Kelly Thompson’s The Girl Who Would Be King, published 2012, is the story of two girls with superpowers. Bonnie comes from a long line of Braverman women whose power makes them ‘good’, while Lola is of the LeFever line whose power is ‘evil’ – wild and chaotic. Their story is driven in part by destiny and in part by an ancient power. One is superhero, the other supervillain, equal and opposite in power and nature, forever struggling.
The novel is written in first person, alternating between Bonnie and Lola as they head out into the world, slowly learning the extents of their superpowers. Bonnie is eighteen and Lola is sixteen, and while it’s technically Young Adult it doesn’t really feel like it. It is, rather, a very careful, well balanced and tightly plotted superhero story with detailed fight sequences. [There are moments where the combination of destiny and Young Adult becomes a little heavy handed, in particular the whole one true love concept – which is implied rather than stated absolutely, but creates a bizarre sub-plot where the female leads can only have sex with their fated mates. (*)]
It is delightful, however, to have a superhero story where both hero and villain are characters that are written with love and care, and especially since they are both female. Female superheros that aren’t written as secondary characters in a primarily male superhero universe. The pacing is tense and the story addictive, and while I could criticise it on a number of minor points, a five-star rating is well deserved.
Kelly Thompson has enlightened me on her intentions with this plot – see the comments on my review on goodreads:
[Lola’s] inability to have sex with other boys after what happens with Adrian is absolutely supposed to be about emotional trauma/PTSD. … I never intended to say the “power” has chosen or fated Lola to only be with Adrian (or Bonnie only with Clark).