Before the Derichet aliens conquered her homeworld, Colleen Cavenaugh was a member of one of its ruling families. Now, with her family gone, Colleen finds herself living alone in their mansion, Avon, and working in a factory to make ends meet. It’s a dangerous world, where human gangs known as Chromatti, as well as the tyrannical Derichets, terrorize the vulnerable. Colleen has been isolating herself to survive. All that changes when she meets Jann, a Chromatti who is increasingly becoming unsatisfied with his directionless gang.  As her life becomes fuller through her interactions with Jann, as well as her niece Lucy, Colleen decides to risk everything and smuggle explosive minerals for the Valenchi, a secret rebel group.

Shattered Warrior is an engaging and hopeful story about a woman trying to overcome her circumstances and carve out a meaningful life. Through Colleen’s evolving interactions with Lucy and Jann, Shinn effectively shows how fighting and daring to love again transforms Colleen, a woman who has isolated herself after her great losses. Artist Molly Knox Ostertag’s bright, colorful illustrations of embraces and loving glances excel at conveying these tender moments. Over the course of the story, Colleen’s personal growth is well-documented, and that arc sends a clear message about the importance of fighting back against repression.

Another strength of Shattered Warrior is that it portrays varying reactions of those who suffer under the yoke of subjugation. Paths explored include members of Jann’s Chromatti gang, Colleen’s self-imposed isolation, and the purposeful Valenchi; the different paths and characterizations add depth to the story. Shinn also effectively uses Colleen’s life to shed light on the darker aspects of the occupation and highlight the role of power in relationships. Colleen’s interactions with the Derichets are particularly well-crafted, and readers will find engaging explorations of the impact of power upon relationships. One example of this is the Derichet who claims he is better than most, yet still uses his authority to try to get her to do what he wants. Ostertag’s illustrations successfully convey the subtle details that frame the story’s bigger picture, and the use of varying focuses and panel shapes are effectively add to the story’s tension.

If there’s one complaint, it’s that some parts of the story happen too easily. For example, Colleen and Jann’s relationship seems to work out too easily. Although Jann expresses concern about their differences in class, the relationship still develops without any real effort to work through those concerns. While Ostertag’s drawings convey closeness, that part of Colleen’s arc doesn’t always ring true. The rescue mission that occurs at the very end is a little too quick and easy. While the book has a solid message, the weaker parts take away some of the message’s strength.

First Second does not have an official age range for Shattered Warrior, but, given that some of the topics—such as sexual violence—are touched upon in the story, it is most appropriate for teens and adults. Although most of the sexual violence is implied, a Derichet assaults Colleen, and readers see the resulting injuries. In one bedroom scene, you can see one of Colleen’s breasts, but, given the context, it makes sense for her to be naked. Overall though, Shattered Warrior is a touching read and will appeal to science fiction and fantasy fans looking for a story with a hopeful tone.

Shattered Warrior
by Sharon Shinn
Art by Molly Knox Ostertag
ISBN: 9781626720893
First Second, 2017

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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