One thing I’m beginning to realize about Sarah J. Maas is that while she has an amazing ability to write dynamic characters within brilliantly imagined plots, I absolutely hate what she does with her ships. Catwoman: Soulstealer was a pretty amazing book at face value. Selena had the best development and motivation possible for a character. I absolutely adored the plot and the majority of characters were fantastic. And yet I felt the book was somewhat of a failure. Why?
Well, the book never captured the character it was focused on. Had the book been a standalone, one with nothing to do with Gotham or the Batman universe, or even if the main character had simply been some random new creation, it would have been an amazing story. Unfortunately, it wasn’t and even worse, the book completely butchered a large number of its characters. Barring Batwing, who I do not know enough about to be able to say here nor there, all the characters from the original universe fell so despairingly short of the integral pieces of themselves that it genuinely felt as though I was reading about an entirely different world.
And it was disappointing.
By far, the worst of the characters was Poison Ivy—which honestly breaks my heart as we need more LGBTQ characters out there—who devolved somehow from the dark, plant obsessed villain she’s always been into a lovesick gossiper with absolutely none of her spark. While I genuinely appreciated her representation for the LGBTQ community, everything else about Ivy was awful. She never portrayed the strength Poison Ivy is known for, never emulated the anger and fierceness that her source had no problem doing. She felt like an immature teenager playing at a game far too high above her level of understanding.
It was wonderful to see the book be more inclusive, but Ivy never should have declined into the sort of character who pines after another. She never should have been pining after Harley Quinn. Poison Ivy was never one who seemed to love or care about people in general, let alone existing as this immature woman who not only spent the majority of her time in a ‘woe-is-me’ state over Harley, but also partook in ridiculous, and quite frankly juvenile conversations with Selena about “make outs,” an interaction that honestly did not fit either character. Add in the fact that Harley and the Joker never once acted like themselves and you have a recipe for a poorly executed, Gotham themed novel.
And then there was the league, a really cool piece of the Batman world that unfortunately had no place in a Catwoman novel. Their involvement completely destroyed Selena Kyle as we know her, pulling out integral pieces of her character all for the sake of Maas’ plot. And to be fair, her plot was phenomenal. It just wasn’t a good fit for Catwoman. And it genuinely made me wonder just how much Maas truly understood about these characters or even bothered to research. Cursory knowledge about these pieces is not enough to write a novel that both captures and respects the source material.
And then there’s Batwing, whom I hated from the very moment I met him and continued to hate throughout the course of the novel. I think the thing that irked me the most about him was the fact that his thoughts, or just way of thinking, grew increasingly annoying as the novel progressed. I can’t quite put my finger on why I couldn’t stand reading from his point of view, but it just drove me up the wall. Add in the fact that he was somehow the romantic interest for Catwoman—which 100% messes up who her character has always been—and I was left more or less disgusted with everything involving Luke.
This may be personal preference, but I’m sorry, Selena Kyle’s love interest is Bruce Wayne. And to ruin that ship, one I have loved for as long as I can remember knowing about them with bloody Batwing really frustrated me. Especially with the fact that he was super irritating in that final sequence after the final bit of action—if you’ve read the book, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about but I won’t be mentioning it to avoid spoilers. I honestly could not stop rolling my eyes every time his thoughts were presented or he opened his mouth. And this has sort of become a theme I’ve noticed with Maas’ books. She makes love interest decisions in her writing that somehow always manage to rub me the wrong way, which sucks a little for me since I’ve always really enjoyed her writing for the most part.
All in all, I’d say that Catwoman was a good book. It just wasn’t Catwoman. If the characters had all been new and entirely Maas’ own creation, I probably would have liked it a lot more. I even might not have hated Batwing as much if it hadn’t been Catwoman as his love interest. And I think, ultimately, my biggest problem with Catwoman: Soulstealer was the fact that many of the characters just weren’t themselves.