I think I picked up Dreams of the Golden Age (Urban Fantasy 342 pages) by Carrie Vaughn last week and I read it today. This book is the sequel to After the Golden Age and I think the two books, both individually and combined, provide an excellent look at what it means to be a superhero.
This is also one of those books where reading the back of the book actually encourages the reader to be curious instead of giving away the whole plot or key parts of character development: “Like every teen, Anna has secrets. Unlike every teen, she’s the granddaughter of the city’s most legendary heroes. Hiding her burgeoning superpowers from her parents is hard enough; how’s she supposed to keep them from finding out that her friends have powers, too? Or that she and the others are meeting late at night, honing their skills and dreaming of becoming Commerce City’s next great team of masked adventurers? Maybe, just maybe, these teens – all descendants of the city’s previous generation of superpowered humans – will one day fill the gap left by the dissolution of the city’s previous team of heroes, the Olympiad …”
The story follows Anna and her friends as they discover their powers and work to help the city through the only way they know how – using their new super powers to reduce criminal activities and make Commerce City a safer place. I really liked the portrayal of superheroes throughout both this book and the previous one. I admired Celia and the way she was extremely competent at running West Corp and how she actually cared about using her money and resources to make the city itself a more fantastic place to live. She did research and found ways to build sustainable resources. She thought about people within the city as actual people instead of financial markers, which means she wanted to make low-income housing areas as well as transportation hubs so that people would be able to walk along the city streets as pedestrians and do their shopping that way. And the best part? Celia, Anna, and Bethy had zero flashy powers between the three of them, but they all worked to make their city better. Not by shooting bolts of lightning or causing massive storms, but by using their existing skills to make a difference. They were masters of their crafts. And none of those three characters used any sort of violence or action to help save the city.
As a novel, this story build tension because you can see everything that’s going on as the reader, but the story and characters are so artfully woven in the story that you understand that the characters have absolutely no way to see the situation you do. I spent a good three-quarters of this book seeing how everything could go terribly, terribly wrong for the heroes and hoping that the story would be a positive one in the end. I’m not going to provide any spoilers for the character development or plot from the novel, but I will say that I really enjoyed this book on a lot of different levels.
Overall, I think this book is probably a low four on my rating scale. I like the characters, I like the story, and I really like the way good guys and bad guys are defined and dealt with. I’m happy that I own this book and I foresee myself rereading this book.