Review / Q&A: Black Canary: Breaking Silence (DC Icons #5) by Alexandra Monir

Rating: 7.0 / 10

Synopsis

THE HANDMAID’S TALE meets the DC universe in this breathtaking, thrilling origin story of Black Canary. Her voice is her weapon, and in a near future world where women have no rights, she won’t hesitate to use everything she has to fight back.

Dinah Lance was seven years old when she overheard the impossible: the sound of a girl singing. It was something she was never meant to hear—not in her lifetime, and not in Gotham City, taken over by the Court of Owls. The sinister organization rules Gotham as a patriarchal dictatorship, all the while spreading their influence like a virus across the globe.

Now seventeen, Dinah can’t forget that haunting sound, and she’s beginning to discover that her own voice is just as powerful. But singing is forbidden—a one-way stop to a certain death sentence. Can she balance her father’s desire to keep her safe, a blossoming romance with mysterious new student Oliver Queen, and her own desire to help other women and girls rise up and finally be heard? And will her voice be powerful enough to destroy the Court of Owls once and for all?

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Black Canary: Breaking Silence for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

Monir’s origin story for the most powerful voice in the DC Universe is, at times, thrilling and exhilarating, while also being truly heartfelt and extremely personal. The fact that the author took direct inspiration from her Iranian roots during the 1979 revolution brings an extra element to the story that gives it new wings to soar on.

While I am was not familiar with the DC Icons series up to this point, I did see big names attached to it when I was originally contacted with this opportunity. Names like Bardugo, Maas, and Lu tend to intrigue even the most casual of readers so I had to see what the series was all about. I’m also not the most well-rounded individual when it comes to the DC Universe, not having grown up reading the comics and only really being interested in the Batman films over the years. Having picked up and read Black Canary: Breaking Silence, it shows that I have a ton more to learn about the universe as a whole (especially about Lance, Queen, and the Court of Owls).

I will say this: YA is still a hit or miss genre for me. I can definitely get behind characters, enjoy solid world-building, and tear through pages of intense action, but romance bogs down my pace immensely. The love interest bits of YA novels tend to just, well, bore me to tears and it was no different here. Lance and Queen’s glances started early on and continued well into the end, and while I get that it works for a majority of audiences, it just isn’t my thing. Having said that, the story was definitely built around their relationship, alongside Dinah’s friendships and family, so I could look past the teenage drama to enjoy a solid story.

While I am probably not the intended audience for this novel or the rest of the series, I thought Monir did a wonderful job bringing Lance to life, and I really enjoyed learning her backstory. I also really need to get the lowdown on the Court of Owls because those Talons are not to be messed with.

Q&A with the Author

1.       Tell me a little bit about yourself (i.e. growing up, schooling, etc)

I grew up in Marin County, the suburbs outside of San Francisco, and fell in love with books from the second I discovered them: basically, before age 2! English and Creative Writing were always my favorite subjects, along with Drama, and my childhood was filled with books, writing my own stories for friends and family, and performing in school plays and community theater. Basically, I was all about literature and the arts!

2.       What sort of career were you pursuing prior to writing?

I was equally fixated on writing and performing in elementary and middle school, but in my freshman year of high school, I wrote my first song- and from there, I spent the rest of my teens completely focused on becoming a recording artist. I wrote and recorded many songs and got to spend my 17th and 18th summers opening up for pop stars like O-Town, which was surreal. But as much as I love music, there was a lot I didn’t love about the recording industry, so when I sold my first book at 23, I was very happy and relieved to find a place where I felt much more at home, which was publishing.

a.       Do you still have a full-time job outside of being an author?

I am a full-time author! But I still write and record music on the side and love incorporating music into my books.

3.       When did you start writing? When did you start writing seriously?

I started scribbling stories in notebooks at age 6 and then typing them up and sending them to friends and family at around 8. Years later, when I was immersed in the recording industry at 16, I came up with a TV series idea about a young singer trying to make it, and from there I wrote a proposal and started pitching it around LA a year or so later. While that project never sold, it led to me getting my first literary agent and some other really integral industry relationships.

4.       How do you combat writer’s block, or do you simply not acknowledge it?

I don’t get writer’s block so much as I just get stumped on what should happen next in a story or scene, at which point it always helps to take a break and consume other media unrelated to what I’m working on, something that just gets me feeling inspired and excited to create again. I remember when I was feeling stuck with THE LIFE BELOW, a sci-fi sequel I published in 2020, watching the Battle of Winterfell episode from Game of Thrones totally revitalized me! The two were wildly different genres, but seeing something that impressive onscreen had me itching to get back to my computer.

5.       Who are some of your writing influences?

I read a lot of the classics growing up and when I was starting out as a writer, and two that made a big impact on me were Daphne du Maurier and Edith Wharton. Nowadays, I’m very inspired by the YA fantasy geniuses Sarah J. Maas and Dhonielle Clayton. 

6.       Did you read growing up? If so, what genres really struck you?

Oh, yes! I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on, and was particularly fond of two totally different genres: historical fiction and contemporary teen fiction, like the Sweet Valley books. It’s the Gemini in me!

7.       Tell me about your writing process. Has it changed over the years?

I think the biggest change is that I now actually have a specific process, rather than just sitting down and letting myself write freely. As my books have grown more complex, I’ve found outlining to be really crucial. The last book I wrote without a game plan was THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE (published in 2016), which I am really proud of, but that was also when I realized how stressful it was to face a blank page every day while drafting. I wrote a very detailed outline for THE FINAL SIX, my 2018 book that followed, and that’s been my process ever since- though I still start out free-writing the first couple of chapters before outlining, to get myself into the story and make sure this is an idea I definitely want to spend a year or longer with!

8.       Can you tell the audience a little bit about Black Canary: Breaking Silence?

BREAKING SILENCE is my original take on the DC superhero Black Canary, and it’s set in a near-future Gotham City where a patriarchal dictatorship known as the Court of Owls rules over them all. Under the Court, women have been stripped of their power and their rights–including the power to sing, which is something 17-year-old Dinah Lance wants to do more than anything in the world. So when she discovers a secret power within her own voice, it sets her world ablaze- and leads to a whole new alter ego. The book is filled with action/adventure, twists and turns, original music, and a dash of romance with Oliver Queen- who comic book fans know as the Green Arrow!

9.       What was it like writing your grandmother into the story?

It was incredibly meaningful for me, and made this book feel like my most personal novel to date. My grandmother was tragically taken from us too soon, so I never got to meet her, but I’ve always felt connected to her, and I know she was with me in spirit while I was writing this.

10.   Tell me about how the story was directly inspired by your roots amidst the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

I was born long after the Revolution, once my parents had escaped to the U.S., but it still had a formidable impact on my life. My parents did an amazing job of instilling my brother and me with our culture and history, and they were very honest with us about the trauma of the Revolution and their escape, so it was always there in the background of my life. When it was first suggested to me that I would be a good fit to write a Black Canary story, I immediately imagined a world where women and girls are forbidden to sing, and how Dinah Lance could be a beacon of hope in an oppressive patriarchy. The reason I thought of that is because of what happened after the Iranian Revolution, when women could be jailed for singing publicly. It’s a cruelty that exists to this day there, and something I wanted to wrestle with on the page.

11.   How did your time as a former teen pop singer/songwriter help you bring Dinah Lance to life?

I think my former teen pop singer life was crucial to me writing Dinah’s story. It allowed me to write three original songs into the book, but also to tap into those feelings I experienced when I was her age and when life felt so intense that words alone weren’t enough to express myself with, I had to put it into song.

12.   What are you working on now?

It’s been a year of getting to write my dream characters- first with Black Canary, and then I recently signed with Disney to write a historical fantasy YA about Princess Jasmine!! It comes out in Fall 2022, so I’m about to dive into work on that manuscript!

13.   Do you have any book recommendations for the audience? Maybe something you have read recently?

My favorites of 2020 were SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid in adult fiction, and LOBIZONA by Romina Russell in YA. Both are absolutely amazing!

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