Black Widow : Forever Red
by Stohl, Margaret

Natasha Romanov, called the Black Widow, rescues a young girl, Ava, from Ivan, the man who once trained her as an assassin-and eight years later she is called upon to protect Ava from a threat from the past.

Margaret Stohl is the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series. Her solo books include Icons and Idols. Before writing her first novel, Stohl was a veteran of the video-game industry, working with Activision (now Activision Blizzard) and Westwood Studios (now Electronic Arts). Margaret later became a cofounder of 7 Studios with her husband, Lewis Peterson. She has previously been nominated for Most Innovative Game Design at the Game Developers Conference. She lives in Santa Monica, California with her husband and daughters.

*Starred Review* Eight years ago, U.S. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanov was on a routine mission to assassinate her childhood nemesis in a Ukrainian warehouse when she rescued an eight-year-old girl, Ava. But rescuing Ava meant she was placed in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s own spy-training camp, only now she's escaped, and Natasha feels an inexplicable need to find her, along with an intense compulsion to monitor Alex, a teenager in New Jersey who, by all rights, should be a stranger. Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, 2009) brings this rip-roaring story from the illustrated pages of Marvel comics to a traditional novel, opening the door to the ever-popular Avengers universe for those averse to comic books. Stohl plumbs the depths of international black ops, Soviet spy games, and paramilitary operations in the myriad plot twists, while Ava, Alex, and Natasha each develop as rich, credible characters. In vivid language, Stohl effortlessly describes both the technology and geography at play as well as the characters' compelling interior lives, revealing how they respond to the traumas of their pasts, superpowered or otherwise. Every aspect of this book is terrific, from the concrete details and rich language to the interactions among Alex, Ava, and Natasha as well as their encounters with friends and enemies as the going gets rougher and deadlier. Here's hoping for a sequel! HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Stohl's name is appealing enough, but with a story drawn from the unstoppable Avenger franchise, this one's destined to be a blockbuster. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

A homeless Ukrainian girl, a suburban American boy, and a world-famous superheroine save the world. Eight years ago, Natasha Romanov rescued a little girl from Natasha's own evil father figure, Ivan the Strange, and promised the child she'd always be there for her. Then Natasha—the Avenger known as the Black Widow—vanished from Ava Orlova's life, leaving her in the questionable care of the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Now Ava is a fiercely independent teen living in the basement of a Brooklyn YWCA. Ava has free fencing lessons and her ongoing dreams of a mysterious tattooed boy she calls Alexei Manorovsky; what else does she need? When her best friend convinces her to join a fencing tournament, she chances upon both her tattooed dream boy and the Black Widow. The Black Widow insists Ava is in danger and must be protected; Alex Manor, entranced by Ava, demands to help. In the ensuing explosion-packed adventure, Alex spouts pop culture ("Fifty points for Ivanclaw" ), all three protagonists get their own overwrought dramatic arcs, and cameos from Marvel characters such as Tony Stark and Phil Coulson enhance the fan appeal. Unfortunately, the plot development is largely incoherent, and worldbuilding feels phoned-in. The portrayal of Ukrainian culture owes more to Cold War comics than reality, and evil Ivan's mad-scientist bunker laboratory could be recycled from almost any other action-movie commie supervillain's. Fans of the Marvel Universe aren't by definition stupid, and even though they will be jazzed by the schmaltzy heroic high jinks, they still deserve better than this. (Adventure. 11-14) Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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