writers. The Throne of Glass series helped me escape the pain of losing my grandfather and helped rebuild me as I struggled through a toxic relationship. Her words are magic, and her heroines are the strong, flawed characters that girls and women should find more of in the books they read. To this day, when I am at my low points, I sometimes reflect on the strength of her characters to muster some of my own.
That being said, I’ll be quite honest, it took me days to get into this book. It was a slow start to this book and perhaps one of the reasons why is that the character of Catwoman is not one of Mass’s creation. I felt that I couldn’t hear Mass’s voice in the first section of this book. When reading about Selina’s upbringing and the backstory of her sister Maggie’s illness and efforts to get money, it all felt very cookie-cutter and overly drawn out. It also felt a little like she took Celaena Sardothien’s character and put a cat helmet on her. If I wanted to read Throne of Glass, I would have.
I was excited when the League of Assassins came into the picture and whisked Selina away because the plot was flat-lining and the story hadn’t even started. When the story picks up two years later, Mass’s momentum starts building. Gone is the shell of a woman that was Selina Kyle, a woman who was abused and victimized by the system. Instead, Selina returns as Holly Vanderhees, a rich socialite by day, Catwoman by night. Or, at least she isn’t called Catwoman until she runs into Poison Ivy (YOU HEARD ME RIGHT POISON IVY COMIN’ THRU) who gives her the infamous name. Poison Ivy wants in on Catwoman’s shenanigans, and the former starts stalking/helping the latter.
However, we cannot have so much wickedness without some virtue to chase it. In comes Batwing, AKA Luke Fox, AKA Holly’s neighbor who thinks Holly Vanderhees is a spoiled rich kid that wouldn’t know what struggle looked like if it bit her in her ass (HAH). Luke Fox is a black, ex-Marine, who suffers from PTSD after going to war. After a particularly bad episode at a Fourth of July party, Bruce Wayne takes Luke under his wing (pun SO intended) and introduces him to the world of caped crusaders. Luke isn’t so much about capes as he is about wings, thus the name. Anyways, Batwing doesn’t know the force that is Catwoman until their first meeting when homegirl completely destroys him and has the pictures to prove it, which she quickly gets to the press. Soon after, Poison Ivy wants a formal arrangement with Catwoman to work with her full time. Catwoman will only agree if Ivy can get the notorious Harley Quinn to join their squad. And here is where the magic that is Sarah J. Mass comes in. Mass has perfected the art of strong female leads and female-centric stories. When Harley Quinn joins the squad, the trio becomes unstoppable. A string of robberies goes unthwarted. Much to the annoyance of Luke Fox, Gotham’s finest cannot get their hands on them. In the meantime, we learn more and more about each character. Their backstories (Ivy was the product of a science-experiment-gone-wrong who just wants to save the world, Quinn loves her mother but has a twisted and toxic relationship with her ex the Joker), their relationships (Ivy and Quinn have a romantic relationship but from the details it seems Quinn’s hang up on the Joker keeps them from pursuing something more), and their growing camaraderie. Here are three, powerful, strong women who have led isolated lives and are learning the power of relationships, support systems, and of just having someone in your corner and not having to be on guard 24/7. Mass’s writing shines when the scenes center around these female characters talking about the difficulties in their lives, of what makes them good despite being labeled bad. The complexities the define all three makes this book a worthwhile read.
In contrast, the relationship between Selina/Holly/Catwoman and Luke/Batwing isn’t as strong. Selina’s relationship with Luke Fox, her neighbor, thaws from its icy beginnings into something more, but their relationship seems less important in the grand scheme of things. If there is one thing this book has going for it is that it doesn’t deal with a girl who falls in love with a guy and focuses on this weird love/hate relationship. The tender relationships you cherish in this book center around Ivy, Quinn, and Catwoman. The Batwing/Catwoman thing is secondary.
Anyways, the plot after Harley joins the group gets a little better but overall the story is easy to predict. You have 1) the eventual moment Holly/Catwoman figures out that Batwing is Luke Fox, 2) a betrayal in the form of Harley going against the group to get the Joker out 3) absolute mayhem as Catwoman is caught and revealed, 4) a second betrayal in the form of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn finding out that Catwoman had tricked them into helping her with her ultimate goal of creating a Lazarus pit to save her sister’s life, 5) Batwing finally catches up and figures out who Catwoman really is and 6) Selina saves her sister but dies and 7) she’s resurrected. The last half of the book is essentially what I’ve outlined but with way more detail (some of it a little unnecessary).
Overall, I was underwhelmed by the story, but a fan of the girl love shown in this and all of Sarah J. Mass’s books. She paints women as complex characters who are more than just boy or girl crazy. I think if there was a second installment to this book about either Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy I would be inclined to read it just to get more details about these badass women.
Thanks for reading my review! If you guys have any book recommendations I would love to hear about it in the comments below!