2022’s Holiday Heroine is the sixth novel in Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex series.
Bea Tanaka’s brand-new life in Hawai‘i is almost perfect. Newly hired by the Demon Research Group1, she is establishing a life independent of her doting, domineering older sister Evie. Hunky friend-with-benefits Sam Fujikawa has the potential to become something more. Bea 2.0 will be in all ways superior to the old Bea 1.0 back on the mainland. Or so she hopes.
If only Bea didn’t have a niggling doubt: she might still be a little evil.
Bea had dabbled in supervillainy for what seemed like compelling reasons at the time. She used her mind control powers selfishly rather than selflessly. Having sidestepped the worst consequences of her actions, Bea has repented and vowed never to use her powers for evil again.
Bea is haunted by the possibility that even if she doesn’t intend to control other people, she might be using her powers unconsciously. If attractive people fall for her, are they really smitten or are they simply Bea’s lust-puppets? If a co-worker bakes her cookies, was that from a genuine desire to bake or did Bea all unaware slip the idea into their victim’s mind? Questions like that make it hard for Bea to enjoy being Bea 2.0.
She is distracted from such worries by a sudden kaiju attack. Life gets even worse when Bea discovers that she and Sam have broken up in a conversation she does not remember having. She further discovers that the reason she does not remember the conversation is because she is somehow jumping forward through time2. She is stuck in an actor’s nightmare as she navigates events whose causes she does not remember.
Thanks to an old enemy, things are even worse. The past, it seems, is not unchangeable. If Bea makes bad decisions, those she loves may be forever erased from the timeline.
It happens I had the Flash TV show running in the background as I read this. One of the running themes in Flash is that every problem eventually turns out to have been somehow caused by the Flash, despite which people seem to think he is a hero for fixing issues that would not exist without him. I was a little afraid that that would happen here, that Bea would eventually discover she was the unwitting instigator of all of her problems. Nope3.
Which isn’t to say Bea doesn’t make some poor life choices, although since a number of them occur in the time spans she bounces over, I am inclined to give her a pass for decisions she was not present to make.
This book is essentially intellectual popcorn, which I don’t mean negatively. Anyone who has read earlier books will know the plots tend to end happily ever after (or at least as happily ever after as things can be in a superhero series that hasn’t ended), so probably Bea isn’t going to discover she is this universe’s answer to Dark Phoenix. Even if she did, it would be possible for her to make amends. There will not be piles of bodies. The American government will continue to take a hands-off approach to superheroes4.
Obnoxious people are punished; the prose is acceptable; the plot moves along nicely and makes more sense than any news you are likely to read in the near future.
1: Scientists who research demons, not demons who research. There is in fact a demon who dabbles in cutting-edge fields of knowledge, but their work is not peer reviewed.
2: Note to Champions players intrigued by the idea of allocating points to a mystery power of the game-master’s choice: this book shows us the sort of result one can expect.
3: Another running theme in Flash is that time travel makes everything worse. That definitely seems to be the case here. It makes sense, because why should the author bother with time travel at all if it’s not going to cause interesting complications?
4: All superpowers are ultimately demonic in origin, so it’s a little weird that the Republicans are not calling for mass arrest and imprisonment.