Rachael Allen.

‘Harley Quinn’ novel is a fast-paced, dark-Gotham story with a feminist twist


Harley Quinn: Ravenous, by Rachael Allen. c.2023, Random House; $19.99; 349 pages.

Forget about it. Put it out of your mind; don’t worry about it. It’s likely nothing, so let it rest. Let it go, and don’t be afraid because, as in the new book Harley Quinn: Ravenous by Rachael Allen, fear is how they make you scream.

Being a First Year intern at Gotham University was going to be The. Best. Having completed the University’s gap-year program last year, Harleen Quinzel was practically bouncing. She’d decided on research, possibly psychology, as a career, and First Year program included mentorship and a chance to study some of Gotham’s worst, most notorious criminal minds. The Joker, Two-Face, King Shark, Mr. Freeze — she could be assigned to any one of them at Arkham Asylum.

First Year was also going to be a bit of a relief.

Sure, she’d still have to put up with classmates like the jerk who kept asking if she was “straight now” (nope, still bi, today, tomorrow, last week), and she’d have to try to fit in, which was hard to do after what happened at the end of last year.

Then, some of Harleen’s friends were attacked with a fear spray that made them scream and scream, and her best friend died from it. There was gossip, but Harleen had her research to enjoy; she loved her mentor, and she was fascinated by Talia al Ghul, who’d tried to assassinate Gotham’s mayor.

Talia was a great study-subject — even though Harleen wasn’t technically supposed to ever speak to her …

Until Talia said that she knew who made the fear spray.

Talia needed information for information, tit for tat, and she hinted that she knew the truth about Straw Man, who was rumored to haunt Arkham and who had a hand in the fear spray, so …

So then Harleen woke up in the hospital, the victim of a bad accident and amnesia. But was it an accident? Were this guy, Win, and the adorable Ivy trustworthy? And the escape of Gotham City’s worst, most violent criminals — was Harleen at fault?

Let’s say a movie theatre mushed its film to a pulp and made a novel from the leftover cells. Or they used the mush to paint a Ben-Dot artwork panel, but in words. That’s kinda how you could think of this book. As a part of the “DC Icons” franchise, Harley Quinn: Ravenous almost screams graphic novel or comic book.
So what’s the problem?

Nothing — as long as you know all that before you pick it up, because that’s the sort of feel you’ll get in what only looks like a regular novel.

Nothing — if you relish a story that starts with action and peppers it with chaos before dropping readers into a land of dark monsters and crime.

Nothing at all — if you’ve read author Rachael Allen’s novel-before-this-one.

Otherwise, you’ll be awash in humor, feminism and superheroes, and scrambling to find your footing.

Be warned.

Overall, if you love a funny, crazy-paced dark-Gotham novel with a feminist warrior, you’ll devour Harley Quinn: Ravenous. As for a bookmark? Nah, forget about it.