To call Kelly Thompson’s The Girl Who Would Be King a simple superhero novel would be to do it a disservice. To call it a wonderful coming of age story about two girls who happen to have superpowers makes it sound like it might be some sort of “girls only” book, and that’s not true either. What’s true is that The Girl Who Would Be King is unique, massively captivating story starring two characters who you’ll want to see again when the book is over.
That’s the key to The Girl Who Would Be King — Bonnie and Lola, two 16-year-olds who don’t know each other exist, who receive mysterious powers upon the death of their parents, and who are destined by fate to destroy each other. But while Bonnie is quiet and kind, eventually learning to use her powers for good, Lola begins the novel by killing her own mother to get her powers, determined to be as super a supervillain as she can be. They both set out on their own, Bonnie almost against her will, Lola to see what havoc she can wreak.
I know this description sounds like one of a hundred indie comics, but Thompson’s strength lies not in the mythology of The Girl Who Would Be King, but in creating two amazing characters that feel incredibly real and relatable even as they’re punching people through buildings or picking bullets out of their shoulders. Thompson has a gift for interior dialogue that most best-selling authors would envy, and its this that makes these characters so three-dimensional, so relatable, and so great.
And when I say the characters are great, I meant that heroine Bonnie is great, and her nemesis Lola is, without hyperbole, one of the most fantastic antagonists I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Oh, she’s evil, certainly, but she’s so fun, flawed and brutally honest with herself and the readers that it’s impossible not to root for her in some way. Her journey to figure out how a 16-year-old girl with superpowers can somehow translate them into creating an actual criminal empire is genuinely riveting, hilarious, and even heartbreaking.
Honestly, I was a bit wary of reviewing this book, because I was worried that as a guy I might not be the intended audience, that there would be some feminine level I wouldn’t be able to see. And maybe that’s true, but even if so, I can assure you that I could still barely put the book down. Gentlemen, it does not have cooties. What The Girl Who Would Be King has is a great superhero story starring two wonderful, believable, charismatic characters that will stay with you long past the final page.