I won a copy of Sovereign, book two of April Daniels‘ Nemesis series. So, I bought book one, Dreadnought.
Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.
It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.
She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
This is an enjoyable superhero origin story that walks the line between entertainment and After School Special. Though I thought Danny’s magical transition problematic, I found the rest of Danny’s experiences and thoughts believable. Especially the inclusion of the male best friend who behaved as if he had a right to Danny’s sexuality (phrased as ‘dating’ at their age) simply by virtue of access. Outside the friend, you’ll find the openly transphobic, the mother who wants her baby boy back, the aggressively man’s-man father, the woman who thinks transgendered women are a threat to ‘real’ women, etc. Like I said, I thought the book’s representation was great. (I imagine the fact that the author is herself trans has something to do with that.) However, I also found it about as subtle as a superhero’s fist. Maybe a younger audience than myself needed it, but subtle it was not, which made it feel a little didactic too.
As to the superhero aspect of the story….it was over the top. Dreadnought seemed to have no limits. Her power is never fully defined and so she seemed able to simply survive everything and surmount any challenge, without much challenge. Thus, fight scenes began to feel a bit like just a list of strikes and rebuttals.
All in all however, Dreadnought is an enjoyable superhero story with a lovely message.
Only nine months after her debut as the superhero Dreadnought, Danny Tozer is already a scarred veteran. Protecting a city the size of New Port is a team-sized job and she’s doing it alone. Between her newfound celebrity and her demanding cape duties, Dreadnought is stretched thin, and it’s only going to get worse.
When she crosses a newly discovered billionaire supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s no lever too cruel for this villain to use against her.
She might be hard to kill, but there’s more than one way to destroy a hero. Before the war is over, Dreadnought will be forced to confront parts of herself she never wanted to acknowledge.
And behind it all, an old enemy waits in the wings, ready to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever.
For about a third of this book I wished that the author had left well enough alone after book one. Everything just screams trauma, and I didn’t want to read a couple hundred pages of how shitty the world can be. But eventually the book settled into more superhero romp and less-watch-the-world-beat-up-the-queer-kid.
All in all, it has some good action sequences and Danny grows quite a lot in the course of the book. I’d be willing to read more of her story. But I’m also not sad to be finished with the book.