Black Canary: Breaking Silence is the fifth installment in DC’s DC Icons series, and is published by Random House Children’s, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Black Canary: Breaking Silence is written by Alexandra Monir (Timeless, Timekeeper), and takes place in a futuristic Gotham ruled by the merciless Court of Owls.
The Court of Owls rose to power after they killed all of the superheroes in Gotham, and they maintain their rule with the help of super-soldiers called Talons. The Court rules with absolute certainty, heavily oppressing the women under their regime and controlling everything from schooling to clothing to jobs. But the regulation that crushes Dinah’s spirit the most is that women are no longer capable of singing. Dinah wants to take down the Court of Owls and let her own voice, along with the voices of all the other silenced women, be heard.
The premise of Black Canary: Breaking Silence is so intriguing: a futuristic Gotham with no heroes, not even a Batman, run by the Court of Owls? A very dystopian Gotham. Sadly, the book doesn’t live up to how great the description sounds. Black Canary: Breaking Silence feels like a generic Young Adult (YA) dystopian novel, just with familiar characters from the DC universe.
One of the first things that really takes the reader out of the story is the awkward and stilted dialogue. While Dinah and friends are teenagers, Dinah herself 17, their dialogue feels comically immature. It never feels authentic and age-appropriate. The dialogue comes off sounding like Monir was trying their best to sound like a teenager, but their only reference to being a teenager is watching some mid-2000s teen movies.
Another glaring issue with Black Canary: Breaking Silence is how heavy-handed Monir’s reminders of women’s oppression. Monir makes some good connections to the real world, with how harmful organizations and oppressive regimes take and keep power, referencing how much propaganda and fear tactics are used by the Court to keep order. But this becomes less effective and more frustrating when Dinah is constantly bringing up the same ideas on every page. Dinah repeatedly laments her inability to dress the way she wants, to sing, to play sports. But Monir does this through Dinah’s internal monologue, relying on telling the reader instead of showing them.
Unfortunately, Monir does the same thing with Dinah’s interest in, and love of, music. Rather than incorporating this into Dinah’s character naturally, Monir has Dinah almost constantly remind the reader of how much she loves music and how much music means to her in a way that often took me out of the story.
Because Black Canary: Breaking Silence is, at its core, a superhero novel, the fight scenes are a big deal. But Monir’s fight scenes fall flat because Dinah is just too powerful. The Talons are the enforcers for the Court of Owls. They’re basically super soldiers and assassins who were capable of slaughtering full-grown, fully trained superheroes. Yet Monir wants the reader to believe that Dinah Drake, a 17-year-old girl who yes, has had some fighting training but not to the level of someone that’s been a superhero for years, can take down Talons. Even with her superhero abilities, Dinah barely struggles to take down multiple Talons. Were she a full-grown adult with years of superhero combat experience under her belt, this would seem a little more realistic. Black Canary is a very powerful hero. But for a teenager with minimal training? I could only suspend their disbelief so far. Because Dinah is just so powerful, the fight scenes in Black Canary: Breaking Silence are short and anticlimactic.
Monir’s over-reliance on so many of the trite elements found in many YA dystopian novels drags down her storytelling. It leaves the book feeling like something the reader has read a thousand times before. The resistance is even just called “the resistance,” in a very unimaginative fashion. Had Monir put her own twist on the dystopian elements, Dinah’s Chosen One role, or her aptitude for fighting back, this book could’ve been something very exciting and fun. But rather, Black Canary: Breaking Silence feels like any other YA dystopian novel. There was even a bit of an immediate love at first sight connection between Dinah and Oliver, but at least there wasn’t a love triangle.
Black Canary: Breaking Silence is available wherever books are sold.
Black Canary: Breaking Silence
With the increased popularity of Black Canary as a character after the massive success of the Birds of Prey movie, it’s unfortunate that her debut DC Icons book is so disappointing.