Title: Red Sonja: The Falcon Throne
Author: Marguerite Bennett (Twitter)
Artists: Aneke and Diego Galindo
Colorists: Jorge Sutil and Morgan Hickman
Letters: Erica Schultz
Covers: Marguerite Sauvage
Genre/Category: Swords and Sorcery, Fantasy
Release Date: October 2016
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All of the views in review are my own.
Red Sonja: The Falcon Throne is really good.
Really freaking good.
After Sonja rejects the Hyrkanian king’s dying wish that she take the throne after he passes, a new power comes into play and puts Sonja out of work. At first glance, the change that sweeps over the country seems entirely positive. All of the crime seems down and things like widespread education and cheap beer are common. Banditry is a punishable offense and before Sonja can cut down beasts in the forests, the new king’s soldiers do it easily. But the new king (a man from Sonja’s past) is a charming tyrant who sets his soldiers to kill innocents and invade adjacent lands. (He’s also a bit of a xenophobe considering how foreigners are treated…)
So of course Sonja has to stop him in his tracks. That’s basically as close to a spoiler-free plot summary as I can give you because I’m not sure I can do the plot justice in a (mostly) spoiler-free summary because it’s just so good.
Okay, so by now, y’all know that my main focus when I’m reading falls on relationships. Even if I’m not reading a romance, I’m here looking for shippable moments, queer characters in relationships, and all that good stuff.
What’s great, is that if you’ve read anything that Marguerite Bennett has worked on (like oh, I don’t know… DC Bombshells), you’ll know that she tends toward queering narratives and characters that traditionally heterocentric. Basically, if she writes a lady-centered thing, you can probably assume that the ladies are queer.
Like Red Sonja!
Who is probably bisexual even though I doubt the actual label exists in Hyrkania.
In the first issue collected in the trade, there’s basically a set of pages that show like Sonja and people she’s loved in some capacity and sets up the characters for their future introductions.
You have Raka, a fellow warrior who joins with her to fight a giant monster while riding polar bears in the snow. Then there’s Lyna, an orator who has a teasing, flirty relationship with Sonja. Oh yeah, and then there’s Savas.
He’s our big bad current king and boy is he kind of terrible. Definitely, he’s my least favorite of Sonja’s exes. 10/10 would bare-knuckle box in a tavern if I thought I could win because he objectifies Sonja as well as the other women around him. Also well… he’s a terrible king and person who isn’t vaguely worthy of Sonja’s affection.
But moving on from Savas’ terribleness, there’s the Keshan actress and playwright Midyan who gets closer and closer to Sonja and clearly has non-platonic feelings for her. Like… she has moments where she definitely plays a damsel role to Sonja’s hero (including clinging to her and doing that thing that love interests in fantasy films do where they try to spur the hero(ine) on to the just and right path).
Heck, in issue four, there’s this exchange between Sonja and Midyan:
Sonja: Oh, Mitra… This is one reunion I might actually enjoy.
Midyan: Not more of your several evil exes, right?
And then in the next panel, Sonya says that, “As far as paramours past and present, you’ll like Lyna.”
I’m not reading into this. I can’t be. This isn’t a case of queer-coding with nothing to show for it in canon. With that line, it feels as if Marguerite Bennett is confirming that not only is Lyna one of Sonja’s exes, but that Midyan is a potential paramour. (There’s this whole “spurned lover”/”lover betrayed” thing going on in the next issue but I’m not sure how much of that is for show because Midyan is playing a long con against Savas.)
Look. That’s just squee-inducing and I am loving it.
(Yes, the way ladies are portrayed can be a bit male-gazey at some points but it’s not to a point where I ever felt uncomfortable or as if the narrative is objectifying ladies specifically to turn the reader on. Of course, your mileage may vary on this so don’t take my word for it.)
Aside from my fascination with fictional relationships in The Falcon Throne, the story is amazing because of how it explores politics and power in the world of Red Sonja. Sonja has so much love for her people and that means making sure that they wind up with a leader that’s right for them. She’s just… such a great character here and I feel as though her path in this book is incredibly inspiring.
Marguerite Bennet’s six-issue run on Red Sonja is one of the best takes on the character that I’ve ever seen and I wish that she’d been able to get an ongoing series rather than a limited run. It’s just so amazing and I care so much about the characters that are introduced. I would love to see what comes next for these characters, the future of Hyrkania with new rulership at its helm and ladies in charge all over the place.
Seriously, why didn’t we get more of this creative team because the combination of Bennett’s writing with Aneke’s art and Jorge Sutil’s coloring? Out of this world.
Who do I have to fuss at to get another Red Sonja book with this team? Because I’ll do it.