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‘Catwoman: Soulstealer’ by Sarah J. Maas (book review)

Catwoman: Soulstealer (DC Icons Series)
Written by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Random House

 

Gotham City is home to the most deadliest criminals. Crime runs rampant and fear is ripe in the air.

Among them is seventeen year-old Selina Kyle who is no stranger to dangers and the pitfalls of Gotham. Her mother, an addict and repeat offender, cares more about her next fix than feeding her kids.

Armed with street smarts, Kyle is left to redefine the word “family” as she fights for survival. Not for herself but for her biological sister, her heart and soul, Maggie who is suffering from cystic fibrosis. With no parental guidance and only an EBT card, she must go to the streets and fight. As an undefeated champion of the Leopards, Kyle takes pride in her survival skills and her ability to care for her sister.

Their bond is unbreakable until one fateful night that forever changes the path for two sisters.

Forced to choose between a life in jail or join Talia al Ghul and the League of Assassins, Kyle makes her way to Italy. Two years later she returns not as Kyle but as Holly Vanderhees, a blonde-haired billionaire socialite; who also moonlights as Catwoman, the city’s newly-christened Queen of the Underworld. However, on her tail is Luke Fox, son to Wayne Industries’ CEO, a semi-pro boxer and an ex-Marine suffering from PTSD. He protects the city as Batwing and is determined to prove himself when Catwoman teams up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn (while Batman is out-of-town) to rob the rich of their most precious fortunes.

To read Sarah J. Maas’ Soulstealer is to have a deep enough appreciation for Gotham to allow Maas to change storylines. Author of the popular YA Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, she has attempted to craft an emotional story that transports the reader into the heart of a city living in fear. Exploring the themes of family, unlikely friendships, love and crime, she tries able to pull the reader inside each complicated life.

Unfortunately, “attempts” are not actualities.

As exciting and as powerful as the first half of the book is, Maas’ simply has too many DC characters in the Gotham kitchen. The story between Maggie and Kyle is intriguing on its own. Struggling to survive, Kyle carries the weight of her mother addiction. Constantly angry and full of fear of losing her sister to cystitis fibrosis, Kyle longs for her carefree life when she lived to practice gymnastics. There’s an honesty about Kyle that pulls you in, even if its short-lived.

But a few chapters cannot save this book. Soulstealer is a muddled mess, stringing together multiple plots that follow relationships involving Poision Ivy, Harely Quinn, The Joker, Batwing and the League of Assassin. With only 384 pages, Maas quickly drops storylines in favor of others, which is frustrating as a reader. There are also characters that make unnecessary cameos that take away from the main plot.

Despite the uneven chaos of the book, there are enjoyable moments between Quinn and Ivy that pulls you into their bond. While these teenagers lead vastly different lives, their loneliness keeps their bond going strong. Harley is lost without The Joker but the longer is stays away from him, the happier she becomes. But like most abusive relationships, she would rather be miserable with him than lonely without him. Ivy has chosen a life without her biological family or better yet, they’ve chosen a life with their daughter. Overcome with greed, they’ve abandoned their daughter for medical success. Already feeling like an outcast because of her sexuality, she turns to her plants for comfort but it’s human comfort she desires with Quinn. Fox as Batwing leads a private life. How can you have a relationship when everyone is out to get you?

Fox as Batwing is a great substitute for Batman (if you’ve never read DC Icon #2 Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker), as he tries to keep the city from falling apart under the fear of Catwoman and her gang of thieves. Suffering from PTSD and the carrying the weight of Gotham on his back, Maas’ brings us into the daily struggles panic attacks and being a black man in America (he’s a hero with the suit on but an assumed criminal with the suit off).

But greatest strike against this book is that we never know what happened between to Kyle between her transformation as Catwoman. Told through a series of flashbacks, Maas gives us a general overview. To not be able to experience her transformation does a disservice to Catwoman’s current and possible fans.

Reading like a first draft, Soulstealer is a struggle to get through. Rushed, underdeveloped with too many themes and characters, Soulstealer is a Catwoman origin story without an origin.

 

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