Thursday 31 December 2020

#CBR12 Book 92: "Haunted Heroine" by Sarah Kuhn

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Spoiler warning! This is the fourth novel in the series Heroine Complex and this review may contain spoilers for earlier books in the series. I suspect it will also be a lot more satisfying for someone who's read the preceding three books. Begin with Heroine Complex

Official book description:
Everything in Evie Tanaka's life is finally perfect. As a badass superheroine, she defends San Francisco from demon invasion on the regular. Her relationships with superhero partner Aveda Jupiter, little sister Bea, and hot, half-demon husband Nate have never been stronger. Maybe it's possible for a grad school dropout turned put-upon personal assistant turned superhero to have it all?

As if things can't get any better, Evie learns she's pregnant. She's overjoyed, but also worried about whether she's cut out for motherhood. Before she can dwell on her dilemma too much, a women's college reports a string of mysterious "hauntings," and Evie and Aveda are called in to investigate. When the hauntings turn deadly, they decide to move into the dorms full-time, going undercover as grad students.

As she lives out a bizarre version of her grad school life, Evie can't help but wonder about the road not taken: what would her life be like if she'd stayed here instead of pursuing superheroing with Aveda?

Poor Evie is not having a fun time of it in this book. While she's excited about her pregnancy, she's also terrified. She was given strange superpowers through demonic energy and her husband is half-demon. Said husband is also completely on edge about Evie and super protective of her. He pretty much wants her wrapped in cotton wool until the baby is born, and to Evie's frustration, absolutely refuses to engage in anything resembling physical affection (so as not to elevate her blood pressure). Neither Evie nor Nate exactly had good parenting role models, and while Evie and her younger sister Bea now have a close and mutually supportive relationship, Evie is still feeling guilt and inadequacy in how she handled a lot of her responsibilities when she pretty much had to raise her teenage sister on her own. 

Aveda, on the other hand, is in full cheerleader mode and does whatever she can to support and encourage Evie. She's also the one who insists that she and Evie go back to Morgan College for a reunion. Evie doesn't feel like she belongs at a reunion, after all, she didn't graduate, but quit her degree, exhausted from juggling her studies and taking care of her sister. It's also the place where her powers first properly manifested, when she burned down the campus library in a rage, after finding her college professor boyfriend Richard cheating on her. No matter, Aveda won't take no for an answer, and once they're on campus, they discover that there may be some kind of malevolent supernatural activity there, actually harming the students. Morgan College has always had a reputation for ghosts, but only in brief and occasional appearances. Lately, there have been several harmful and dangerous encounters, and Aveda and Evie are asked to investigate.

Since Evie isn't all too happy with her husband, she agrees to go undercover with Aveda as grad students, which involves not only having to interact with her weaselly ex-boyfriend, Richard but to try out a very different student experience than she was ever able to first time around. 

While it's eventually sort of explained, Nate, Evie's one true love, really is a big dumb stupid for a lot of this book. He kind of makes up for it towards the end of the book, but it takes far too long, in my opinion. So anyone looking for a lot of romance is going to be disappointed, there's mostly angst and pregnancy worries here instead. 

There is, however, the new and much-improved friendship between Aveda Jupiter and Evie Tanaka. They have come a very long way from Evie being Aveda/Annie's long-suffering and put-upon assistant in book 1. With Bea away researching paranormal activities and only able to communicate with her sister long-distance, Aveda is Evie's staunchest supporter, and when Evie finally breaks down and confesses her worries and fears, does her best to put her mind at ease. She's also determined that Evie get to experience all the various college things she never got to do the first time around (except get blinding drunk, no alcohol while she's gestating). 

The two women also befriend several young women who are connected to the case of the malevolent hauntings, and older, stronger, and much more confident Evie gets a chance to finally confront her ex and tell him just how badly he treated her and how f**ked up the power dynamic of their relationship was. By the end of the book, Evie has exorcised a lot of personal demons and is in a much better place.

This book is the start of a new trilogy about the Jupiter/Tanaka superheroines, and it was a lot of fun revisiting this fantasy world again. I reiterate what I said at the beginning of this review, though, I would recommend not starting with this book, there is so much important back story about the various characters and their interpersonal relationships to learn about before reading this one. 

Judging a book by its cover: These books really have absolutely amazing cover art. All kudos to Jason Chan, the artist, for time after time knocking it out of the park with fun, creative, and very accurate ways in giving the reader a glimpse into what the book will feature. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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