Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Golden Age #1

After the Golden Age

Rate this book
Can an accountant defeat a supervillain? Celia West, only daughter of the heroic leaders of the superpowered Olympiad, has spent the past few years estranged from her parents and their high-powered lifestyle. She's had enough of masks and heroics, and wants only to live her own quiet life out from under the shadow of West Plaza and her rich and famous parents.

Then she is called into her boss' office and told that as the city's top forensic accountant, Celia is the best chance the prosecution has to catch notorious supervillain the Destructor for tax fraud. In the course of the trial, Celia's troubled past comes to light and family secrets are revealed as the rift between Celia and her parents grows deeper. Cut off from friends and family, Celia must come to terms with the fact that she might just be Commerce City's only hope.

This all-new and moving story of love, family, and sacrifice is an homage to Golden Age comics that no fan will want to miss.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published April 12, 2011

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Carrie Vaughn

248 books4,331 followers
Carrie Vaughn is the author more than twenty novels and over a hundred short stories. She's best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. In 2018, she won the Philip K. Dick Award for Bannerless, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery. She's published over 20 novels and 100 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. She's a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop.

An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado, where she collects hobbies.

Visit her at www.carrievaughn.com

For writing advice and essays, check out her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/carrievaughn

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
706 (19%)
4 stars
1,592 (44%)
3 stars
1,010 (28%)
2 stars
206 (5%)
1 star
60 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 607 reviews
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 95 books82.9k followers
December 2, 2014
It's one thing to believe your parents are perfect, and another to know they are. Celia's parents are super heroes, and she has spent ten years trying to escape their shadow. Unfortunately, her biggest teenaged rebellion resulted in their unmasking, which turned her into every criminal's favorite hostage. Now she's working as an accountant on the case that will put away her family's biggest foe--but will her own mistake be exposed?

It's a multi-layered book. I couldn't help but read Celia's superhero dad as a rageoholic, whose emotional bullying nearly loses him his only child, while her mother is an enabler, and Celia is the teenager who must escape an abusive him. Her friends are few and precious, and despite someone's deliberate plan to use her to destroy the city, she is determined to stop the coming war between superheroes and a mastermind bent on slaughter!

This is my second reading, and I liked it even more than last time, obviously.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,781 followers
July 13, 2013
It seems like so many of these "superhero novels" are written by people who, don't have fond memories of the original superheros. I'm not sure Carrie Vaughn feels that way... she seems to me to fall into the "nobody could REALLY be that much of a hero" slot as her book sets out to prove.

Celia West is the grown "normal" (read non-super powered) daughter of the "Worlds Greatest Super Hero Couple" (Sky High did it better). We get treated to her misery at having had to grow up with her angry dad and "super-competent" as well as "super" mother. AND we get the story of her rebellious teen age years ,"all not her fault and completely understandable of course because her life with her parents was just sooooooo unbearable..."

Pardon me as I gag.

Of course as we discover...nothing is what it seemed or what anyone thought it was.

Yes, yes, we've been there, done that (got the T-shirt). Enjoy it if it's your cup of tea. I didn't hate it...much, but I didn't like it either. Not for me. I almost went with 2 stars but then I thought, why kid myself. There are books I've rated 2 stars I liked far better...so, maybe 1.3, or maybe .5???? Oh well.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,312 reviews1,595 followers
December 16, 2015
So it seems that this book was destined to help me make up for lost time! I absolutely could not put this book down once I started it. And I have to say that I was completely surprised by this book. It was so much better than I ever thought it would be.

It starts out feeling a little comicbookish, a little cartoony. I mean, it's about super heroes, for goodness sake. And that aspect of the story is very comicbookish - not that that is a bad thing. If that was all there was to the story, I'd have still liked it, but it would have been a 3-star like, rather than a 5-star love. But there was so much more to this story than a good vs bad, superhero vs villain story. This was a really interesting and innovative twist on the story that sucked me right in and kept me glued to the pages until there weren't any more of them. And now I feel a bit sad that it's over.

I was very surprised at how emotional this book was. I completely identified with the main character's feelings of isolation and desperation and despair and frustration and everything in the situation that she was in. In fact, I thought she handled the situation infinitely better than I would have. I would have probably shut down and closed up shop and said 'screw it, then'. I have to give Celia credit for not doing that, and not giving up.

I really loved this book, and as an introduction to Carrie Vaughn's writing, it was amazing. Now my only concern is that her other books might not live up to this one.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,004 followers
July 18, 2015
It’s been a while since I read this the first time, so I felt I should revisit it before I read the second book, even though I gather that follows the next generation. I was right that I needed to do that: a lot goes on that I’d forgotten the details of. I think this was the first superhero novel I read, possibly before I got into comics; it’s made me eager to read as many other superhero novels as I could, though so far I’ve just got to the point of collecting them all up, not actually reading them yet…

Anyway, this is a fun story; actually, it’s not exactly a superhero story in the traditional sense, because while the main character is the daughter of superheroes, she doesn’t have any powers of her own, unless you count being a kickass accountant. I guess on a second read you can see that it’s a little bit predictable, that the characters are not all developed… it’s a little bit tropey: I can see that same parental relationship problem as there is in Perry Moore’s Hero, for example. It’s a fairly predictable problem to have if your parents are really famous, let alone if they have superpowers. Worse if you don’t have superpowers.

I did like, though, that there was a certain ambivalence about Warren. He’s a hero, sure, and he’s learned to control things. And his daughter is important to him. But then he’s also thinking mad things like dropping his daughter off a roof to see if her power is flight, and nearly attacking her because she doesn’t go his way… And then again, on the flip side of that, he’s doing his best to rein himself in and reconcile. And they don’t quite reconcile, it’s not quite that easy, but they make some moves in that direction. Celia herself is a little ambivalent: she feels like she could flip and go with the supervillains, she has spent time with her father’s main adversary primarily to split from her parents and rile him up.

The relationship with Arthur Mentis could be problematic, but they kind of deal with the fact that he knew her as a child, and the story definitely deals with the way his mindreading affects the relationship.

All in all, it’s still really enjoyable, at least to my mind, and I’m looking forward to fiiiinally reading the sequel.

Posted on my blog here.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,004 followers
August 19, 2012
I'm on a bit of a superheroes kick since The Avengers came out and reminded me of a childhood spent breathlessly waiting for the next episode of Batman, or Spiderman, or Superman. These days I'm more of a Marvel fan -- is it, uh, legal to admit that I watched the first ten minutes of Batman Begins and got bored? -- but anyway, the point is, superheroes! And Carrie Vaughan's After the Golden Age catered to that wonderfully.

I think the premise at its most basic isn't really anything new: the child of two superheroes, who is powerless, rebels and gradually finds her own place in the world. I liked that she was an accountant. I liked that she got tired and frustrated and did things wrong, and that she second guessed her own motives.

Best I liked the romance. It didn't turn out how I was expecting, and it was a pleasant surprise. It was well built up and brought together.

Overall, the prose wasn't stunning but the pacing was good, and the moments of shock and pain reach through to the reader perfectly. It's a quick read, and also the kind of read where you aren't conscious of the time that does pass -- in my experience, anyway.
Profile Image for Squee.
53 reviews151 followers
August 26, 2013
Although I read this book in a single afternoon, I ended up feeling irritated and a bit cheated at the end. An awful lot of the book is a prolonged whine by the main character, Celia West, who has a major issue with being the normal daughter of two super-powered parents.

The book starts out all right and even has some decent humorous moments, but as it progresses it becomes more and more clear that Celia is a narcissistic idiot who really hasn't learned anything from her life experiences. Her "teenage rebellion" is , and she feels only indignation at the mention of it rather than shame or regret. Yikes. There is a shallow love story pasted on to the barely-there main plot, but neither of Celia's suitors is adequately fleshed out or has any chemistry with Celia. Her father actually seems to be a bigger jerk than she is in some ways, but have no fear--he will be redeemed in the tidiest, most cliched possible way.

I picked up this book without realizing that it was from the same author as the Kitty Norville books, of which I've only read the first (and will not read any more). I seem to be encountering lately a glut of books featuring privileged, fairly well-off, yet incredibly whiny and shallow young women whose lives just aren't quite perfect enough (and who can't shut the eff up about it), and Carrie Vaughn seems to be a serial offender. I'm done with this author.

EDIT: Oh good God, I see that this book has now been designated the first in a series and another one is coming in January. I don't know what to say. I'm not sure who is worse--the publishing industry that keeps pimping junk like this, Twilight, Eragon, City of Bones, etc., or the shallow, subliterate masses that buy them in such numbers as to justify it. Bah.
Profile Image for Nan.
839 reviews74 followers
April 17, 2011
This novel was utterly amazing and fantastic. Vaughn clearly knows superhero literature, and her fondness for the genre allows her to write in it with respect while analyzing the tensions at the heart of superhero mythology.

Celia West is the famous daughter of Commerce City's two most famous superheros--Captain Olympus and Spark, the founding members of the Olympiad. They were not the city's first superheros--a masked man called Hawk fought crime before they did. Hawk had no powers, and he retired just as the Captain and Spark became proficient at their calling. Celia has very little contact with her parents. She cut all ties with them when she was a teenager. They always placed the welfare of the city before their daughter, and while she could understand their priorities, she also found it difficult to bear. Villains always assumed that Celia was a priority in her parents' lives, and she was kidnapped several times (six and counting . . .) in an attempt to control her parents. It never worked.

Part of the distance between Celia and her parents stems from the fact that she's normal. She has no powers and no common ground to share with them. This distance--as well as her relative fragility--makes it difficult for them to relate to one another.

This is the situation as After the Golden Age opens. Celia is working as a forensic accountant in a firm that consults for the DA. After her most recent kidnapping attempt, the DA asks specifically for her to be assigned to what may be the case of the century--a tax fraud prosecution of the Destructor, a notorious villain and her parents' arch nemesis. As Celia digs into the case, her complicated history resurfaces in such a way to cast doubt on her reliability. Celia cannot bear the thought of being judged for her prior acts, and she digs deeper into the Destructor case to prove her worth. She's also concerned because several new gangs are attempting to take control of Commerce City. It's clear that there's a mastermind behind the recent attacks, but it's not clear just who that might be. The Destructor is locked away, and someone new seems to have stepped up to fill the vacuum.

Alternately funny and shocking and heart-rending, After the Golden Age questions one city's reliance on its heroes as saviors. Moving between Celia's past and present, the novel explores the complicated relationship between our childhood and our adulthood as the parents we both love and despise shape us to become like them.

Vaughn is not a stylist. Her prose is clean and serviceable, establishing the points she's making with a minimum of description or purple prose. All the same, her quiet observations of characters make this novel the powerful story that it is. When I first heard about this book, I knew that I wanted to read it. Once it was available, I bought it almost immediately and read it almost all the way through in one day. This is a fast-paced story, one that gets you to care about characters and the City where they live.

I believe I said this about Carrie Vaughn's other standalone novel, Discord's Apple, and I'll repeat myself here. I do not want Vaughn to write a sequel to this book. After the Golden Age is a fantastic story from beginning to end, and I don't want to see that perfection weakened in a series.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,970 followers
June 27, 2011
Original review published on The Book Smugglers: HERE

First Impressions:

Ana: What do I expect when picking up a book about superheroes to read? I expect to be at the very least entertained; I expect it to be fun. Anything beyond that is added bonus. After the Golden Age met my expectations right on the head: I devoured this book. More than that, it provided me food for thought on the nature of heroism which in this case, counts as the aforementioned added bonus. Although it is not a perfect book, I did have a great time reading it.

Thea: I’m familiar with Carrie Vaughn’s work, having read her Kitty Norville series and one of her YA offerings (Steel). Although I’ve had varied experiences with these books, I’ve been entertained by all of them, and so was very excited to see Ms. Vaughn tackle the superhero world with After the Golden Age. And you know what? I liked it. I really, truly liked it and found myself drawn into the story and unwilling to put the book down until I had finished the entire thing. Although there are a few niggles and character issues that bothered me along the way, After the Golden Age is a wonderful homage to the superheroes of old, and a damn fun book at the same time.

On the Plot:

Ana: Celia West is the only daughter of the world’s greatest superheroes, the two leaders of the Olympiad (the superteam that protects the citizens of Commerce City). Having no superpowers of her own, Celia is an accountant who tries to lead her life as far away from her parents’ lifestyle as much as she can, but unfortunately the shadow of her estranged super-parents follows her everywhere she goes. When she is called by the DA’s office to help prosecute the super villain The Destructor for tax fraud, Celia is pushed back into the life she wished she could leave behind and simply forget. But then she stumbles upon a secret that could change everything.

The plot of After the Golden Age is two-fold: Part mystery, part coming-of-age. The first relates a series of crimes affecting Commerce City with new villains coming into the game just as The Destructor seems to be taking a back seat – or is he? This new series of crimes is what leads Celia to start investigating the past and possible connections between The Destructor and The Olympiad and the mystery surrounding the very beginning of super-powered beings. Although the answer to the mystery was heavily telegraphed and easy to guess, the point was to actually inspire the discussion about whether superheroes are born or made. This to me, is quite possibly the best aspect of the novel (or any other novels about superheroes, really). Although, I don’t think this was explored with the depth it deserved, it still made for an interesting side aspect of the novel making it more of a Watchmen -like read than say, a JLA one.

The other main theme is Celia’s role in all this and her coming of age. Although it sounds weird to say that since she is of course, a woman and not a young girl it seemed that up to the point where the novel started, she had been living in a limbo of self-denial, but more on that later on.

Thea: From a pure writing and storytelling standpoint, Carrie Vaughn is at the top of her game with After the Golden Age. The pace of the story clips along quickly and adeptly, as Celia gradually puts the pieces together and figures out not only the mystery of the recent crime spree in her city, but also uncovers some old family history. While I completely agree with Ana that the mystery was pretty transparent, and some of Celia’s actions whilst uncovering the truth are headdeskingly frustrating, the storytelling is so even-handed that none of that obviousness truly seemed to matter. In many ways, After the Golden Age reads just like a traditional Urban Fantasy novel – there’s the same isolated heroine, the same peril facing some urban location that only the heroine can stop (even though she doesn’t want to get involved).

Now, while the storytelling is great, I enjoyed myself, and sped through the book like Breezeway (one of the superheroes in the Olympiad), there were a few mechanical and thematic things that bothered me. First, when Celia does all her “research” and discovers the truth of West Corporation’s medical experiments (at about halfway through the book) and also draws a conclusion about an unlikely villain, instead of telling anyone about her earth-shattering discoveries, she decides to keep it quiet because…she doesn’t have enough evidence? Or something? I really, really dislike these plot devices, wherein characters know things but choose not to tell them in order to build tension and ultimately result in calamity later, after which the character will look back in tear-streaked regret screaming, If ONLY I told them!, whilst shaking their fists dramatically at the sky. Ahem.

This next part is a minor spoiler – so if you don’t want to know, look away! The other problem I had with the story was in the revelation of a key emotion that can be engineered/inspired that will: stop criminals, end murder, and foster superheroes. Besides the fact that this supermachine was haphazardly thrown into the story in the last 20 pages or so (and felt very much like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger villain device, super campy and cartoony in nature), I didn’t really like the emotion that is singled out as the cause for superheroics. It changes the whole slant of the story and the psychology of the characters, implying that they do what they do not just because they know it is right and good, but because somehow that has been engineered in their DNA. That does not sit well with me at all.

On the Characters:

Ana: Celia was an insufferable character walking around with a chip on her shoulder and for the majority of the book she complains and whines about her terrible childhood, how she wants to be independent and recognised as an individual rather than a member of the West family. The thing is, I don’t think she was supposed to be a likeable character at all but she was in my opinion a sympathetic and relatable one, despite all that.

Because you see, I understand her problems.1 Can you imagine growing up in a family of super-powered people, with everybody expecting YOU to become a super-hero as well, all of your movements observed since early childhood to see if you develop super strength or the ability to fly and then when none of that happens, you are met with frustration and disappointment? Not only from your parents but yours as well because of course, you want to be a super-hero too? That’s Celia’s childhood – not to mention that her father is not exactly a good parent at all, being aggressive and distant. So, there are some real issues there not to mention the worst case of Teen rebellion ever, when Celia joined forces with a super-villain just to irritate her parents. Although I don’t think this was explored with the seriousness it deserved beyond Celia saying she regretted it half-assedly.

All considered, I truly enjoyed her journey though – to find a place in this world, a place that would be possible for her to help out and that the embodiment of what heroism truly means.

Another character I loved was (and Thea will say: of course you did, dear Ana) Dr. Mentis. I won’t spoil much about how fits in the overall story but I have this enormous sympathy for Telepaths. This has got to be the worst, most problematic superpower that exists because of the ethical repercussions of using their powers. I would have liked to see more discussion about this ethical issue although I think I understand what made Celia SO comfortable with having her mind read all the time – it just made it easier for her to be understood. I guess. Maybe.

Thea: I began this book and immediately, Celia got on my nerves. Yes, she’s had to grow up with the pressure of her parents’ success pushing down on her, the fact that she has no superpowers, blah blah blah. At the same time, she’s a freaking multibillionaire, has inherited her mom’s smoking hotness, and despite not having any superpowers, she’s got a good head on her shoulders. Poor little rich girl, indeed.

That said, I think Ana makes a great point – Celia’s not really supposed to be likable (at least…I don’t think she is). She’s like…the little sister/cousin/friend that still thinks and acts like a teenager, despite being in their twenties. She’s the kind of character that whines about not being taken seriously, when she even still refers to herself as a child and her parents and the Olympiad as “grown-ups.” She’s the kind of character that refuses anyone watching her, despite the fact that she gets kidnapped on a regular basis, just because she wants her “freedom.”2

In short, she’s a huge freaking pain in the ass.

BUT. She grows over the course of the book, finally gets her head out of her ass (sort of) and makes atonement for the mistakes of her past. And that’s kind of cool. Celia is a frustrating character, but for however annoying, she was certainly fleshed out and believable. I only wish that her parents were a little more detailed in the book – we never learn much about her father beyond his temper and superpowers, or about her mother beyond her weepiness and ability to cook a good marinara. Celia’s relationship with her family is so complex and layered, and I wish it could have been explored more fully.

And as for the rest of the cast…no one is really detailed in any of the same length as Celia, with the exception of Arthur Mentis. And yes, Ana, OF COURSE you loved him. I felt like the romance angle in this book was a bit rushed and lacked finesse, but I did like the match itself.

Final Thoughts, Observations & Rating:

Ana: As I said, I devoured this book like I usually devour a bag of crisps. It was fun, it had some awesome moments there (I loved the ending) and despite its flaws, it was just a cool super-hero book.

Thea: After the Golden Age is a solid, quick read that does its job: it entertains. It’s a fun book, like Ana says, and a good candidate for a quick road trip or poolside read.
Profile Image for Marlene.
2,813 reviews192 followers
July 3, 2014
Originally published at Reading Reality

Why did I wait so long to read this?

That’s not a coherent review, but it was my first thought. I poured through this in an afternoon, barely stopping for breath or meals. After the Golden Age is awesome stuff.

It’s a superhero story. But really, it’s a post-superhero story. It’s the origin and the aftermath all rolled into one glorious exploding KA-POW!

It also reminded me a little bit of The Incredibles. What do the superheroes do when they aren’t out there fighting crime? How would they raise a non-superpowered child?

How would you feel if you were the mundane child of the Fantastic Four? If everyone around you had a secret identity, and you were just “original recipe human”?

It’s pretty easy to walk in Celia West’s shoes, and feel that every day would be a major blow to her self-confidence. If most people either emulate their parents or choose lives in reaction against them, well, without superpowers Celia’s choices were limited. Emulation was out.

She chose reaction. Instead of a spandex uniform, she became a forensic accountant, a job most people consider the most boring option on the planet. Of course, that was after a teenage rebellion where she tried the path of evil. For two whole months.

After having been kidnapped. Again. Celia gets kidnapped a lot. It happens so often she’s a bit bored by the whole thing.

As an adult, Celia has tried to create a life that doesn’t reflect the glow of her parents’ super-shininess, no matter many assumptions people make about how wonderful it must have been to grow up in the Olympiads’ inner circle, or how often people try to use her to get close to her famous parents.

But then her boss asks her to bring her accounting skills to bear on the latest “trial of the century”. (There’s always a trial of the century, haven’t you noticed?) The world’s greatest supervillain, The Destructor, has finally been called to account for his misdeeds, not for his heinous destruction, but for his financial chicanery. (This is classic, Al Capone was finally convicted for tax evasion)

But The Destructor is a combination of Kryptonite and Achilles’ Heel for both Celia and The Olympiad. As Celia unravels the winding trail of his black ops’ funding, she finds an origin story she never expected to uncover. And with it, the birth of a conspiracy theory that will bring down the foundation of everything that the good people of Commerce City have ever believed in.

But she will also discover the truth about herself.

Escape Rating A+: After the Golden Age is about the creation and destruction of legends. We find it so easy to put people up on pedestals, and even easier to pull them down. While it’s amazing how quickly the population is manipulated to turn on their heroes, it’s also easy to understand. We’ve seen it happen in real life.

Celia West is the main point of view character, a normal person in a family of supers. She is still recovering, almost atoning, from one act of teenage rebellion. She has had to define her own self-worth from a perspective where nearly everyone, including her own parents, has always judged her as “less-than” because she isn’t super.

So many people have tried to use her to get close to her family; she’s accustomed to it. But when her boss does it, her research deconstructs the legend. Her process of discovery is meticulous without ever being dull, and it occurs on two layers. For each scrap of history she uncovers, she also finds a bit more of her own truth.

After the Golden Age reads like myth creation. And like the best myths, it feels true.
Profile Image for Jessica Strider.
499 reviews61 followers
September 6, 2011
Pros: interesting take on the superhero lifestyle, protagonist has a fascinating back story and bitter streak, quick read

Cons: climax was a let down, predictable

Celia West is the daughter of two of Commerce City's quartet of superpowered defenders, Captain Olympus and Spark. Having grown up a disappointment to them, her only power is being kidnapped by every two-bit criminal who wants to avoid her parents' interference in their affairs. Starting with Simon Sito, the Destructor, the man who exposed her parents' secret identities.

Sito is now on trial for crimes against the city and Celia's on the prosecution's team, digging up accounting records that can help put him away for good. But the trial brings up a youthful indiscretion that proves you can't escape your past and no amount of clean living can erase a stupid decision - if your parents are famous enough.

This is a fun novel if you're a fan of comic books. The West Plaza and 4 member team reminding me a lot of the Fantastic Four (but only in a general way).

Celia's a sympathetic protagonist. While everyone she meets is in awe of her parents and can't understand why she's at odds with them, through the plot and flashbacks it's easy to see where she's coming from. She's bitter about a lot of things and comes off snarky at times, while trying to stay out from under her parents' shadows. And she makes for a mostly intelligent hostage.

My only complaint is that there weren't many twists to the story. The main bad guy's pretty easy to figure out (to the point that I started second guessing myself thinking it couldn't be that easy). The climax was a bit of a let down, though the denouement made up for it.

It's a fun romp and a quick read.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,407 reviews535 followers
August 27, 2011
The daughter of the world's greatest superheroes has no superpowers, and just wants to be left alone to have a nice, normal life as an accountant. But then she's kidnapped yet again, and then her parents' arch-nemesis is put on trial for tax evasion--and she's called as a star witness.

Modern stories about superheroes usually go one of two routes: as grim and depressing as they can get (ex: Watchmen, anything by Frank Miller...) or wry and ironic, like the genre is a joke and they're above it. Rarely, a book manages to do neither, but still manages to feel realistic and current. This is one of those books. The characters have believably complicated emotional lives and motivations, even while there are dastardly plans and superpowers all around. The end is a little weak, but overall I really enjoyed this.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 12 books1,262 followers
May 27, 2011
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

To call Carrie Vaughn's profoundly disappointing After the Golden Age a tired retread of ideas that have been almost entirely played out by now is to make an understatement; because really, is there anyone even left besides lazy entertainment reporters who isn't aware by now of the darkly comedic subgenre regarding superheroes with mundane psychological problems? It was groundbreaking when Frank Miller and Alan Moore did it unironically in the '80s, hilarious when The Specials and Mystery Men played it for laughs in the '90s, and still at least interesting when Pixar mainstreamed the concept in The Incredibles; but in these days when there are even now weekly television shows based around the idea, it takes a lot more to make this concept interesting anymore besides simply parking a caped crusader in a Muzak-blaring psychiatrist's office and hoping that hijinx will ensue. Unfortunately, though, this actually isn't the worst problem with the book; that would be the fact that the nuances of the three-act structure seem to be completely beyond Vaughn's comprehension, with some of the most awkward exposition I've ever seen in a mainstream contemporary novel, and a bad habit of taking minor moments of conflict and trying to inflate them into drama that's bigger than they can handle, much like you might see in a Young Adult novel when a misinterpreted statement between one teen and another will literally be the main conflict driving an entire second act. (And indeed, I think it no coincidence that what Vaughn is mostly known for is the unending "Kitty Norville" series of teen-girl werewolf love-story actioners, a commercial juggernaut that I'm sure is the reason she got a contract for this novel as well.) Beyond disappointing to make me actively angry that a book this badly written would get so much attention, needless to say that it does not come recommended today.

Out of 10: 4.6
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 57 books733 followers
August 20, 2014
When I reviewed (elsewhere) Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand last year, I said I felt Carrie Vaughn was writing down to her audience just a little--that she had more literary ability in her than was on display in that book, or series. (Don't misunderstand; I like the Kitty Norville series a lot and I think it's one of the best in the urban fantasy subgenre. There are just moments where Vaughn makes comments, either as narrator or in dialogue, that are a lot more intellectually elevated than everything around them.) I think After the Golden Age proves that theory. In description, dialogue, and even plot, it's more mature than Vaughn's earlier works, and I'm glad to see her doing something beyond just the one series.

The main character, Celia West, is the child of two powerful superheroes, and ones whose civilian identity is known to everyone. Celia, a completely non-super-powered person, pays the price for this by being easy prey for anyone who wants to challenge her parents. So she's been kidnapped who knows how many times since she was in her late teens, which makes it nearly impossible for her to establish her own identity. The return of the Destructor, her personal nemesis as well as the most terrible villain her parents ever defeated, forces her to actually confront her parents, her past, her identity, and her choices for the future.

There's a strong similarity to the movies Sky High and The Incredibles here--Celia's relationship with her parents echoes the first movie, and the difficulty of juggling private and public identities reflects the second. If After the Golden Age seemed slightly inferior to these, I think it's just because superheroic stories benefit so much from a visual component. I loved the superheroes Vaughn invented--she definitely gave them and their powers a lot of thought, pros and cons both. I also liked that there were all these superheroes running around the city and they didn't all know each other's secret identities. Celia's having grown up around masked avengers makes her able to spot the hero Typhoon when she's out of costume, and they end up becoming good friends, which leads to some awkward moments when she encounters Celia's parents--she knows who they are, they don't know who she is, she wants to maintain her identity, etc. And despite being a little put off by his name, I liked Arthur Mentis a lot. (Seriously. He's a telepath and his name happens to be Mentis? His family name, not his superhero handle?) He's sweet and patient and very much in control of his ability, despite its being a handicap to developing close relationships with anyone.

One of the more off-putting story elements was Celia's relationship with her mercurial and super-strong father. It's realistic that they butt heads all the time because they're so much alike, but it always felt as if there was some deeper reason for her father's attitude towards her. There was at least one moment where her father came close to losing his temper, and Celia cringed; to me, that read like the behavior of an abuse victim, and implied some event in the past that put all of that into perspective. But there wasn't. Toward the end, there's a short flashback where we see her father reading all sorts of meanings into everything his baby does: will she have super strength, flight, heat vision...and of course we know that she never gets any of those things, so it's implied that his disappointment about that spilled over into disappointment with her--but that makes him an extremely unsympathetic character. I also wasn't satisfied with the ending, which wrapped up all the loose ends in the span of one chapter. It felt rushed, and it felt like Vaughn was deliberately cutting off any possibility of writing a sequel. But to me, the book already felt like a complete story, not one that needed a second or even third volume, so that final chapter seemed heavy-handed.

There's a scene near the middle of the action--the turning point of Celia's story, really--in which she meets the now-retired Hawk, a superhero in the Batman mode who was the first of the "vigilante" costumed heroes. Celia tells him that she can't go out and stop the Destructor's plan because she's not like her parents, she doesn't have superpowers. He tells her, "Neither did I." After the Golden Age isn't just about the super-powered heroes; Celia West stands for all those ordinary people who put on the costume anyway.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,214 reviews103 followers
July 4, 2012
This is exactly what I would want in a novel about superheroes. It's not a parody or takedown of the form--it's a genuine exploration of themes in greater detail but with fewer big set pieces than you would get in a comic book series, but with a self-awareness that doesn't play everything perfectly straight. It's using the strengths of a different storytelling medium to their greatest effect. And it's a well-paced, emotionally compelling, plain-old-good-read.

Celia is a forensic accountant, and a good one. It doesn't much matter to her father, Captain Olympus, who has never valued anything she's done since she failed to develop superpowers. The fact that it's her work that puts his greatest enemy behind bars, something the superhero was never able to do, merely makes him angry. But over the course of the trial, secrets about Celia's past come to light, ruining the life she's managed to construct for herself.

There's some fabulously-written angst here, as Celia loses everything because of mistakes she made a long time ago. It's not overdone, and it doesn't wallow, but certain places brought a genuine lump to my throat. There's also a surprisingly sweet love story.

I did manage to mostly figure out one mystery early on, but was sufficiently distracted by other plot elements not to feel let down when my guess turned out to be correct. It was merely satisfying--yes, that makes sense.

There are only two bits that didn't really work for me. Given how fast everyone turns on Celia, I thought the speed at which many of them change their minds was unrealistic. And a critical piece of information is never really addressed, probably to protect a plot point. Commerce City must be the only city in the world with super heroes. The casualness of the relationship between the heroes and the city, as well as each other, deliberately parallels a DC- or Marvel-style universe, in which every city has at least a handful of superheroes and villains, and new ones crop up all the time. However, the ending only makes sense if this is not the case.

These are fridge logic flaws--things that will not bother you until you get up afterward to go get a snack. Within the world of the book, however, the compelling characters make for an engrossing, and bittersweet, read.
Profile Image for J'aime.
805 reviews25 followers
August 3, 2011
Mom's Review: If you're into superhero comics, this book may be for you. If you can enjoy a comic book without the artwork that makes the story come alive, that is. You may be wondering why I ordered this book? Two reasons: I love the author's Kitty Norville series, and I thought this was the sequel to her novel "Discord's Apple," which I did enjoy. It isn't - it's a stand alone YA novel.

The plot is predictable to most readers who are familiar with DC and Marvel comics and their wonderful, fully developed superheroes. I want a little more substance in my stories aside from "good guys fight bad guys, and also fight cops who misunderstand their motives and call them vigilantes". But what really ruined it for me was that it is yet another book about an adult child who resents his/her parents and goes out of his/her way to get even with them for not giving him/her a perfect childhood! Throwing in this disgruntled "heroine" didn't help an already cliche story. And, I really need to identify with or at least like the protagonist I'm about to spend an entire book with. I'm not saying I wouldn't enjoy a novel with superhero characters. I have enjoyed graphic novels like those by Alan Moore, and I love superhero movies. I just felt this book, while perhaps a good idea to begin with, wasn't well executed. It felt like a bad ripoff of "The Incredibles" with one powerless, bratty child. Obviously, others have enjoyed this and it will find an audience. And, I highly recommend the author's other series. Overall, I found this to be a disappointment.
Profile Image for David.
Author 17 books333 followers
October 31, 2011
This was a pretty decent novel for what it was: a Silver Age superhero story trying to be a prose comic book.

Celia West is the daughter of Spark and Captain Olympus, who lead the Olympiad, Commerce City's greatest superhero team. Much to her parents' disappointment, Celia didn't inherit any of their superpowers. After going through a very dire teenage rebellion phase, Celia went to college and became an accountant. Yes, the main character in this superhero novel is an accountant. Carrie Vaugh gets coolness points for that.

The Olympiad's greatest enemy, the Destructor, is being prosecuted for tax fraud. Celia is dragged into the prosecution, in the process tearing open old wounds between her and her parents. Celia begins to investigate the secret origins of Commerce City's superheroes, uncovers a new criminal conspiracy, and plays a pivotal role in the inevitable climax with the criminal mastermind in his secret lab with the super-powerful doohickey powering up to go boom.

This is the problem I had with the climax. Vaughn is so faithful to her source material, the plot became utterly predictable. Nothing much happened in the last third of the book that I didn't predict. If you've read a lot of superhero comic books, you'll appreciate Vaughn's affectionate tribute but you won't see anything new. This is a fun romp and I appreciate that Vaughn played it straight, without the edginess or cynicism that is more fashionable in contemporary superhero tales, but it's nothing exceptional, a solid 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Laura.
940 reviews129 followers
September 29, 2011
I waffled between three and four stars, but finally I gave it four because I had a rough time putting it down. In fact, I actually stayed up later than I intended to just to finish the book, something I haven't wanted to do in a long time. Celia West is a woman that felt as though she wasn't enough her entire childhood, mostly because her parents are superheros and she doesn't have any powers. Also, her dad has bordering-on-abusive tendencies because he apparently has a temper. While trying to make a "normal" life for herself, Celia is constantly being kidnapped and held hostage. This gets a little annoying in the book. I started to laugh every time she was abducted, and I don't think the author intended for that to be my reaction.

Celia's life becomes even more difficult when one of her rebellious teenage moments comes back to haunt her. Honestly, I know she kept insisting it was a stupid thing she did when she was younger, but I thought it was excessive. Sure, every teenager tests their parents, but her actions were pretty desperate. I guess that's because she has daddy issues.

The romance part of the book was probably my favorite. I don't want to spoil it, so I'll just say that it was sweet and I was pleasantly surprised that it happened.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,855 reviews1,497 followers
May 7, 2012
What a ride! I had such a hard time putting this down once I started it. And not just for the action, though there was certainly a lot of it. Celia was such a great character with depth beyond the initial gimmick. What would it be like growing up normal as the child of the two most powerful superheroes the city has ever seen? Or to be victim to yet another kidnapping—an occurrence so frequent as to be almost passé? But those are only the obvious questions. Celia is so much deeper than that—so much more real.

Celia has fought against being a mere appendage to her parents all her life, pulling away from them in every way she can think of only to be pulled back in time after time. After all, however much she may distance herself, the villains still know who her parents are.

So the book is as much about family and love and hate and rebellion and reconciliation as anything else—all without letting up on the action.

The only part I had a problem with was Celia's love life. I wasn't very convinced by any of her non-family relationships. Fortunately, they weren't a big part of the novel and if I just accept them as presented, they're okay. Kind of disappointing for a die-hard romantic like myself, however.
Profile Image for Colleen.
753 reviews42 followers
October 10, 2017
A fun breezy read--very reminiscent of The Incredibles, so if you liked that movie, you'll probably enjoy this book. Although not a short book (like 350 pages), it reads very fast and the hero, Celia West, daughter of 2 super-heroes, is good at two things. Her job as an accountant, and getting kidnapped, which happens with regularity. I'll have to check out the next one.
Profile Image for Cloak88.
884 reviews16 followers
February 19, 2017
An unusual story set in a superhero word. 3.5 stars

Celia West is the daughter of the world's greatest superheroes Captain Olympus and Spark. And that's not an easy position to be in. Not having powers of her own, she is essentially defenceless each and every time her parents enemies take her hostage. To escape from all this she has build her own life separate from theirs and all the madness. Now however the trial of the century is about to start. The Destructor, her parents greatest enemy, is on trial for tax fraud and she is the DA's forensic accountant on the case...

This was an interesting if somewhat rough novel. Celia grew up in a very tens household. Never knowing whether her parents would be alright, not having powers of her own and being a big disappointment to her father because of it, has left its marks on her. Though she has worked hard to make something of herself, she will always be in the shadow of her illustrious parents. In that light Celia makes for an interesting, if not always a happy character and that shows in the feel of the novel. On the whole this as more of a mystery story set in a superhero world than a superhero story.

Good, but a bit unusual of a superhero story.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,211 reviews1,649 followers
May 8, 2011
Recently, I discovered Carrie Vaughn via a dystopian anthology and then I read her new teen novel, Steel. Her YA effort was okay, but not stellar. At first, I thought After the Golden Age would be the same, as it had a slow beginning, but as I hit the midway point, it really took off (pardon the superhero-y pun).

Celia starts out as a somewhat annoying heroine. She is 25, but retains her teenage mistrust and irritation with her parents, because growing up with superheroes for parents is not as magical as everyone else thinks it should be. She doesn't really trust anyone actually. Her saving grace is that, although she is a continual victim of supervillain wannabes, she does not act like a victim (well, except when her family's considered). As the story goes on, Celia's able to deal with many of her demons, which allows her to accentuate the positive elements of her personality and someone I liked much more.

The romance was well done. I was somewhat worried that I was shipping the wrong person, but I was not, so yay! There's nothing worse than when you believe someone else is perfect for her, but the main character determinedly goes for the lame, stupid, obvious one. I definitely shipped her with the guy, right from the beginning and through to the end.

After the Golden Age reminded me most strongly of the Astro City graphic novel series, with the portrayal of both superheroes, ordinary folk and those who know who the masked heroes are and have to deal with that. For anyone who likes reading about superheroes, After the Golden Age is definitely worth checking out.
Profile Image for Ian.
1,336 reviews188 followers
June 15, 2014
When she was born, Celia's superhero parents had high hopes for her. Those hopes quickly turned to disappointment when they realised she had no super human powers, and then to disapproval when, as a rebellious teenager, she joined with super villain, The Destructor.

Now she is all grown up, her brush with villainy has been put behind her and she lives the quiet life of an accountant. Sure, every now and then she gets kidnapped and held hostage in some evil plot but overall, her life is just very ordinary.

Then she gets pulled onto a case to convict The Destructor of tax evasion and all of a sudden all her carefully guarded secrets are coming out. Even worse, a crime is skyrocketing in Commerce City and everyone is convinced it is being orchestrated by The Destructor but she suspects somebody else is pulling the strings. As she investigates she discovers a secret that could shake the city's elite to their core and a plot that could destroy the entire city.


After the Golden Age is great fun. It owes a lot to the superhero serials of the 1940s and '50s, throw in a little of The Untouchables and even The Incredibles and you have a book which shouldn't work but somehow does. I think the ending was a little weak and that's the only reason I'm rating this 3 Stars instead of 4.
Profile Image for Norm.
Author 18 books39 followers
May 2, 2011
I love Carrie Vaughn's Kitty werewolf series, but I also know that just because I like one of an author's series, it doesn't mean I'll like that author's other books. For example, I love Jim Butcher's Dresden series, but couldn't get into his other sci-fi series. Love Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, but her other books are too sugary. Couldn't get enough Hitchhiker's Guide, but Dirk Gently isn't quite as magical.

AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE (dumb title, by the way) started pretty cool, with Celia West getting kidnapped so the bad guys can use her as a hostage to control her superhero parents. Unlike her parents, Celia has no superpowers, unless you include her powers of sarcasm (which, in my opinion, was the best thing about the book).

But then it settled down and a lot of the fun sucked out of the story. Some of the characters, particularly Captain Olympus, developed slowly or not at all.

But then it suddenly morphed into a deeper read with some unexpected twists that led all the way to an ending with some emotional punch which made it all worthwhile.

So all in all, a quick, mostly fun read. But not with the magic of her Kitty series.

Norm

http://www.normcowie.com
Profile Image for Hallie.
954 reviews123 followers
July 7, 2012
This was so much fun - even for me, somewhat superhero-lit-challenged as I am. It seems as if it would be quite difficult to merge the comic book style of character while giving them enough depth to work for novel-length, but the effort didn't show here at all. Celia was a wonderful character - her reaction to the pretty horrendous childhood with the city's most powerful & famous superheroes was impressive.

Some of the revelations weren't incredibly surprising (actual romantic hero, for example) but it was no less engaging for that - and at that, I read in just two sittings so suspense wasn't drawn out. There were some lovely touches - little flashes of humour (I was especially taken with Celia's wondering how her mother can cry so much and be a superhero), and minor characters who show real depth. Villain was suitably villainous, and he added a pleasing parallelism to the story. I also felt sorry for Celia's mother, as she reminded me surprisingly strongly of mothers in families I actually know, where the father has behaved appallingly to children, and the mother's torn between loyalty to both.

Consider me a Carrie Vaughn fan now!



Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,212 reviews110 followers
April 25, 2011
I love this book so much it hurts. That hasn't happened to me in a while, and it is not exactly a pleasant feeling. It's the same feeling I get when I think about how long I have to wait until the next Doctor Who episode. It's separation anxiety and I don't like it.

I'm not really a comic book fan. That's my little brother. He is an encyclopedia of comic book knowledge and he loves talking about it, and is amusing when he does, so I've learned important information, like Superman was a Superjerk in the early days and Aquaman is lame and the current Spiderman storyline is ridiculous. Other than that, I've seen nearly all the recent movie versions (Tony Stark, how I love you!) and I watched three seasons of Smallville (Superman for teenagers). Oh, and I like listening to geeky podcasts, which are usually hosted by people who love comic books and thus love to talk about them.

So what I'm saying with all that is that I understand a lot of the tropes going on in this book, but probably at about the same basic knowledge of a young(ish) person with some popular culture knowledge and a tendency toward geekiness. But that's about all you need to appreciate it. If you understood the superhero conventions in The Incredibles, you should be able to get them here.

And I did so love the whole playing-with-superhero-tropes thing. Faceless mooks who do the supervillain’s bidding with nary a word of complaint. The crazy-off-his-rocker-just-wants-to-see-the-world-burn supervillain. The cool, collected, destroy-the-world-to-save-it supervillain. The superhero team. The superhero headquarters. The richest-dude-in-town-with-the-mega-corporation-is-actually-a-superhero (I bet the surname West is a tribute to the batman actor, Adam West). The-constant-kidnapping-of-loved-ones (and Celia’s attitude to it; God, I bet all superhero loved ones get such kidnap fatigue). The let-me-reveal-my-evil-plan. The public-adores-the-superheros-oh-wait-public-opinion-turned-against-them. The secret identities. The reveal of the secret identities. Loved it all. Because they were all put together in a fun, coherent, and surprisingly realistic way (in a world where there are superheros).

I loved that this was (as far as I know) a unique spin on superheroes. It’s always about the superhero themselves or at least their love interest. But growing up the child of a superhero? A normal child of the two most famous superheroes? No wonder the girl had issues! I loved that Celia was a rebellious child. It fits. And I like that the book wasn’t about that Celia, because she’s a nice character study in flashback, when present-day Celia can realize how stupid and pathetic her little teenage rebellion was. All the power of that plotline without all the whining and angst (and you KNOW teenage Celia's POV would be super whiny and angsty. Her super power would be super angst).

I also liked that the book touched on the theme of one of my favorite quotes from House: “what if your whole life was about the worst thing you’d ever done?” For a while that is what Celia’s life becomes about. When the whole world knows that she went Darkside and became the Destructor's minion (albeit a sad little powerless one), that’s all they think about. It doesn’t matter what she’s done with her life since then: she sided with the villain in a petty act of teenage rebellion and self-destruction. Her best friend and boyfriend turn their backs on her and no one but Mentis (awesome, awesome Mentis) stands with her. And I will say that it was horrible to join the city's resident terrorist, but I think Celia always secretly knew that her parents would stop the Big Bad. It's the same every time she's kidnapped. She's never truly scared because she truly believes in her heart of hearts that the good guys will win every time. I think if the bad guys ever did succeed, even once, her entire concept of the world would be shaken.

I liked that Celia was normal but tough and never annoying. She’s still full of daddy-issues and never-good-enough issues and shadow-of-her-parents issues and haunted-by-her-past issues. But they don’t overwhelm her. And she grows and learns to accept her life the way it is and stops fighting it and stops resenting and stops thinking that everything is an attack.

I’m even more happy that Mentis turned out to be the true love interest (and not the decoy love interest, the good guy cop/mayor's son, Mark. I mean, he was fine, but he was no Mentis). Mentis, by the way, is part of the city's superhero gang, his power being mental control (but of course, with a name like his!). He is also youngish, British, and always cool, calm and collected. I didn’t see the romance coming at first, but it absolutely fits. He is the only one who has always accepted and appreciated Celia for exactly who she is. I think he thought of her as a kid when they first met, although he was sympathetic with her family issues and he understood her (the only one who did). I think it’s when she came back from college, more centered and mature, that he began to fall in love with her. He saw her at her absolute lowest and worst and still loved her. It’s so incredibly sweet. And she accepts him for exactly who he is and doesn’t resent that he can read her mind (I’m a little unclear if it’s continuous and/or she can put up barriers if she wants). Aww man, I just love them separately and together. I like when the love interest is a nice guy who is not boring. It just feels so rare. And he’s not weak in the least; he’s a superhero, after all.

I think the reason I have such separation anxiety for this book is because it was so absolutely vibrant for me. I'm a really visual person and for books I really connect with, I can visualize the scenes in my mind like a movie. It's as if I'm actually watching scenes from the book, down to what the characters are wearing and what the room looks like (I also "cast" books by visualizing actors/actresses "playing" the characters; the more perfectly I can cast a book, the more real it is for me). Some books I visualize better than others; sometimes only one scene really sticks out and the rest is fuzzy, sometimes it's most of the book. This book was so real to me I actually have random urges to check imdb to read about it. Then I have to remind myself this wasn't really a movie. I can just remember it as if I'd watched it. Having a book come to life this much for me is rare and powerful.

I am definitely buying this when it comes out in paperback. I want to re-read it already.

I wonder if there will be a sequel?
Profile Image for Benjamin Thomas.
1,934 reviews263 followers
August 19, 2021
What must it be like to be the child of superhero parents? Especially if you don't have any superpowers yourself. Celia West, daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark is in just this situation. She's had to find her own way, become her own person. After a childhood that included being kidnapped multiple times and a rebellious stint as a supervillain groupie, she's now straightened herself out and has become a... forensic accountant.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It hits several of my sweet spots including golden age superheroes. It's also by Carrie Vaughn whom I can almost always count on for an interesting read. Looking forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for Lexie.
2,073 reviews297 followers
April 26, 2017
Prelim Review: I grew up adoring superheroes. Barry Allen (Silver Age Flash) was my absolute hands down favorite of them all. I idolized him like most people idolized movie stars. He was Silver Age (50's/60's/70's) of comics, in the 90's, when I began branching out I stumbled upon Alex Ross and Mark Waid's epic Kingdom Come.

It changed how I viewed heroes rather profoundly.

This too has changed how I view certain aspects of being a hero. I read very 'hero' books in which the characters have a kid. Sometimes it'll happen, but almost never did I stick with a series (or character) long enough to watch that kid grow up. I didn't consider how it must be on either side of the equation, the helplessness both sides feel, the uncertainty of what could happen at any moment. Its not really that different from regular parents or kids who's parents are in law enforcement (like cops or fire fighters), but there's a stark difference between the Joker and Joe Schmo bank robber.

I wish that we could have seen more flashbacks of Celia's childhood. The brief interludes did a lot to sort of bridge the gap between the Celia of now and the Celia who was then. I'll tell you one thing, the memory of her at two years old had me practically crying it was sad...heart-wrenchingly so.

I was captivated by this story. It held me engrossed as I watched how the completely ordinary daughter of the world's greatest heroes struggled to come to terms with herself. Whether Celia truly felt reconciled to the fact that she was merely normal, especially after the past reveals how involved her family has been from the very beginning, is left up in the air. I don't think by the end of it she felt bitter that she wasn't the Golden Child her parents had wanted. And they weren't the heroes everyone saw them as. It was hard for her to reconcile that the most--the world kept telling her 'Your parents are heroes. They're like Gods.' and to her they were just Mom and Dad, adults who let her down more often then she liked.

There's a little romance throughout, and anyone with braincells will be able to see how things turn out for Celia, but I was more interested in how everyone around her reacted when her secret came out. In one memorable rant after it comes out, Celia demands to know if she is any different then she was before:

[Celia]"..How many times do I have to say it: I've spent the last eight years trying to make up for one mistake, and the only message I'm getting is that isn't possible. Yesterday I was a respectable upstanding citizen, and today, suddenly, I'm dirt...what the hell happened?"



[Analise]"How do I know you won't do something like that again?" (pg. 139)

That interchange, about halfway through the book, sums up something important I think. Never mind heroes vs. villains, everybody faces this. You can spend your entire life as the good kid and one mistake, one misstep, and that's something know one will forget. After the Golden Age, the title in and of itself I think refers to this. There's the Celia before The Incident, the Celia who tried her best but couldn't live up to her parents' expectations, when there was still the chance she could be so much more.

Then there's the Celia after The Incident, who couldn't fully reconcile with her parents, who felt inadequate next to almost everyone around her. She wasn't alone though. It wasn't touched upon directly, but through the flashes of time from Celia's childhood and beyond we kind of see that her parents weren't just disappointed in her lack of superpowers, but weren't sure how to deal with her because of it. Its fairly typical when a family is so devoted to one certain aspect--sports, the arts, music--and is confronted with a child with no aptitude. How do they relate? How do they treat that kid? It must have been worse for the Wests since the added burden that Celia couldn't protect herself--physically at least--like they could.

I'll discuss the romance only briefly, because its not a big deal of the book. The connection is the draw, the force behind it. Through her connection with the her love interest she feels understood. Not perfect or a disappointment, but a flawed human being stumbling around trying to find her way. Its a little heavy-handed at times, especially after the Incident is publicly known, but effective. I wish she had this same feeling with someone else--Analise maybe, who I can't quite forgive for being so judgmental of Celia's past.

And the ending...well. There was tears. I don't think we needed the extra 'and this is what happened' bit after the confrontation, but the confrontation was almost perfect to my mind whether you are a comic fan or not. It had the big life or death plot, but very real consequences and emotions that took center stag
Profile Image for Ino.
36 reviews2 followers
August 14, 2018
I will start by saying I think this is One of Carrie Vaughn’s best work. It has a vintage cheesy superhero vibe and that’s part of what makes it great. Celia is pretty amazing. She’s not perfect, she’s not super powered but she’s somehow likeable. I dislike whiny rich kids but Vaughn made it work. A great redemption story if I ever read one.
Profile Image for Cathy .
1,944 reviews52 followers
May 14, 2011
I gave it 3 stars because I liked it soooo much more than I liked her other non-Kitty books, but it was a low 3 or maybe a 2.5. It was fine. It was an easy read, generally entertaining, I didn't skip too much. I liked Celia, she was spunky and relatable. There was still a lack of immediacy, a weird distance, that I've found in all of Vaughn's books other than those about Kitty, but this was much better than the others. It just wasn't nearly as deep as she clearly thought she was being, and the romance was obvious, and then really abrupt.

She tried to say a lot of deep stuff about the relationship between Celia and her parents, especially her dad. It was pretty heavy-handed, but that's OK I guess, there's no rule that all good points need to be subtle. But it was the same point over and over and over throughout the book, pretty much every point came back to the same dynamic about families and genetics and destiny. I ended up feeling pretty depressed by it, and kind of hammered at. I'd even taken a break before finishing the book, and after coming back the next day it still bothered me a bit. It's great to have a deeper theme, I don't love totally fluffy books either, but some subtly is appreciated as well.

And the romace was really just awful. She has a few dates with one guy, but with some heavy foreshadowing of a romantic rivalry for anyone who who catches on to the other guy's resemblance to Dr. Who. Then there's a completely abrupt declaration of love. It's really just the worst thing I've read in a long time. Boom, out of the blue, seriously. And that's that, we're supposed to accept that it's true love foreever after. Stupid. And boring. Not sexy. Not romantic. Not fun.

So, overall, it was a kind-of fun book. I did enjoy it, despite this really not great review. I liked Celia's never-give-up spunk, and that she used her wits and determination to be successful in life and in a crisis. But the heavy-handed style was reallly irritating. It felt like she was writing something that she was hoping people would analyze, so she made sure there were lots of points available. "Celia's talent was recognizing people under their masks, let's discuss." Mostly it just made me want to read Chelsea Campbell's much funnier, wittier version of a superhero/supervillain story again The Rise of Renegade X, you guys should really check that one out. I'm sorry if I sound really evil! I love Ms. Vaugn's werewolf books, I just haven't been able to connect with her other books. She's obviously trying really hard to write a great story. Maybe that's the problem. I don't know, I'm not a pro reviewer, but her Kitty books manage to be fun and have some subtle messages. Maybe she shouldn't try so hard.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 607 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.