4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
I have to admit, I know nothing about the original Red Sonja series – apart from that it’s a ‘swords and sorcery’ fantasy, complete with busty women wearing chainmail bikinis.
This reboot series continues the traditional – but it works. It doesn’t feel over the top cheesy, it doesn’t feel silly. Although Sonja is not really in the habit of wearing much, the reader knows that the respect and attention she commands is not due to her body or what’s on show, but her skill and talent. From the very beginning her character is set up very nicely – the book opens with a small gang of thieves ready to rob Sonja whilst she sleeps in a drunken haze. Not that it stops her from absolutely terrifying them. Immediately the reader knows that this is a lady that you shouldn’t mess with – but she’s also someone who knows when to show mercy.
One thing I loved about the book was that Sonja was not the only skilled female warrior. In fact there was a whole army of them. It seems to be a common trope in fantasy – a women who is particularly talented at fighting or using weaponry, and even in these fantasy worlds where these sorts of skills are practically necessary for survival it’s still shocking and unusual. Not in this world.
The story is quick-paced, with smoothly flowing action scenes, and just generally good fun. My only complaint is how easily Sonja gives up because of a certain event about halfway through the story. From how she acts throughout the first half, I would expect her to take any negative events and use them to motivate her into saving and protecting more people. But no, she just gives up – that was quite disappointing to be honest. To have such a positive and strong character suddenly reduced to nothing just didn’t seem right, but it did open up paths to her origin story which was very sad.
Although the book contains typical fantasy fare – scantily-clad women, female armour not being much more than a bikini, brawny men – it’s all in good spirit and is quite aware of how silly it is sometimes. I mean who in their right mind would go into battle wearing not much more than their underwear? It also had it’s humorous moments, like Sonja’s reaction when all the pubs in the city are closed down.
As for the artwork – it was brilliant, and the issue covers and bonus material covers were stunning, showcasing an array of talents by various female artists. Overall, a recommended read for fans of ‘swords and sorcery’ fantasy who don’t mind their protagonists wearing a little less than a chainmail shirt!