October 30, 2015 • Cee • Reviews

Black Widow Forever Red

[note note_color=”#D41814″ text_color=”#ffffff”]Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl • October 13, 2015 • Disney-Hyperion
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Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments-until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned-and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams. . . .[/note]


First sentence: “Natasha Romanoff hated pierogies—but more than that, she hated lies.”

Natasha, Natasha, where art thou? You’re certainly not in Black Widow: Forever Red (at least, not as much as I had wished you were).

When I heard there was gonna be a novel about Black Widow, I jumped in joy, and I had thought it would be an origins story (of sorts)—like how Natasha became the Black Widow and a bit of her history. The young adult part of Natasha’s life. Imagine my surprise when Black Widow: Forever Red focused on a new character—someone I didn’t particularly care about—and essentially shoved Natasha out of the spotlight.

The Problem with Black Widow: Forever Red

  • Not enough Natasha Romanoff.

You’d think a book that has “Black Widow” in the title would be about well, Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow, the person the book was titled after. But no, the main focus was on Ava Orlova, the girl that Natasha had saved from evil Ivan. Natasha isn’t as a big focus; she feels like a side character that’s just furthering the story along. When she shows up, she feels like an imitation—someone who’s parading behind a Black Widow mask and hadn’t been flushed out to be a fully formed character.

  • You’re expected to know who Natasha is based on the movies.

Have you watched the movies Natasha Romanov appears in? Yeah? Well, that’s good. However, if you didn’t, tough luck. For someone who may not know who Natasha Romanov is, they’ll be at a huge disadvantage because this book expects you to know who she is and how she is like.

Stohl does a poor job exploring Natasha and her background; readers have to rely on the movies’s portrayal of Natasha to “know” her, which is terrible and incredibly lazy. Even if Stohl based Natasha off of the movies, I expected the book to go into who Natasha is and develop her as a character, but do we get that? No, we barely scratched the surface in Natasha’s characterization. Natasha is vague, at best. I hate that we, as readers, are expected to imagine Natasha as the movie version of her, when I really wanted to see how Stohl would portray the character on her own.

  • Holy gross instalove.

Stay away, guys. You have Ava and Alex, a teenage boy who Ava saw in her dreams (bleh, ikr?), who go from 0 to 100 in the romance department in a couple of days. These two barely know each other, but Alex declares he’s in love with Ava after a couple of days of knowing each other. How about no?

(I guess you can blame the conditions they’re in because they’re in a life-threatening situation, but don’t they know? “Relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last.” — Annie Porter from Speed. It’s not love, Alex. It’s just misplaced fear.)

  • No remarkable character development.

You come out of Black Widow: Forever Red not really feeling like this world or the characters were fully developed. You want to learn more about this universe? Ha, sorry, nothing. How about Natasha? Nope. You still don’t get an insight in her character. What about these new characters? Haha, no. And the villain? Ivan, who had a big impact on Natasha’s and Ava’s life, turned to be insignificant villain since he didn’t feel big or bad or anything.

Everything felt underdeveloped. No in-depth exploration of any of the characters. I didn’t feel an emotional connection to any of the characters because they felt like they were masquerading behind masks, pretending to be the person they claimed to be or the movie version you’re expected to know.

  • Margaret Stohl’s writing was lazy. 

I’m not a fan of Stohl’s writing. It’s cheesy and lazy. Black Widow: Forever Red was essentially a typical YA novel with whatever Marvel stuff that could be thrown into it from the movies and TV shows, and had no great lasting impressions or character development.

If you want good Natasha Romanov/Black Widow representation, don’t pick this book up. It’ll be a mistake to. It doesn’t illuminate you on Natasha’s character nor of this world. You’re better off reading fanfiction.


5 Responses to “REVIEW | You’re Better Off Reading Fanfiction (Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl)”

  1. Katherine says:

    Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t like this one! I’ve been looking forward to it because I love Marvel and I need more about Black Widow. I’ve heard some mixed things and I don’t want my perception of her character to change too much. I’m still pretty on the fence about if I want to read it or not.

  2. acps927 says:

    This is the second review I’ve read for this book and the other one made very similar points to yours. I’m so sad this isn’t awesome and full of Natasha!

  3. kama says:

    I need more black widow!

  4. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it. I’m going to be honest and say if I was going to read this I would much rather it be set in the actual Marvel universe rather than the movie-verse just because I like to have all the different Marvel characters be in the same world. I think if I was going to read a book as well I’d much rather it be about the main characters and their story rather than introducing new characters, but then I suppose that’s what fanfic is for, right? I may get this book from the library, but I definitely won’t go out of my way to buy it.

  5. I was super psyched to read this book even though I was also wary because of Stohl and then reviews started pouring in and now I’m never reading this book. WHY IS THERE BARELY ANY BLACK WIDOW IN A BLACK WIDOW BOOK? It’s never a good idea to read a retelling/reworking of a character/fairy tale you love by an author whose work is average at best. I learned this after I read A Whole New World by Liz Braswell. *shudder*

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