Title: Dreadnought (Nemesis #1)
Author: April Daniels
Recommended for: Anyone looking for a story featuring a trans main character.
Scroll down to the bottom of this review for trigger warnings!
An action-packed series-starter perfect for fans of The Heroine Complex and Not Your Sidekick.
Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. 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 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.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a digital ARC of Dreadnought!
I want to say something profound and insightful. What I come out with is, “That sucks.”
This is one of those times where I’d like to say “it’s not you, it’s me” as to why I didn’t like this book… But honestly, it may be mix of both the book and me. Dreadnought started out strong, with Danny witnessing a superhero fight right in the beginning of the book. I had never read a superhero book before, so the prospect of having superheroes fighting and being awesome out in the open was something new and exciting.
Soon I started to have minor issues with the book that, when put together, made me feel annoyed the whole time I was reading. Paired up with the biggest issue I had, it became impossible for me to ignore everything I didn’t like.
First, I had problems with the writing style of the book. It felt underdeveloped and told the reader everything instead of showing. Looking at the quote above, it feels a lot like a metaphor for the entire book. However, that may be personal preference, seeing as I don’t like present tense, which is what Dreadnought was told in.
Another issue I had is that I felt like the superhero world wasn’t explained well. This may be because English is not my first language, but I had so much trouble focusing on the scenes, especially when the superhero stuff was happening. I would read, get confused and space out. This resulted in me imagining some cool superhero scenes of my own, but obviously that was not the purpose of these scenes at all.
The dirty little secret about growing up as a boy is if you’re not any good at it, they will torture you daily until you have the good graces to kill yourself. The posturing and the dominance games are almost inescapable. It’s hard to walk from one end of school to the other without getting shoulder checked in the halls. Locker rooms are a forgotten circle of Hell. God forbid anyone ever catch you sketching flowers in class, or reading a book that’s “for girls.” Maybe for people who really are boys that stuff works. Maybe it fits for them. But I don’t get to fit. Not anywhere.
Then, I had problems with the actual superhero aspect of the book. This part is more tricky because even though Danny spent a lot of her time investigating the villain of the book, it doesn’t feel like there was enough information about superpowers in the book. It was scene after scene of Danny and Calamity fighting random minor villains. These scenes were okay, but they didn’t add too much to the story. Each scene had a point but it took too long to get there, so it feels like not enough happens.
The actual superheroes were absent the majority of the book, and Danny’s investigations felt more like spy work than superhero work. Maybe that was because she was always going along with Calamity’s plans, and Calamity was not a superhero. (About Calamity: I liked that she was Latina, but if you forgot that her heritage was mentioned at the beginning, you wouldn’t know she’s Latina at all. It’s never mentioned again.) Additionally, most of the villains did not feel like a threat at all. They would start sobbing after a few minutes with Danny, and so they felt more like random people trying to be bad and failing.
All of humanity is pinpricks of light beneath me. The silence up here is perfect. I can see forever. And I see. I see a world that is terrified of me. Terrified of someone who would reject manhood. Terrified of a girl who knows who she is and what she’s capable of. They are small, and they are weak, and they will not hurt me ever again. My name is Danielle Tozer. I am a girl. No one is strong enough to take that from me anymore.
All of those issues are somewhat minor compared to what I really did not like about this book, though: the characters. I did not like a single one of them.
Danny was alright before she started spending time with Calamity, but that didn’t last long. I hated Danny’s father. I hated her former best friend. I felt bad for her mother until something happened and I stopped caring about her. I hated Greywytch, a superhero who was more hateful trash than superhero. All of that was fine. We were supposed to hate them.
What was not fine is that Danny and Sarah were supposed to be the good ones, especially Danny, and yet they didn’t really act like good people very much. It was always mentioned that Danny was a “classic superhero,” all good and willing to help people, when in reality she spent a lot of her time daydreaming about killing people and actually almost killing them. I wish the characters had stopped talking about how pure her intentions with her powers were when she spent more time hurting people than rescuing them. I understand that it was supposed to be taken as Danny struggling to learn what her limits should be after she became almost invincible. However, you have to read between the lines to understand that and, since almost every other character was so hateful, I needed someone I could like all the time.
The one thing I really appreciated about this book was how Danny was extremely confident in her gender identity, even when transphobic people tried to tell her she was a boy (among other cruel things). Even when she wasn’t out as trans, she was unapologetic and unashamed. In a world that tried to bring her down and make her believe awful things about herself, she always stayed firm about who she was. She had two people who supported it when she needed them to, which was also great.
There came a point in which I was skim reading to make the book end. I lost interest, and then regained it a little bit, but it was only enough to make me skim read less. I would recommend this book to people who love superhero stories and don’t mind disliking every single character at least for a while. I do think this book is one that a lot of people would like. Unfortunately, I was too annoyed to be one of them, but I am prepared to be in the minority on this one.
(Nice plot twist, by the way.)
- Death (of a superhero) being witnessed
- Thoughts of suicide related to transphobia (at the beginning of the book)
- Transphobic, homophobic and ableist slurs
- Transphobia (coming from several people)
- Nazis, Hitler and World War II are mentioned (related to the origin of superpowers/metahumans)
- Rape (a person wishing rape upon another person)
- Constant use of nicotine (from a side character)
- Loss of limbs
*Please keep in my mind that I may have missed any potentially triggering content included in the book.*