Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: Black Widow : Forever Red by Margaret Stohl


Publisher: Marvel Press
Publish Date: October 13th 2015
Page Amount: 304 pages
Price: $17.99 Hardback
ISBN: 148472643X (ISBN13: 9781484726433)

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 savior, 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. (Summary and Cover Image from Goodreads)

For those of you that have been following me for a while, you know that Natasha Romanova is my favorite female character. EVER. Out of all of the books I've read, and the movies I've seen, for some reason, Natasha Romanova connects with me on a very, very large level.

So, you can only imagine my joy when I figured out that she would be getting her very own Young Adult novel this year.

When I saw the synopsis on Goodreads, I actually screamed and almost started crying. In a world where merchandising is being dominated by the "main four" of the Avengers team, I was expecting that Natasha wouldn't be getting the treatment she deserved.

I found out about this book a few months ago, and to be honest, I didn't know if I could wait that long. I was tweeting about it, thinking about it - and I'm pretty sure I still have a countdown calendar for the official release date. I didn't know how I was going to hold myself together until October 13th.

But then, Emma from Miss Print surprised me. Before she created her ARC Adoption Agency, she had offered an ARC of another book for me to review. I happily accepted, and waited for the arrival of my ARC in the mail.

When I finally got the package, I realized it was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be. I honestly didn't think that an ARC would be bigger than a sheet of paper, and about the weight of two hardbacks.

Boy, was I happy I was wrong! It turns out that Emma had seen my (fangirling) tweets about Black Widow: Forever Red, and how I had been DYING to get my hands on an ARC of it, ever since I heard about it. When I saw that it was sitting there, in my own house, in my own hands, I was over run with emotions. Tears were forming in my eyes because I honestly didn't think this would be a reality. Here I was, holding a book that Natasha Romanova is a main character in, AND I get to read it before the general public.

I think it is safe to say that that mail day was the best day ever.

Before I begin, I would like to mention that this is the first Margaret Stohl book that I have ever read. I have heard of her other series that she worked on with Kami Garcia, and while I would love to read them, I can never find them!

The second I got my hands on this ARC, I devoured it. I was desperate to see how Ms. Stohl handled the characterization of Natasha, what secret mission she was on, and who this "mystery character" was that was being introduced to the Marvel Universe. Needless to say, I was very impressed with Ms. Stohl's writing style, and she has quickly become one of my "must-buy" authors!

Natasha Romanova holds so many feelings for me, and I am very happy that Ms. Stohl was able to write this book. She wrote Natasha in a way that I was HAPPY to see her written, tying in elements of her characterization from the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as the comic books. I was happy to see a different interpretation of Natasha's character while still drawing on her history and background.

Also, this book is very easy to read. The sentence structure and length makes it a breeze! With most of the books that I have been reading, I find myself having to read several sections over and over again due to a lack of understanding, but this was definitely not the case for Black Widow: Forever Red! One of my favorite parts of the entire book is that Ms. Stohl decided to include dialogue that occurs in Russian in some parts of the book. (For those of you that do not know, Natasha Romanova is originally from Russia, and her fluency in Russian is a huge part of her identity). I was happy to see Natasha's past presented on the page, but what intrigued me and pleased me the most is that the English phonetics for the Russian words were included.

For example, instead of seeing the word "Cестра" spelled in Cyrillic letters on the page, "Sestra" was written instead. It was a nice touch for me, because it is very easy to see which words are Russian (the majority of them were italicized). I want to learn Russian as well, so having the pronunciation in English there for me made it very easy. I also feel as if the inclusion of the phonetics allowed me to connect to the book even further, because I am getting bits and pieces of Natasha's culture and lifestyle delivered to me in a way I can understand.

(For those of you that are curious, "Cестра" means sister in Russian)

I would recommend having some kind of a dictionary by you when you read this book, especially in the first few chapters if you really want to know what some of the Russian words mean. Personally, I don't think it will take away any meaning from the text if you chose not to look these words up, but I would recommend it.

In terms of the characters, I think my response about Natasha Romanova as a character is going to be very predictable. Ms. Stohl definitely did MARVEL and Natasha justice. She includes pieces of her "Love is for Children" characterization, her "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" characterization, and otherwise, while still managing to include some original characterization and interpretations surrounding Natasha's personal identity. I really liked that there was something to identify with, no matter what "medium" of MARVEL introduced Natasha to the reader.

One thing I would like to mention about Natasha before moving on to the other characters, is that this book is not her origin story, but Natasha still plays a huge, huge part in the events that unfold.

The main character of the story is a teenager named Ava Orlova. For the sake of spoilers, I don't want to reveal too much of her background and information, but I will say that she has a connection to the Black Widow that is difficult to severe. Like Natasha, Ava comes from a difficult past, where even she does not know all of the answers to who she is. Throughout the book, the reader sees Ava struggling with this idea of her own personal identity, while also trying to put together the pieces of her troubled past.

Personally, in the beginning of the book, I was turned off from the idea of introducing a new heroine when many of the heroines in the MARVEL Universe are still not fully explored or paid attention to. I was scared that the introduction of this new character would take away some of the flame from Natasha's fire, and ultimately, her fate would be forgotten as well. I was scared that the introduction of a new character would mean that neither of these characters would get the attention and story line that they deserve.

However, when I finished reading this book, my mind completely changed. I love the new characters in the story - Ava Orlova being one of them. These characters not only have elaborate and meaningful backstories of their own, but they also add to the momentum that Natasha Romanova has already created. These characters develop a ton throughout the story, while they fight to learn their history and establish their place. But these characters also test Natasha in ways that she has never been tested before, adding even more depth to her complicated character. The addition of these characters added fuel to the fire, and readers should be excited to learn more about not only Natasha Romanova, but these new characters as well.

I also really enjoyed the plot progression of the story. The individual story lines of each character flawlessly wove together to create a massive climax and a surprising resolution. I loved how each character had individuality, and the reader had a chance to get to know all of these characters on their own before their stories became connected. The alternating perspective also allows readers to get into the minds of every character, while also adding a unique feature to the story itself.

 I would recommend this book to just about anyone that I see. Not only does it feature an already well-known character, but Stohl's writing pulls readers in from the first page. This book does contain some darker themes, violent and harmful scenes, so I would advise that this book be saved for older readers. Black Widow: Forever Red will not disappoint! Personally, I thought it was the best book of 2015.

It is definitely safe to say that with Black Widow: Forever Red, Natasha Romanova finally gets what she deserves: a kick-butt, young adult novel where she may finally wipe some of the red out of her ledger.

Rating: 5 out of 5 (Soviet?) Stars
If you know the history of Natasha, I promise you will get that joke! (Or, at least I hope you do!)


  1. I'm so happy to see how much you loved this book! I've seen it around and have been interested in reading it but I'm not super familiar with her as a character. I'm so glad the book lived up to your expectations because that makes it even better! I also haven't read any of Margaret Stohls books even though I own her Dangerous Creatures series.

    Great post!

    1. Hi Sarah! Thank you SO much for your comment! It made my day! I think this book definitely helps to familiarize the reader with Natasha as a character, although this book is not solely focused on her development! 2015 for me also seems to be the year of discovering new-to-me authors! Do you feel the same way?


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