Archive for Dreadnought

Pure Power

It’s been years — literally! — since I reviewed a superhero prose novel, ain’t it? So here’s one I read a few years ago: Dreadnought by April Daniels.

Danny Tozer doesn’t have a very easy life. Her father is abusive. Her mother is distant. And she’s a closeted trans girl. And things get even rougher for her one day when the world’s greatest hero falls out of the sky, dies at her feet, and grants her all of his amazing powers — superstrength, invulnerability, flight. And it all comes wrapped up with a free transformation into the ideal body she’s always imagined for herself.

Okay, the powers are cool, but now that she can’t hide the fact that she’s a girl, her parents get even more emotionally abusive, and she loses her best friend. And actually, the cool powers come with a major drawback — the supervillain who killed the most recent Dreadnought is now coming after Danny, too.

And the local superheroes are — well, a few of them are welcoming and helpful to Danny, and others are really, really, really unhelpful. And when a gang of high-tech villains working for the ultimate Big Bad come to town for some robbery, murder, and mayhem, Danny will have to hope the power of the Dreadnought will be enough to save the day — and her own life.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is April Daniels’ very first novel, and it reads like it’s her fiftieth — she has a feel for characterization and action that usually takes years to get right. Danny is, obviously, the key character in the book, and her reactions are excellent — as an abused child, she can’t bring herself to fight back against her frantically angry father, partly because she doesn’t want to hurt him, and partly because she’s gotten used to knuckling under and letting him scream at her, and she can’t break free of that habit yet.

Two other fantastic characters are Doc Impossible, a scientific super-genius who gives Danny emotional and material support, and Calamity, Danny’s friend and vigilante super-soldier, who helps her learn how to be a good hero. Some other characters are less fully created — Danny’s parents are a bit one-note, and Greywytch, a spell-slinging TERF, is mostly there to give you someone to despise.

While there’s lots of teenage hijinx and investigations with Danny and Calamity, and plenty of teen angst from Danny, when the action hits, it hits very, very hard. Danny is very powerful, but she doesn’t really understand how her abilities work, and her opponents are powerful enough to put her through a hell of a lot of pain. The fight scenes are frantic and terrifying, because Danny never knows if she’s really powerful enough to survive what the bad guys are going to do to her.

All in all, it’s an incredibly fun superhero tale with a lot of fun, relatable characters. If you love superheroes, if you love great characters and action, and if you have a trans friend who could use a pick-me-up, you should grab this book.

Comments off