Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Title: Black Widow: Forever Red
Author: Margaret Stohl
Series: Black Widow, Book One
Publisher: Marvel Press
Publication Date: 13 October 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy…

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…

Black Widow: Forever Red features all the heart-pounding adventure readers expect from Marvel, written by #1 New York Times best-selling author Margaret Stohl. Uncover a new side of the Marvel Universe that will thrill loyal fans and newcomers alike, as Stohl reveals the untold story of Black Widow for the very first time.
(summary from Goodreads)

Kickass and emotional, I want more and more and more.

I wish I hadn't have waited to read this book. You know when you wait desperately for a book, then you get it, but you've built up your expectations so high you just can't bring yourself to read it right away? In case it lets you down? Eh, maybe it's just me. I am weird like that. But Black Widow: Forever Red was one of those books for me. I needn't have worried. This book is awesome. I loved, loved, loved it. It was totally worth the wait, though seriously, I have got to stop being so chicken! I think Stohl got Natasha so very right. I admit I've read few comics, but I adore the MCU and this book slots right in. Honestly, this will be part of the canon for me now, I can't help it, so I'll never quite look at Natasha the same. I could go into how Natasha deserves her own movie - she does - and has so much story to explore - again, she does -  and how it's totally okay to have female heroes (and even villains!) prevalent in media, but I know you already know all that. Black Widow: Forever Red is a great part of this. It's not just filler. Stohl has thoroughly contributed to the story of Black Widow. This book fulfilled all my expectations. It's heart-racing action, emotional drama, evil conspiracy, technology that verges on magic, sassy banter - all that I love! Once I started Black Widow: Forever Red I couldn't stop. I had to finish it in bed and then couldn't sleep for thinking about it. There were times early on that I felt frustrated with the story, as it seemed predictable - I was soon proven wrong though and became so invested in the adventure of Natasha, Ava and Alex. Black Widow: Forever Red alternates between these three point of views and interspersed throughout are after action reports and interviews, and SHIELD memos. I loved these as they built the intensity, alluding to huge things to come further in the book and allowing more insight into Natasha. It ends with one final memo and man. Way to end this book. Stohl, you kill me. And I love it.

I really did love Natasha in this book. And yeah, I kind of wish it was more focused on her than Ava and Alex at times. But as a whole it worked and I appreciated what Ava and Alex added to not only the story but to Natasha herself. Here Natasha is still the hardass, seemingly emotionless spy, willing and able to get the job done no matter what, that we've all seen. And there's also the glimpses of the hurting, caring, sassy, sometimes even awkward person Natasha is. Stohl delves deeper into Natasha's past, not only of the Red Room but her childhood prior to that, and tells part of the story of how Natasha became all she is. And it is horrific, beautiful and tragic. That's how I'd describe Black Widow: Forever Red as a whole too actually. I'd probably consider Ava to be more the book's main character, to be honest. At first I was a tiny, tiny bit put off by that. Of course I came for Black Widow! Ava had to grow on me - really grow on me - but she soon did. She's determined, had her own kickass moments, and her story is as emotional as Natasha's. I respected Ava. Her lack of communication was annoying, but eh, obstacles. The more the truth came to light the more invested I became in Ava as a character. I really like the relationship between her and Natasha. Ava and Alex's relationship I was not as impressed with. It's sweet and meaningful enough, but it was also too insta-love, so fair warning. I didn't hate it though. It grew on me too. Everything Ava and Alex did. They kind of make Black Widow: Forever Red the YA it is. Alex I liked a lot, though I questioned his purpose to begin with. He really found his place in this book and it's wider universe though. He made me laugh and I do like the funny ones. I think Stohl did great with Alex. With all three characters. The way their stories come together had me truly loving this novel. All the feels, as they say. And okay, I just have to mention Tony Stark and Phil Coulson. As a MCU fan I loved seeing the nods to that world and having Tony and Coulson were the best. Tony was of course very Tony. I think I was grinning the whole way though his cameo. As for Coulson, well, he's my favourite always. I adore Agents of SHIELD and have the biggest crush on Coulson, so. With Agents of SHIELD I do miss his interactions with the Avengers so it was great to have that again. To see a little of the evolution of his and Natasha's relationship was cool. And again, that ending. Boom.

I'm a bit of a squeeing, flailing mess for this book now. Black Widow: Forever Red is very much its own thing while also part of something much bigger. Whether you're a fan of the wider Marvel universe or not, you could like this book.



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