Review: After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: Hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genre: urban fantasy, superhero romance
Series: Golden Age #1
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: April 12, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

It’s not easy being a superhero’s daughter….

Carrie Vaughn has captured legions of fans with her wildly popular Kitty Norville novels. Now she uses her extraordinary wit and imagination to tell a sensational new story about superhuman heroes—and the people who have to live with them.

Most people dream of having superheroes for parents, but not Celia West. The only daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, the world’s greatest champions, she has no powers of her own, and the most exciting thing she’s ever done is win a silver medal in a high school swim meet. Meanwhile, she’s the favorite hostage of every crime boss and supervillain in Comemrce City. She doesn’t have a code name, but if she did, it would probably be Bait Girl, the Captive Wonder.

Rejecting her famous family and its legacy, Celia has worked hard to create a life for herself beyond the shadow of their capes, becoming a skilled forensic accountant. But when her parents’ archenemy, the Destructor, faces justice in the “Trial of the Century,” Celia finds herself sucked back into the more-than-mortal world of Captain Olympus—and forced to confront a secret that she hoped would stay buried forever.

My Review:

Why did I wait so long to read this?

That’s not a coherent review, but it was my first thought. I poured through this in an afternoon, barely stopping for breath or meals. After the Golden Age is awesome stuff.

It’s a superhero story. But really, it’s a post-superhero story. It’s the origin and the aftermath all rolled into one glorious exploding KA-POW!

It also reminded me a little bit of The Incredibles. What do the superheroes do when they aren’t out there fighting crime? How would they raise a non-superpowered child?

How would you feel if you were the mundane child of the Fantastic Four? If everyone around you had a secret identity, and you were just “original recipe human”?

It’s pretty easy to walk in Celia West’s shoes, and feel that every day would be a major blow to her self-confidence. If most people either emulate their parents or choose lives in reaction against them, well, without superpowers Celia’s choices were limited. Emulation was out.

She chose reaction. Instead of a spandex uniform, she became a forensic accountant, a job most people consider the most boring option on the planet. Of course, that was after a teenage rebellion where she tried the path of evil. For two whole months.

After having been kidnapped. Again. Celia gets kidnapped a lot. It happens so often she’s a bit bored by the whole thing.

As an adult, Celia has tried to create a life that doesn’t reflect the glow of her parents’ super-shininess, no matter many assumptions people make about how wonderful it must have been to grow up in the Olympiads’ inner circle, or how often people try to use her to get close to her famous parents.

But then her boss asks her to bring her accounting skills to bear on the latest “trial of the century”. (There’s always a trial of the century, haven’t you noticed?) The world’s greatest supervillain, The Destructor, has finally been called to account for his misdeeds, not for his heinous destruction, but for his financial chicanery. (This is classic, Al Capone was finally convicted for tax evasion)

But The Destructor is a combination of Kryptonite and Achilles’ Heel for both Celia and The Olympiad. As Celia unravels the winding trail of his black ops’ funding, she finds an origin story she never expected to uncover. And with it, the birth of a conspiracy theory that will bring down the foundation of everything that the good people of Commerce City have ever believed in.

But she will also discover the truth about herself.

Escape Rating A+: After the Golden Age is about the creation and destruction of legends. We find it so easy to put people up on pedestals, and even easier to pull them down. While it’s amazing how quickly the population is manipulated to turn on their heroes, it’s also easy to understand. We’ve seen it happen in real life.

Celia West is the main point of view character, a normal person in a family of supers. She is still recovering, almost atoning, from one act of teenage rebellion. She has had to define her own self-worth from a perspective where nearly everyone, including her own parents, has always judged her as “less-than” because she isn’t super.

So many people have tried to use her to get close to her family; she’s accustomed to it. But when her boss does it, her research deconstructs the legend. Her process of discovery is meticulous without ever being dull, and it occurs on two layers. For each scrap of history she uncovers, she also finds reaches a bit more of her own truth.

After the Golden Age reads like myth creation. And like the best myths, it feels true.

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