Book Review: Heroine Complex

Look at that cover for a second. I’ve never seen a cover better fit the story within. That demonic cupcake explosion is clearly designed to exude comic-book vibes, which absolutely nails Heroine Complex’s tone. Sometimes, books knock you down and make you think. Other times, they’re mostly just fun, and you know what? That’s ok. Just last week, we discussed the real therapeutic benefits of escapist literature. Heroine Complex is a sugar-rush of an adventure from beginning to end. Check it out:

The Basics

Title: Heroine Complex
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Superheroes, Romantic Comedy, Action
Publisher: Daw, 2016

Spoiler-Free Summary

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

Evie is not only the personal assistant to San Francisco’s most famous and badass superhero, Aveda Jupiter, she has been best friends with the real Aveda since grade school. Since the day demonic portals erupted across San Francisco, Evie has happily supported her friend’s mission to save the city from a safe, comfortable distance. This is all well and good until Aveda get hurt at a critical time. Evie does bear a passing resemblance to her friend, and through magic and technology, she can gloss over any holes in her disguise… but that’s crazy, right? She doesn’t have the time or skills to impersonate a superhero. She’s a P.A.! Plus, Evie must raise her rebellious kid sister alone, navigate her failing love life, and keep conflicting personalities from tearing their little super-team apart. And then, there is always the specter of… well, never mind. If Evie can’t let herself think about that, it would be rude for us to talk about it. Best to let her reveal that in her own time.

Why This Book Is For You

Sarah Kuhn imagines a delightfully contradictory world: cosmic horror played for laughs in a bizzaro-world version of a too-familiar setting. (Who doesn’t experience either family, friend, or workplace drama from time to time?) When the action comes, it’s fast-paced and intense, but the real tension, and Kuhn’s strength, is in the vibrant, three-dimensional relationships between her characters. She thoroughly convinces you that each character is exactly who you think they are, then turns that carefully-crafted image on it’s head. Far from arbitrary, these reversals feel organic, authentic, and sow the seeds of discontent. Interpersonal conflicts between equally likable characters drive Heroine Complex.

Before they were heroes.. (Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com)

The representation angle of this work shouldn’t be overlooked. We see Asian-American women center-stage in a superhero drama not as any whitewashed archetype: no femme fatale, grim taskmasters, or kung-fu-is-my-personality cutouts here. Evie and Aveda are fully realized human beings – strengths, flaws, and all.

Fair content head’s-up: On the sweet-to-steamy spectrum, the romance here definitely falls in the steamy category. Make your own decisions there.

In case I have given you the impression that this story is all icing, let me assure you, this cake has layers. Through all the demonic-bakery madness, we explore the impact of past expectations on present reality. Evie’s complicated relationships with her sister, estranged father, America, and even her best friend color and, in some cases, threaten to control her choices if she lets them. Anyone who struggles to shrug off the weight of other people’s expectations and find their own voice should give Heroine Complex a read.

Where Can You Learn More?

You can check out Sarah Kuhn’s other works and genuine nerd-cred over at heroinecomplex.com, or peruse her backlist, including the rest of the Heroine Complex series, at Goodreads.

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