Thursday 22 December 2016

Review Time! (Graphic Novel Edition!) - Red Sonja: The Falcon Throne

Red Sonja The Falcon Throne Title

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Title: Red Sonja: The Falcon Throne

Red Sonja The Falcon Throne book cover
Author: Marguerite Bennett

Contributors: Aneke, Marguerite Sauvage

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, High Fantasy, LGBTQ+ (M/F; F/F)

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

Ahhhh, Red Sonja - the She-Devil with a Sword.

We come once again, my nerdlets, to the opportunity to review a Red Sonja book (which apparently, as a woman, is beyond my expertise; but it turns out girls can review comics. #TrueStory.)

And to see that this Sonja story had Marguerite Bennett at the helm?

I hardly dared get my hopes up at the prospect of Sonja being given the book she deserved... but I think my fervent prayers to the feminist gods were at least somewhat answered.

Strap in guys, 'cos I got some stuff to say.


Hyrkania's king is dying. Sonja believes the kingdom will be better off with someone who... well, basically, isn't her... in charge.

Instead of the She-Devil, someone else comes in to fill the power vacuum.

But will this new leader be a force for good? Or will the prejudices he stirs up become Hyrkania's shame?

Best bits:

WOW. Dudes, this was the Red Sonja book I've been waiting for.

Finally, Sonja is freed from the prospect of painful chainmail wedgies and having to make pathetic doe-eyes at Conan that make her fans (well, some of us,) want to barf.

Instead, we have a still-sexy she-warrior who gets to wear warmer (though still not especially protective) clothes into battle, and doesn't have to worry about rust in her most intimate areas!

(Does anyone else flinch at the idea of non-lined chainmail underwear? *shudder*)

The (in)famous chainmail bikini is the costume male creators and fans have chosen again and again for Sonja; essentially they want an overly-sexualised Barbarian Barbie.

But as Sonja makes very clear - NO-ONE owns her!

red-haired woman

There's also a clear political message throughout this book - hatred against people who are different to you goes against everything that makes us human.

Sonja is revolted by the clear bigotry and outright racism that creeps into Hyrkania, and even more revolted by the support this bigotry has from the people.

Instead of a strong female leader, they have a douchebag bigoted dude. Kind of timely, don't you think?

Sonja's bisexuality is not ignored here: too often, Sonja's character is manipulated to erase her queer aspects - she becomes de facto straight in so many of her books.

But with Marguerite Bennett at the helm, we have a queer woman making sure Sonja is given her dues.

There are also people of colour (PoC) characters with agency, and complexity, and lives of their own.

Not so great bits:

Ok, so, my main problem with this book is that it comes dangerously close to White Saviour territory.

For those who don't know, the White Saviour trope is where a white person comes along and rescues the PoC characters - the implication being that they couldn't possibly rescue themselves, and need a white person to come and do it for them (which ofc is utter sh**.)

This trope reinforces the ugly idea of white superiority, and places PoC in a position where they are never the hero, only the victim.

Here, the PoC characters are pretty much doing things for themselves, but the final save-the-day business is achieved by Sonja - the white heroine and symbol of inspiration.

sword stuck in the ground

It all plays out a lot more complexly than just white-girl-saves-PoCs, but... I'm not saying this necessarily goes over the line, but we can certainly see the line from here, y'know?

And even seeing the line is worrying guys. I don't want to be anywhere near that line.

Parts of the plotting in general are... confused? Maybe? It just feels a bit hectic and out-of-control in places in terms of plot.

Maybe this is a side-effect of trying to make the plot twisty and action-filled, when really, all that was needed was to follow the characters' lead.

There's a bunch of gore and violence pretty much everywhere, swearing, and some non-explicit sexual content.


We verge uncomfortably close to white saviour territory here (*squints suspiciously at book*) and that's not cool.

Aside from that, though, this is the Sonja book her (true) fans have been waiting for - she kicks butt, looks sexy, but never betrays her character or her dignity.

Bennett's Sonja is strong. Bennett's Sonja is my Sonja, finally brought to the page.

This book is a major step-forward for the character. I just hope it can be built on and improved in the future.

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  1. Sorry about the trope! I understand that could be frustrating considering how diverse the rest of the book is.

    1. Yup. And no need to apologise Em - you didn't write it! ;)

    2. Haha I know! I just get upset when Cee doesn't like an aspect of a book ;)

    3. Ha ;) well thank you for your defence of my reading enjoyment XD <3 <3

  2. I can't imagine how uncomfortable a chainmail bikini would me. :| I assume the original creators of the chainmail bikini were they probably never considered the woman's comfort. smh
    Great review, Cee Arr. The story sounds exciting and Sonja sounds like a great character, and I appreciated you pointing out how close it comes from being a white savior narrative.

    1. I'm 100% certain that the last thing on the minds of the chainmail bikini creators was Sonja as a human being with thoughts and feelings. Because, as some douche pointed out to me before, this is *fantasy* and therefore it doesn't *have* to be realistic (*rolls eyes*)

      Thanks so much for the comment Naz :) and yes, Sonja is a fantastic character, I'm happy she's finally being written/drawn the way she deserves :)

  3. Oh I'm glad this was at least somewhat of a win for you!! It's always nice to see female heroines wearing, erm, not that chainmail bikini which is as stupidly impractical as it is degrading. >_> However that whole white saviour trope thing lurking the the background is very disappointing. D:

    1. Yeah the white saviour thing was disappointing. But I still think this was a step forward for Red Sonja books. Chainmail bikini... honestly what part of that sounds comfortable?! Lol.

  4. I really like how independent and kick-butt Sonja sounds! It seems like this was a comic well worth waiting for. It's a bit sad that it comes close to another, but it sounds like for the most part you really enjoyed reading it!

    1. It comes close to an uncomfortable trope rather than any other comic. :)

      But yes, for the most part it was the book Sonja's fans have been waiting for! :)


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