StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night by Leon Langford

The cover of StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night. Front and center is a young black man, Jordan Harris, with black hair with two blond stripes shaved into the sides. His fist is clenched in front of him and the back of his glove reads "be your own hero."

He, and the other four characters behind him are all wearing black superhero suits with gold shoulder and chest plates. Behind his left shoulder is a Black girl with long purple hair, Alicia Jackson, and her hand outstretched and to Jordan's right is a white girl with blue shoulder length hair, Sydney Asimov, who is grinning sharply with her hand under her chin.

Above Alicia is Reuben Alvarez, who has short red/black hair and his extended hand is black with red cracks, like magma breaking through cooled rock. Next to him is Cooper Greene, a white ginger boy mid stride with ears and the tail of a red panda. 

There is a white star in the center of the cover between all the figures over which the title "StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night" is placed. 

Caption: Greek mythology! Superheros! Get hype!

Fast paced and absolutely riveting, “StarLion” is the story of Jordan Harris, a young man with powers derived from the gods, who dreams of being a hero, but has been told to hide his powers and so resorts to vigilante activity in his spare time. The origin of superheroes as descended from the gods of various pantheons gives the book a unique twist that is very, very refreshing in the face of what feels like endless stream of superhero movies that seem to rehash the same plot elements and problems. It also creates a fascinating alternate history, where major historical figures, George Washington, Napoleon, etc. had superpowers, and makes for some really cool world building moments. 

Quote from the text reads: The halls of West Memorial High School were painted with various historical figures, running chronologically through history. From Zeus standing on Mount Olympus, to Julius Caesar glowing with light in Rome, to Napoleon on a winged horse, to George Washington hovering over Washington, D.C.

The caption reads: THIS is the kind of fictional history we love to see

Though the most lauded superheroes are called Olympians and the school Jordan attends (as an alternative to prison after he’s caught doing vigilante work) is called Fort Olympus, the Greek gods are not the only gods represented. My two favorite minor characters, who I really hope we see again in a sequel, are Tobe and Osin, who are descended from the African god, Ogun.

And the characters, oh boy, there’s so much to love. Everyone, villain and hero alike, is well-rounded and dynamic. Everyone has flaws, people have to work to get along, and sometimes they just don’t get along. Relationships are complex and characters’ inner conflicts are complex, and I really enjoyed the choice to have the main team be so large and so dynamic. Not one person is alike, though they all share some level of similarity, Jordan and Alicia and Sydney all have family who were or are professional superheroes, but well, let’s just say it takes bit for them to get along, and Cooper and Reuben, whose powers manifest as being creature-human hybrids, could not have more polar opposite personalities, though they share some level of struggle (with varying severity). 

Quote: "What?" Reuben shot back. "Are you telling me you all knew who his uncle was?" 
Alicia nodded. "Yeah, Jordan told me." 
Battalia nodded, too. "My dad told me." 
Cooper admitted bashfully, "He's buying my silence with toys." 

Caption: Poor Reuben, but the framing of this is hilarious.

Large casts like this can be very difficult to pull off, especially when you need to develop them all quickly, but through the use of third person omniscient narration, we get to learn quickly and effectively just where all the points of conflict between our leads comes from. This, in turn, allows for rapid movement forward as they all learn to work together and grow as friends and team mates.

While Jordan is the primary POV character, the dip in and out of other characters’ POVs also adds some really wonderful layers to the story and sets up some really great tension and suspense. This allows for a really great blend of both foreshadowing and learning information that our protagonists just don’t know. 

Quote: "I panicked. It was just the two of us and -- I was just 20-years-old, barely an adult. So I hid him. I told him to hide his powers. I - I thought about putting him in a hero school. I thought about telling him the truth. I thought about all these things, but god, it was just so much easier to hide. I told him to hide who he was. I - I hid myself and --." Khadija stopped. She was out of breath. She sunk back in her seat, a decade of lies weighing on her. "He's going to start asking questions, Darius. Questions about the Green night. Things I don't want to face." 

Caption: Oh I am intrigued [followed by three eye emojis]

Some other things I enjoyed:

1. The artwork. There is absolutely gorgeous, full-color artwork throughout the book, and the uniforms are completely unisex. There are also little character bios, which are really great. 

A picture of Jordan in his black and gold uniform punching the Red TItan in the face. A rainbow of light swirls behind him and is punctuated by pale blue and gold starbursts. The armor on the Red Titan's face is in the process of shattering. 

Caption: Oh wowza that's stunning.

2. A very diverse cast! There are multiple characters of color—Jordan and Alicia are Black and I believe Reuben is Latino—and multiple disabled characters too! Jordan’s best friend Nathan walks with crutches, and superhero Red Wing, who is Jordan’s squad leader is an accomplished hero who started his hero career already missing one arm. 

3. How very obviously their age the main five leads are. They’re teenagers and it shows, though again, in different ways for each character, no one has the same sort of background. 

There’s so much more. I could go on and on. “StarLion” is a wonderful and fun read.

The biggest warning I would give is for genre typical violence, and one description on page 362, first full paragraph on the page, of an open, compound fracture.

“StarLion: The Thieves of the Red Night” can be found in paperback here and as an ebook here. (The paperback is gorgeous and incredibly satisfying to hold.)

If you enjoy my content and would like to see more, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon!

Changing Times by Dakota Collins

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[Edit: Originally published June 29, 2016]

The gods have slipped into obscurity and with this their powers are dwindling, some are doing better than others.

Dionysus has all but isolated himself from the other gods, that is, until he runs into Apollo busking on the street. Apollo and Dionysus don’t have the best history but Dionysus doesn’t want to let go of this connection and comes up with an excuse to get Apollo to stay. Well it’s half excuse, half actual problem. 

Zeus has disappeared and Demeter is throwing a fit (see: global warming). The best person to get Demeter to stop throwing a fit is Zeus. Cue road-trip music. First stop Hermes. From there’s it’s bouncing to Aphrodite in Hollywood and then trying to talk to Hera. When they do find Zeus… he’s not very helpful. A trip to see Hades and Persephone gets them more information but not entirely what they’d hoped. 

Of course as with any good road-trip story, Apollo and Dionysus don’t get along (they have a history which makes it difficult) however, times are changing and Aphrodite sees something there. And we all know what Aphrodite’s best at. 

The book is great and the humor is fantastic and well placed, but not overwhelming. It also keeps some of the heavier plot bits from being overwhelmingly dark. Some of my favorite bits include:

  • Apollo wearing nothing but band T-shirts and calling emoji’s “emo-knees”.
  • Dionysus has a mohawk.
  • Aphrodite is on a mission to get Dionysus into pants that accentuate his thighs and is also in a poly relationship with Ares and Hephaestus.

The ending while not wholly positive (they’re not able to solve the Demeter problem) sees Dionysus and Apollo get together and be happy together, and things are changing for the better as Apollo gets some of his lost power back. 

If you’re a fan of Greek Mythology, I would definitely recommend checking out this book. It’s very fun and well written. 

@bacchusofficial
@bacchusvevo

You can get the book here.

Related reviews: The Song of Achilles, Love in the Time of Global Warming

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(Notes: 73)  FILED UNDER: changing timesmythologygreek mythologylgbtqgaybisexualpolyamorylgbtq fictiongreek mythqueer fictionfictionebooksdakota collinsbook reviewdionysusapolloaphroditehephaestusares