CATWOMAN: SOULSTEALER (DC Icons #3) - Sarah J. Maas
Published: August 2018 - Random House Books.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / science fiction / retellings
Pages: 384.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence.
Format: eBook.
Source: Borrowed.
When the Bat's away, the Cat will play.
It's time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City's slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking. Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing's undoing.

This was a squad read with two awesome ladies, Di and Uma. Keep an eye out for their reviews!

As most of you know, I have a love hate relationship with the books of Sarah J. Maas. But I was actually super hyped for this one because A) amazing cover and B) DC and Catwoman and superheroes and Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. I mean, heck yes!

Unfortunately, I doubt I'll ever love Maas' writing. It's simply not a style I enjoy. It's extremely repetitive and melodramatic, and here are some examples to prove it: 'and as that hand closed around Maggie's arm, as her rasping inhale of breath, of pain, at the tightness of the grip, filled the apartment, the world, Selina exploded...' 
- 'Selina Kyle blew out a long breath as she lifted her chin and stepped into the sound and the light and the wrath. Let the bloodying begin' 
- 'So Selina loosed a settling breath and beheld the sparkling city as she reclined in the cushioned seat of the car. And finally, at long last, she allowed herself a little smile. Let Gotham City enjoy its final days of summer.'
While I totally understand some people loving that style of writing, it just makes me want to roll my eyes and fling the book across the room.

But I adore Maas' Gotham. The atmosphere crackles with superhero phenomena and mayhem the likes of Harley Quinn and the Joker, and Maas perfectly captures that dark, brutal essence of the city and its underworld. It's grim, it's filthy, and it's a constant writhing snake of evil ready to spring. It's definitely more atmospheric than the Gotham we saw in Marie Lu's Batman Nightwalker. I love it.

In terms of plot, the story is underwhelming. Maas plays it extremely safe and sticks close to risk-free incidents that do little to upset the characters. Basically, the volume could've been turned way up. It's not particularly unique, it's not particularly thrilling - definitely not blockbuster style - and the incidents are so random and disjointed. It's the kind of plot you only understand at the very end when all is revealed, but in this case I didn't even feel like the ending paid off. It didn't quite make all the randomness and vague motivations worth it.
There's also a lot of potential conflict - primarily the relationships between the characters - that is never tapped into or developed. And that ruined the majority of the story for me.

“ This time, someone would come looking. Hopefully, they’d want to play.

Harley Quinn was the only character I loved. Unlike the rest of the cast, she's fully-realised, distinctive, and every bit as twisted and psychotic as we've seen her before. I love that Maas manages to encapsulate Harley's spirit and convey it so effortlessly; from her dialogue to her mannerisms to her fashion sense, she's Harley Quinn through and through. She's also miles more interesting than Selina's character.
I also liked Poison Ivy. However, she could've been fleshed out more.

Luke and Selina are annoying, and believe me, I really tried to like them. Of course they're supermodel gorgeous - Selina's slim, sexy, toned, and Maas even mentions that her legs are waxed; Luke is muscular and all the ladies are after him - but their "personalities" are dull and duller. Luke's character is irritating and boring. He's a broken hot hero, and his relationships with the people around him, including his romance with Selina, are all poorly developed and unconvincing. In addition, the potential in his relationship with Bruce (Batman doesn't ever make an appearance but he's occasionally mentioned ) is wasted. I never felt the urgency Luke was supposedly feeling trying to prove himself to Bruce. It never felt like a big-enough deal, and as a result Luke's motivation for being Batwing fell through.
There's also the "diversity" factor: Luke is black. While I appreciate Maas' effort in that respect, she really should not have bothered because it all comes across extremely forced. It's handled so clumsily.

But at least Luke has some personality. I can't say the same for Selina. She has no distinct character traits or flaws, no quirks, and no dimension. She's Maas' Aelin with less sass and even less development. There's also the fact that Selina is supposedly morally grey, but to me, her dark side never feels convincing enough. Everyone worships at her feet, and by the end she's a martyr who can do no wrong. I'm not denying Maas love for her heroine, but it's actually painful to read when the author so clearly worships the character she's written.

If you're a Maas fan, you'll probably love this book. At worst you'll just think it's fun. While I had major issues with the characters, writing, and plot, I was definitely entertained.