Friday, 24 March 2017

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Series: Black Widow, Book One
Publisher: Parragon Books
Format: Paperback
Published: 2nd May 2016
Number of Pages: 416
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Superhero, Action-Adventure, Science-Fiction, Thriller-Suspense, YA
Recommended Age: 11+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing and Smoking References
Author's Site: Margaret Stohl

Blurb From Goodreads:
Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy…
Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.
Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.  The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious saviour, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.
Until now.
When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…
Black Widow: Forever Red features all the heart-pounding adventure readers expect from Marvel, written by #1 New York Times best-selling author Margaret Stohl. Uncover a new side of the Marvel Universe that will thrill loyal fans and newcomers alike, as Stohl reveals the untold story of Black Widow for the very first time.

"This mission, to attack us?  He said it had a name."  Her eyes met Coulson's.  "Forever Red."
Once upon a little girl was given the name Black Widow by her teacher.  She was taught in all manner of things – but mostly in how to kill, deceive and spy.  She was experimented on in the Red Room and she became the most dangerous assassin in the world.
After escaping the clutches of her teacher Ivan Somodorov, Natasha Romanoff became a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Her mission?  To take down Ivan.
She found him with a little girl, who she saved after bringing the building down upon her former mentor.  She took the child to America and told her she would be OK.  And then she left her in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s care..
Now seventeen, Ava Orlova has run away from S.H.I.E.L.D.  She has learned not to trust anyone.  That she cannot rely on the red-haired woman who called her sestrenka, little sister.  All she knows is she has to be her own hero – and that she dreams of a boy called Alexei with a Black Widow tattoo, even though she has never met him.
Natasha has never been much of a big sister.  But when children begin vanishing in Eastern Europe and rumours of the Red Room start up, Natasha fears her former teacher is not as dead as she hoped and his reaches, influences and plans go far deeper than she ever could've imagined...
I'm a huge Marvel fan.  I've had many a discussion with family and friends regarding the best team, character and film in the Marvelverse (team being either the new Guardians of the Galaxy or the X-Men, character being Remy LeBeau, AKA Gambit and film being Guardians of the Galaxy – my brother loudly disagrees with that final point).  So when I was offered the chance to review a book about the awesome Black Widow, how was I meant to refuse?!  Natasha Romanoff is a badass – a gorgeous and deadly agent with a fascinating backstory I really don't know enough about.  Awful, I know, but I love what Margaret Stohl has done with the character.  I just really enjoyed this book – it was like watching a Marvel movie and reading one of the comics all at once and I just loved it.  Also after reading this there needs to be a Black Widow standalone film – I am now in love with her.
Natasha Romanoff is one of MCU's most recognisable and awesome characters.  The Natasha from Forever Red is a mishmash of MCU Black Widow and the comic version – her backstory is more like that of the film Natasha and not the comic Natasha, although she's colder and sharper than movie Natasha.  Which is awesome!  Because – hello – Natasha's backstory is fascinating in the film's and I loved seeing more of it – and of those signature Black Widow death stares.  Who doesn't watch the films (and the brief flashes we get into her past) and think let me know you!  Just me?  Really?  Huh.  Anyways, Natasha was cold and businesslike (as expected) and yet she had these moments – these flashes of confusion and affection and anger that made her so very human and brilliant and ergo loving her.  This was Natasha says I'd never seen her before – as badass and tough as ever, but also broken and hurting and afraid and so very very human indeed.  And I loved it – I want more of this Natasha, this Tasha.
Despite the book series being titled as Black Widow, it's more about Ava – who I discovered after a quick Google upon getting the book is a superhero in her own right and has recently been introduced into the Marvel comics.  She was understandably confused and lost and a little angry at the world, but she was also funny and brave and badass as hell!
Alex was so sweet - he was brave and badass and kind and smart.  He was also pretty darn cute at times, I must admit!  
I must say the romance between Ava and Alex was rather insta-love-y.  After one twist I was like yes, this makes more sense now!  And then I was like hang this does not make more sense it in fact is a little weird now and then my head started hurting as I considered all the facts and then I had to go lie down and watch the Avengers.  But I digress.  They were adorable!  Like so cute – and so incredibly protective of one another, as would be expected in two teenagers tossed in the middle of a plot by a crazy man.
And OMG I loved all the little cameos!  Like Coulson – he's always a favourite of mine in the MCU and I loved seeing his quippy, funny self in Forever Red.  And Tony Stark's scenes?  Literally some of my favourite ones in the whole book!  I adore Tony and he was so perfectly Tony.  Margaret Stohl captured him so absolutely perfectly!  I must admit, I did miss the presence of one hawk-eyed archer (who is often portrayed as Natasha's BFF and also BF at times, though not the latter in the film's) – it was so sad not to have him doing a little cameo or at least being mentioned.  She trusted Tony enough to involve him – so why not Clint? 
The writing was awesome!  It started off from Natasha's POV (which I loved – being inside her head was amazing) and then switched.  We got a split POV between Natasha, Ava, Alex and then transcripts from an official S.H.I.E.L.D. interview of Natasha.  It was all third person – and did occasionally jump perspectives within a set characters' chapter – and I just loved it.  I loved getting into everyone's heads – although I must say Natasha's chapters was my favourite.  I loved her, if you haven’t gathered, and may possibly be a tiny bit obsessed now.  I regret nothing.
The plot – oh my god!  It was like reading a Marvel movie.  The plot was fast-paced and exciting, there were mysteries a plenty, there were thrills and twists – oh that last twist!  It left me in tears – the finale was explosive and then there was just this moment after, a moment of pain and sadness and why Margaret why that left me speechless and in shock.
If you can't tell by now, I loved Forever Red to pieces.  It was so much fun – a real roller coaster of excitement and awesomeness and superheroes and mysteries.  I cannot wait for Red Vengeance – I need in my life like you cannot imagine.  Stay Red, people – because after this series I ain’t ever going back! 

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer
Lois Lane by Gwenda Bond
The Avengers

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Parragon in exchange for an honest review

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