Book Review – Harley Quinn: Mad Love – Titan Books

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Which female characters do you think of first when I say DC Comics and Gotham?  For me, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman are top of the list.  But I don’t think Harley Quinn’s origins have ever received the same attention as Pamela Isley’s or Selina Kyle’s.  So the opportunity to review Titan Books’ latest contribution to their DC Comics Novels line was my perfect opportunity to find out more.

Harley Quinn: Mad Love

Blurb

“When she was only seven years old, Harleen Quinzel witnessed her father being beaten up by thugs, and then arrested by the police.  That night she ran away but was pursued by the men who brutalised her father, and she witnessed unimaginable horrors.

Years later, Harleen has put her past behind her, and used her intelligence and ambition to escape her childhood of poverty with a career in psychiatry.  Assigned to her first position at Arkham Hospital, she will discover, deep in the asylum, something dangerous, alluring, and quite unlike anything else she has ever known before: The Joker.  Because why would you settle for love, when you could have MAD LOVE?

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From the moment Harleen finds a rose on her desk, to the moment she dons her harlequin hat, this is the definitive story that chronicles the obsession, the burning desire, the manic laughter, and the birth of one of the most controversial and popular comic book DC Super-Villains ever created: Harley Quinn.”

Harley Quinn: Mad Love is the second standalone novel in Titan Books’ brand new DC Comics Novels line in collaboration with DC and WB Consumer Products.  It follows September’s publication of DC Comics Novels – Batman: The Killing Joke and precedes February 2019’s DC Comics Novels – Batman: The Court of Owls.

Harley Quinn is available as an eBook and hardback from Amazon UK.

About the authors

Pat Cadigan is a science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer, three-time winner of the Locus Award, twice-winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and one-time winner of the Hugo Award.  Paul Dini is a multi-award-winning writer of scripts for Batman: The Animated Series, and his comics work includes Batman: Black and White and Batman Adventures.

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First impressions

Firstly, the artwork is just stunning, isn’t it?  Both the front cover with Harleen/Harley and the back cover with her diary notes about The Joker.  But what about the actual novel?  The comic book origins are obvious, the characters are larger than life, and the pace fairly skips along with plenty of cliffhangers to keep you reading on.  There are also lots of threads running all the way through the story, one of which in particular is resolved right at the end of the book, in a twist that I did not see coming.

The narrative is mainly told from Harleen/Harley’s point of view with the occasional shift to The Joker’s and Batman’s perspectives.  The whole concept of what makes a villain is brilliantly explored: nature or nurture?  I’m tempted to say nurture (or rather, lack of it) in Harley’s case.  Her early experiences as a poor street kid from Brooklyn make it easy for a psychopathic, intelligent character like The Joker to manipulate her.

Although it might be tempting to dismiss Harley as emotionally needy, that’s doing her a disservice.  She is intelligent, resourceful and, to begin with, has a genuine desire to help people.  In the book (albeit not in any comics or films I’m familiar with) she does wise up and things don’t go all The Joker’s way.  To say more would be a plot spoiler, so, frustratingly, I can’t expand on that here!

Would I recommend it?

I’ve always been a fan of DC Comics and this book certainly didn’t disappoint.  As I said earlier, Harleen’s transformation into Harley isn’t that well documented so this is a fascinating insight into and take on her story.  She’s a strong female lead character, completely deserving of her own stand alone book instead of being relegated to her usual position as The Joker’s crazy sidekick.  Whether or not you love DC Comics, or know someone who does, I think this would make a perfect gift for anyone who’s interested in how and why we become who we are.

I ended my previous book review with a quote and I’m going to do it again, because it’s a clue to Harley, without being a spoiler (as well as a stratagem worthy of one of my Renaissance heroines, Catherine de Medici):

“The Joker’s greatest desire was to be seen by everyone everywhere, all the time.
But he was totally clueless.
He’d never understood that you were most powerful when you went unnoticed.”

Huge thanks to Titan Books for organising a copy of Harley Quinn: Mad Love for me to review, I absolutely loved it.  And I don’t know if any sequels are planned, but the ending of the novel is certainly giving me hope 🙂

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission at no cost to you if you make any book purchases using these links.  And you can check out my other book reviews here too.

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Victoria
Guest

Loved your review! Harley is my gal, and I’m definitely going to pick up a copy now!

Jenny in Neverland
Guest

I love the idea of a strong female character and her descent into the infamous Harley Quinn. Although I’ve never really been a huge Batman / Harley Quinn / Joker fan this definitely sounds intriguing and you’re right, the artwork is amazing! x

Cordelia Moor
Guest

I’ve never had much interest in anything Marvel or DC, but I have always had a weird obsession with Harley Quinn and her backstory and current story and everything to do with her! This looks so gorgeous, and totally worth a read. Might have to drop a cheeky hint before Christmas…

Cordelia || cordeliamoor.com

Bexa
Guest

Wow, the artwork is amazinggg, this book would most definitely grab my attention and I’d have to pick it up. I’ve never read any DC Comics and couldn’t tell you who Harley Quinn is without Googling, but your review is very intriguing! I love the sound of a strong intelligent female lead character despite a background of being a poor street kid. The fact that is has lots of cliffhangers and twists makes it sound really exciting and a real page turner. This is such a great review Lisa, it sounds like a brilliant book to escape with, I’ll have… Read more »

Jasmin
Guest

The artwork in this one is simply stunning! Oh my goodness. I really want to get my hands on this one, sounds like a lovely read.

lots of love, Jasmin
// littlethingswithjassy.com

what corinne did
Guest

I have never really got into the origins of Harley Quinn so this book would be perfect! The artwork does indeed look amazing!

Alisha Valerie
Guest

As a massive DC fan myself, I really want to own this book myself now! The artwork is beautiful, great review babe!! 💜✨

With love, Alisha Valerie x

Irena BookDustMagic
Guest

I had no idea this book was out, but I would like to read it. I’ve always find Harley Quinn one of the most interesting characters.

Sunkissed Scribbles
Guest

Great review, Lisa. I haven’t read these books before and the story of Harley Quinn sounds quite intriguing to me. She sounds like such a complicated character so I’ll be adding this book to my TBR list 😀 xx

Sophie Wentworth
Guest

I’m not that into comics, but this still sounds like a good read. I’m so drawn in by the cover. I know that’s not necessarily a good thing, but the artwork is phenomenal. Good to know you enjoyed it as a DC fan! x

Sophie
http://www.glowsteady.co.uk

Amie
Guest

This sounds like such an amazing book, I know someone in my family would love this!

Love, Amie ❤
The Curvaceous Vegan

Jen @ Jen D Bibliophile
Guest

Awesome review! Will definitely check this out! 💜

https://jendbibliophile.wordpress.com

Hels
Guest

I love the artwork! I’ve actually never been a huge fan of DC or Marvel but I do love a book with a strong female lead, and this sounds really intriguing!
Hels xxx

Ruth
Guest

I’m not overly keen on Harley and The Joker, especially recently as they seem to be allllll over, but this actually sounds really interesting! I love the idea of it exploring her as a character because she does tend to be overshadowed by The Joker 99% of the time. Completely agree that the art work is gorgeous, too!

Elizabeth Tabler
Guest

Thank you for sharing this! Harley is such a complicated character. Intelligent but psychopathic. Loving, but cruel. She is written with true duality in mind. I very much enjoyed the blog review and look forward to many more.

Kim
Guest

I know a Batman fan that would love this book! Thanks for sharing your review Lisa, I’m off to put a copy in my Amazon basket. 🙂

Soph
Guest

I know you shouldn’t judge a book but its cover but you’re right, the artwork is stunning and I was instantly sold! I hadn’t heard of Harley Quinn until the Suicide Squad movie but was really interested by the character and would love to find out more. Would definitely be interested in reading this so thank you for the recommendation!

Soph – https://sophhearts.com x