by Sarah Kuhn
Series: Heroine Complex #3
Also in this series: Haunted Heroine
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The final book in the smart, snarky, and action-packed Heroine series completes the "Heroic Trio" as Bea Tanaka joins her sister, Evie, and diva Aveda Jupiter in their quest to free San Francisco from its demon portal problem
If there's one thing Beatrice Tanaka never wanted to be, it's normal. But somehow, her life has unfolded as a series of "should haves." Her powers of emotional projection should have made her one of the most formidable superheroes of all time. And she should have been allowed to join her older sister Evie as a full-fledged protector of San Francisco, pulverizing the city's plethora of demon threats.
But Evie and her superheroing partner, Aveda Jupiter, insist on seeing Bea as the impulsive, tempestuous teenager she used to be--even though she's now a responsible adult. And that means Bea is currently living a thoroughly normal life. She works as a bookstore lackey, hangs out with best friends Sam Fujikawa and Leah Kim, and calms her workplace's more difficult customers. Sure, she's not technically supposed to be playing with people's mental states. But given the mundanity of her existence, who can blame her?
When a mysterious being starts communicating with Bea, hinting at an evil that's about to overtake the city, she seizes the opportunity, hoping to turn her "should haves" into the fabulous heroic life she's always wanted. But gaining that life may mean sacrificing everything--and everyone--she holds dear...
This is the third book in the Heroine Complex series, centered on three female Asian superheroes in San Francisco. While you could perhaps read this book as a standalone, don’t. Go back and read the first two – they are excellent!
It’s been a few years since the last book, and Bea is now in her twenties. After repeatedly being denied a chance to join her sister Evie and her best friend Aveda’s super hero team, Bea’s pulled away from most of the daily grind of HQ and now works at a book shop. After helping Evie and Aveda end a particularly odd demon attack, Bea is finally allowed to be a superhero-in-training, with Aveda as her self-appointed mentor. But being a superhero isn’t everything she’s dreamed it would be, and she starts fearing that Evie’s criticism of her – that she flits around to whatever’s shiny, abandoning whatever she’s currently doing – has more merit than she wants to admit. The demon attacks this time seem different, and Bea soon becomes convinced that their mother, supposedly dead for a decade, is alive and trapped in a demon dimension.
“I’d just proved myself as a badass superheroine and totally slayed some giant stone monsters, hadn’t I? What was a little family drama compared to that?”
Bea and Evie’s relationship is complicated. After their mom’s death, their dad left, leaving twenty-something Evie to raise tween Bea by herself while also going through graduate school. Evie – partly because of her emotion-fuelled fire powers and partly because she was too busy with school, work, and Bea – never had the full-on breakdown Bea had, going from queen bee to goth, with only her friend Sam staying by her side, mostly because he was the only one who didn’t seem to pity her. When Bea suddenly starts receiving Otherworldy messages from her mom, she’s convinced it’s the way to fix things – the empty hole that she’s felt has been missing in herself, and everything that’s gone wrong between her and Evie.
“You said you were dumb enough to have hope. Bea, I … I don’t think that’s dumb. I love that so many times, you choose hope. Even when it’s not the obvious choice, even when the odds are stacked against it. I love that you can find that hope.”
I think one of my main issues with the book is that it rubs places I’m especially raw – I lost my mom when I was around the same age as Bea. She strikes me as very young and very self-centered at the start of the book. It’s kinda weird, because it was what I was really worried about with Aveda’s novel, but I found her a lot more sympathetic from the get-go than Bea. She’s also ridiculously impulsive and gets bored quickly, dropping her new interests (and relationships) as quickly as she picks them up. What I loved about her, though, is her hopefulness, her habit of making posterboards covered in glitter to convince Evie of things, and the obvious love she has for her friends and family. To me, this book felt darker than the first two. Though it’s still chock full of humor (alas, though, no cupcake demons), much of it focuses on pretty heavy topics, like the fraught relationship between the sisters, which Bea attributes to their mom’s death. On top of that, Bea’s superhero power – being able to influence the feelings of people around her – has had a sudden and unexpected upgrade. Now, she can implant thoughts into other people’s heads, Jedi-style – and with that comes even more ethical concerns. Bea doesn’t always make the best choices, which was extremely relatable for me. What child – even an adult child – wouldn’t do anything within their power to get their mom back?
As always, the secondary characters were excellent, and many of them (Shruti, Rose, etc) were ones we’d seen before. While I liked Bea’s love interest, for me at least, the romance seemed more secondary to the main plot than it had been in previous books. I still enjoyed it thoroughly, as well as the peaks we got of the couples from the previous books. Though the villain is pretty predictable, the plot is inventive and just delightful.
Overall, I’m delighted that, at the end of this trilogy, it’s circled back around to one of the defining conflicts of the first book – Evie and Bea’s relationship. I was so pleased to find out that there will be more books in the series, and I’ll definitely be picking them up!