Title: Karma Girl
Author: Jennifer Estep
Copyright: 2007 (Berkley); pgs. 360
Series: 1st in the Bigtime series
I don’t remember which blog I first saw a review for one of Ms. Estep’s books (and I can’t remember which book it was either, how sad is that?). Nevertheless, I’m glad I picked up this book.
The story is about a small-town reporter, Carmen Cole, who makes it her mission in life to expose super-heroes and uber-villains after she discovers – on her wedding day – her fiancé and her best friend in bed together. As it turns out, they are Beginnings, Tennessee’s resident super-hero and uber-villain respectively. Angry and betrayed, she snaps a few pictures and heads back to her office to write up an exposé. The story is successful and is the first step of her journey from small-town reporter to the golden girl of one of Bigtime’s major newspapers.
Bigtime is Ms. Estep’s Gotham City or Metropolis. The city has the usual assortment of criminals besides the uber-villains. Naturally, that means there is enough criminal activity to support a larger number, and variety, of super-heroes. The most famous group of crime-fighters is the Fearless Five, which is comprised of Striker, Tornado, Fiera, Mr. Sage, and Hermit. When the world-renown heroes aren’t putting away drug dealers and bank robbers, they are battling their arch-nemesis, the Terrible Triad (Malefica, Frost, and Scorpion).
Carmen learns Tornado’s true identity. After the story runs, Tornado apparently commits suicide. Overcome with guilt for her part in the death of the beloved super-hero, Carmen abandons her quest. Blinded as she was by her betrayal, Carmen lost focus of the fact that heroes are still human beings and that they do more good than just battle villains. Between her guilt and the public backlash, Carmen is now persona non grata, and the newspaper reassigns her to the society desk. For six months, Carmen’s life is just one dull society event after another, writing fluff pieces for the paper, and going home. Until Malefica has her kidnapped.
Malefica wants Carmen to unmask the rest of the Fearless Five, or she’ll do something horrible to Carmen. She gives Carmen a deadline of one month to learn their identities. But Carmen is having none of that. She decides that the only way to beat Malefica at her own game is to learn the identity of Striker and use that information to lead her to Malefica’s true identity. Carmen’s experience has shown her that villains are always, somehow, connected to the heroes.
Despite her actions, Carmen is a great heroine. She never tries to deny her part in Tornado’s death. Nor does she sit around waiting to be rescued. She sees a way to beat Malefica and comes up with a plan. Carmen is very much into karma – and her quest to unmask all supers had put her dangerously close to being a villain. Super-heroes are heroes because they will do the right thing, no matter if the person needing assistance is actively engaging in trying to unmask them. Every person who has a super power has the potential of being a hero. What separates the heroes from the villains is whether or not the individual is seeking personal gain or trying to make the world a better place. Carmen comes to understand this after she gets involved with Striker.
Though Striker is initially hurt and angry, it doesn’t stop him from watching over Carmen after her run-in with Malefica. Striker feels his own sense of guilt, that he didn’t know his own best friend well enough to know he’d react badly to being unmasked. He’s a great guy, and I have to say he has three identities — Striker, his true identity’s public persona, and what he’s like in private with Carmen and among the other members of his team. The reader doesn’t get to see much of him, sadly, until Carmen has to hide out at the Fearless Five’s base of operations.
This was a fun, tongue-in-cheek book, packed full of super-hero clichés. I didn’t have any problems, for the most part, figuring out the identities of the supers. I believe the author did that purposely, as a homage to all those comic book heroes whose true identities are hidden by nothing more than eye wear (Superman, Wonderwoman). The only member of the Fearless Five I couldn’t figure out right away was Mr. Sage.
Started: 25 April 2009
Finished: 27 April 2009
This is a re-post. Below are the comments that I was able to salvage from the SQL file. See this post for an explanation. I apology for the inconvenience. (Aug 09)
CJ , 2009-05-25: ‘Hey, great review. I read this when it came out and found it so fresh and fun. I love when you say: “Despite her actions, Carmen is a great heroine. She never tries to deny her part in Tornado’s death. Nor does she sit around waiting to be rescued.” Totally true. I see they have a new cover from my copy–giving it more of a UF feel. I like it.’
Me, 2009-05-25: ‘Thanks, CJ! If the author had handled that aspect differently, especially the guilt, I might not have liked the book as much as I did. All three of the books in the series got updated covers.’
Belle, 2009-05-30: ‘This sounds like a fun book – I like the tongue-in-cheek aspect of it. And the title definitely grabs me! I”ll have to check this one out.’
Me, 2009-05-31: ‘It was a fun book. I hope you get the chance to read it.’
This is a re-post, due to data loss. (Oct 09)e-mail