In retrospect, the Cassandra Clare blurb on the book cover should have tipped me off… I had high hopes for this book, expected it to be a fun, light YA read with some Greek mythology and a love story mixed in. That could work, right? I guess it could but in this case, it didn’t.
published: Harlequin Teen, 2011
series: Goddess Test #1
my rating: 1,5/10
first sentence:”How did it happen this time?” Henry tensed at the sound of her voice, and he tore his eyes away from the lifeless body on the bed long enough to look at her.
It’s always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate’s going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won’t live past the fall. Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he’ll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests. Kate is sure he’s crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she’ll become Henry’s future bride, and a goddess.
I’ve been a fan of Greek mythology since I was little. Having a Greek grandmother may have helped spurn my interest and I remember always having tomes upon tomes of mythology books at home. So tackling this topic in a teen romance way sounded intriguing. The persephone myth is one of my favorites and I thought a good writer could really make something of it. Tortured, dark, brooding Hades? Hell yes!
This book feels like it was written by two people. In the beginning, a number of characters is introduced and some of them even go through some character development. But as soon as the plot is supposed to take off, they all miraculously turn to cardboard. Any lessons they’ve learned, any growth they’ve gone through, is forgotten and they’re just stand-ins for lame, kitschy talk about love, death and morals. And you don’t want me to get started on the “morals” taught in this story. (Let’s just say: If you’re a girl, you’re not allowed to have your own mind and you must behave like a 50ies housewife. Otherwise, you’re automatically a Bad Person!)
There’s a not-very-underlying message of sex being dirty and how a girl should be ashamed of herself if she likes it, especially if she dares sleep with someone before being married. Are these the stone ages? Do we want young girls to feel ashamed of their urges? Does Aimée Carter want her daughters – if she has any – to grow up thinking all they’re supposed to do is please their husband and never have sex just because they want to? And if they do, they should feel guilty about it? Wow, this makes me angry. The fact that one character is immediately branded a slut for dating one guy, then breaking up with him because he only wants to have sex, and moving on to another, kinder guy, is equally as ridiculous. That’s what happens when you’re young. You fancy yourself in love, you realise your mistakes, you grow from them. And yes, you may date a bunch of guys until you find what it really is you need from a relationship. And a novel published in the 2000s should not portray it as okay for men to “browse” and experience their youth but not for girls. They are immediately to be despised and discarded, even if they were best friends.
Other than that, there is not much plot to this novel. Kate goes to live in Eden Manor to win immortality and save Henry’s (Hades’) immortal soul. Her reasons for this – or in fact for her falling in love with him – are absolutely unbelievable. There is no drive in any of the characters, the so-called love story makes no sense. If you want readers to engage with your characters, then show us what they’re like, show us why the fall in love. None of that happens here.
As for the tests: There are supposed to be seven tests and they are not always supposed to be obvious. However, there is not a single test that we actually know to be one. Sure, it’s nice that someone is not copying Battle Royale for a change, but the blurb promised seven tests and I was looking forward to seeing the protagonist struggle, fight her worst fears or be in any other way challenged. She’s not. The worst things that happen to her are that she’s forced to wear pretty dresses and eat wonderful food and spend time with her friends in the gardens. Wow… what an interesting idea.
If that weren’t enough to piss me off, the incredibly schmaltzy mother daughter dialogues about “living your life to the fullest after I’m gone” and how much stronger Kate is than she dares to believe would have decided my rating. Actually, all the dialogues are badly written, cheesy and simply boring. All the mythology woven into a modern story I was hoping for was, well, non-existent. In the end, we meet some gods when the decision is made if Kate passed the Goddess Test, but they are as lifeless as the rest of the cast.
Few as they were, the plot twists can be guessed by a reasonably attentive reader way ahead and so the last straw I was holding on to for getting something out of this book, was broken.
For me, this was a hugely unnecessary read and again, a beautiful cover got stuck on a bad book. If you want Greek mythology (or Aztec, or Norse, for that matter) and a nice, quick YA read, go for Katherine A. Applegate’s Everworld Series. I have read and re-read those books many times and they were as much fun for adult me as they were when I first discovered them at the age of 14.
THE GOOD: The cover art. The first 20 pages or so when characters still have a hint of personality.
THE BAD: Cheesy, bad dialgoue, lifeless characters, lack of plot, lack of mythology, very wrong take on sex and morals.
THE VERDICT: I honestly can’t think of anyone I would recommend this to.
MY RATING: 1,5/10