Monday, June 13, 2011

The Goddess Test review

The Goddess Test 
by Aimee Carter 
Harlequin Teen 
April 2011

High school senior Kate Winters is devastated by her mother's impending death from cancer. To grant her mother's final wish of being able to die at home, they relocate from New York to the tiny hamlet where her mother grew up. Once there, Kate discovers that many of the students at her school are actually Greek gods. After Kate's classmate Ava plays a mean hazing prank on her, and loses her life in an accident, Kate begs Henry, otherwise known as Hades, God of the Underworld, to bring her back to life. In exchange, Kate agrees to live with him for half of the year.

This was a book that I wanted to love, that I tried to love, but that didn't quite win me over. I love the Persephone myth and I had assumed that being the love interest of Hades would put Kate in the Persephone role. I expected her to embody some of the things from the original myth, particularly the idea of eating/not being able to eat. I thought it would be great if Kate gained some skill in working with the dead and/or comforting the grieving, especially considering her own history of having dealt with her mother's cancer. And, part of the Persephone story is the idea that she has to finally learn some independence from her mother. Persephone, in addition to being the Queen of the Underworld, is also the goddess of spring, so I hoped that Kate might gain some kind of superpower over plants. Nothing I had speculated could have prepared me for the actual book, however.

To start with, Ava seemed like a terrible friend. I could understand why it was noble for Kate to make a sacrifice to bring her back to life -- she's bringing Ava back to life, even though she totally doesn't deserve it. But, then, Kate continues to stick by Ava's side, who is as unrepentantly bitchy and difficult to like as ever.

Kate must pass a series of tests to prove herself worthy. If she makes it through, then she'll be granted eternal life as Henry's bride. If she doesn't, it's implied that she'll die. I kept waiting for the tests to start... and more than half-way through the book, we learn that several of the tests have already been applied, and Kate doesn't even know what they are. What a let-down! Much later, it's finally revealed that the tests are based on the Seven Deadly Sins. Again, I was really baffled as to why the Greek gods would want to use a Biblical test on Kate.

Henry seemed dark and brooding, which seemed appropriate for someone who works in the underworld. I love a male hero who is shy and sensitive, and was excited for him to slowly win over Kate with his gentle charm. That never happened though! There is such a thing as wanting to be a gentleman to a fault, experiencing some misunderstandings and miscommunications between romantic leads, and even being terribly inexperienced and lacking confidence. Henry seemed to take things beyond that level though and really came across as a cold fish. Of course, it's understandable that he's terribly hung up on Persephone, which obviously didn't work out well for him. But he doesn't seem to like Kate, at all. After months of living in his mansion, Kate screws up the courage for a kiss, which is really more like a dry peck, and he doesn't even kiss her back. He doesn't even seem tempted! Later, much later, under the influence of a aphrodisiac potion they sleep together, but even that does not seem terribly passionate.

More than anything I wanted this book to be much more literal in its' interpretation of Greek myths. I was so ticked when I read the endnotes and saw that Calliope, one of the servants in Henry's house assigned to work with Kate is supposed to embody Hera. That makes no sense! Shouldn't Calliope be... well, Calliope, the muse of poetry? Ella, another servant who runs Kate's wardrobe in the mansion delights in stuffing Kate into uncomfortable corsets, which struck me as quite odd as well. Wouldn't Greek gods have a preference for hymations and other loose, flowing Greek clothing?

After three years of cancer treatments, Kate is still shell-shocked at the thought of losing her mom. Later, when it turns out her mother was a goddess all along, I wondered why the whole "I have cancer" game was necessary. If I was in Kate's shoes I would be so, so angry at having been put through three years of hell, by a mother who knew darn well that she was not, in fact, dying of cancer, since she was an immortal being.

For readers looking for a darker, more lyrical take on the Persephone story, I would recommend Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls. Readers looking for a decent paranormal romance will find many of the same themes, especially the girl who must undergo tests to achieve immortality, in Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series. Younger readers looking for a clean take on the Greek gods with a look at the Seven Deadly Sins will flock to Carolyn Hennessy's Pandora series.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

5 comments:

  1. I struggled a bit with this one too! I wanted to like it so much more than I did since I'm such a huge fan of Greek mythology. I liked enough that I'll be picking up the second one in the hopes that Henry might be a bit warmer (I don't mind dark and brooding, but just like you said, he took it to a new level that made it hard to connect to him) and the romance a bit more believable!

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  2. I have heard a lot of mixed things about this one. Most of it was about the fact that the mythology didn't seem "authentic" enough to really embody the ancient feel of the Gods and Goddesses.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

    On The Blog: Retrospective Reads: The Forbidden Game

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  3. I enjoyed this book. I'm just a greek methology junkie.

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  4. I didn't think this book hewed closely enough to the original Greek mythology. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more, if they'd just left all the subtle hints to Greek gods out.

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  5. Yup, agree with you 100%. I love your cold fish reference. How apt. I don't think I've read a book with less passion. I like the story you imagined better than what it actually was.

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