I can't believe this book was written by the same author as Anna Dressed in Blood. This is like...Gameboard of the Gods level of disappointment for me. Granted, it's not even the same genre, but approaching this book from such exalted standards...I can't help but feel rather let down.
It is not a bad book, but it didn't bring me the level of enjoyment I had come to expect, given the premise and given my love for mythology. Yes, the mythological representation of the gods and goddesses in the book were accurate, I have no complaints there. However, the entire story felt like an overly long prequel, Antigoddess 0.5, if you will, instead of an actual first book to the series. It was well-written, but the characters were extremely dry, and completely lacking the spark necessary to make me connect to them and emphathize with their external plight and their internal anguish. The plot was very confusing in parts, and some things were just not explained clearly enough for my liking.
I was going to make a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly...but I realized that there was very little that was actually bad. I mean, there were elements within the story that I didn't like, but that's not to say they made the book bad. It was just things that subjectively bothered me, and I can't even make a long-winded rant about them because they're so minor. There were tiny, tiny instances of slut-jokes in the book, like the slutty Bo-Peep costumes of some of Cassandra's classmates, and one completely random comment that just came right the fuck out of nowhere.
“You spread the word well,” Cassandra said, watching forty to fifty of their classmates mill around the three fire pits in the park. “Almost as well as if the word was ‘legs’.”
The plot was really, really confusing initially. It started off slowly, and never really picked up...it actually felt a lot like The Odyssey because they were just meandering all over the fucking place, seemingly without a purpose. The narrative is split into several different parts, several different characters, too. At the beginning, we are follow the duo of Athena and Hermes wandering around the desert, with Athena picking feathers out of her mouth (what the fuck?!). Hermes is wasting away, looking like a teenaged anorexic. They walk into Demeter (literally) because she is the desert floor. The beginning just felt like a really confusing, surreal dream.
All of a sudden, we're immersed into the high school world of Cassandra and her love, Aiden, and their friends. They go to parties, Cassandra sees the future, and so scams a lot of her fellow high schoolers out of their lunch money doing parlor tricks. And back to Hermes and Athena, hitchhiking across the US looking for answers. Then back to Aiden and Cassandra and her prophetic dreams. Then back to Hermes and Athena as they go into Chicago. And back. And forth. Then we split again to Hermes meeting Aiden/Cassandra. And never did the roads diverge.
Ok, I was kidding. They eventually meet, but it wasn't until the book was well underway, and I was so fucking frustrated by then between the constant switching of POVs that seemingly went nowhere. I said this felt like a prequel, and I mean it.
The relationship and love between the characters weren't overdone. There were no love triangles, no insta-loves; there was nothing about the romance in the book that was utterly terrible or incomprehensively strange. It felt rather forced in some cases, like Athena's inexplicable attraction to Odysseus. Almost as if the author felt the need to include another love story in the book just so the lone Athena (who's supposed to be a chaste warrior goddess, for fuck's sakes) wouldn't feel all left out when all the other girls around her are all lovey-dovey.
Really, Athena. Two thousand years after your initial encounter with Odysseus. Knowing his love for Penelope. In the midst of dying. In the midst of a fucking WAR. You had to choose this time to start falling for the dude?
He was practiced and she was new, the Don Juan of the Aegean and the Virgin Goddess, but it was all instinct, all sensation and response. The heat of his tongue, the firm strength of his body and the way he moved her, they might have done it all a hundred, a thousand times before.
Aiden (Apollo) and Cassandra pissed me off, too. But it's kind of intrinsic. If you know of the myth between Cassandra and Apollo...you'll know Cassandra has a pretty good reason to be pissed off at him.
“He was in love with her. He was the one who gave her the gift of prophecy to begin with. But then she pissed him off, somehow, so he cursed her. He made it so she’d always see [the future], but no one would ever believe her.”
Yeah, cursing the girl you love because she wouldn't love you back. Sooooooo mature, Apollo. Here's the thing, Apollo, throughout the entire fucking book, remains completely, utterly selfish. He makes some really grandiose statements about loving Cassandra, though.
And I knew no matter what I did, I would lose you anyway. To death, or disease, or a fucking car accident. I’ve felt your heartbeat, and it’s so delicate it makes me ache. It paralyzed me, how different we are, and in the end I was a coward. But I’ve loved you a thousand years, and another thousand.”
“You asshole.” She stopped angrily packing and threw her bag on the bed. A thousand years and another thousand. That’s how long he’d spent loving the girl he’d gotten murdered. “You made me love you more than I did before. Knowing what you did. It’s a violation.”
That's the thing. His words are purely grandiose without the evidence to back it up. He chooses to keep things from her. Aiden would probably keep concealing their entire past together if Cassandra didn't regain the memory of her past lives and what he did to her. Apollo makes a lot of excuses, he makes them out to be star-crossed lovers of the sort that Shakespeare would envy, but it doesn't change the fact that, as Cassandra said, he's an asshole. Then again, his character and hers is true to the mythology, and as much as I dislike Aiden/Apollo...I can't resent him that much for staying so true to his (assholish) character.
The gods and goddesses: They are teenagers in this reincarnation, and their past is really quite fuzzy. I never did get an adequate explanation from any of them (besides the mortal Odysseus), of what happened to them before the story. How did they "awaken." Did they just realize they were gods and goddesses? Did they always have the memory? Did they live out eternity as young gods and goddesses? If it was explained, it was done so briefly that I completely missed it, but their history was more or less very, very unclear. I did like the fact that even if the gods and goddesses were more modern teenaged versions, they did feel accurate, and they did feel like gods and goddesses. Some of them look and act more...godly...
[Hera] cut an imposing figure, as usual. But the years had changed her as it had changed them all. Gone were the locks of hair falling to her waist. Now she kept her blond hair cut fashionably short. Her clothes too were modernized and expensive: she paired a cream-colored silk top with tailored gray slacks. A headband adorned with a peacock’s feather, her sacred bird, was affixed to her head. Zeus’ wife, Athena’s stepmother, pivoted on sling-backs with kitten heels.
[Athena] pulled a dark gray t-shirt over her head, some designer thing with black swirling from the shoulder to the hip. Toweling her hair dry, she still saw traces of the purple she had dyed into it a year earlier. She was the commander of the apocalypse, and she had purple streaks growing out in her hair.
The gods and goddesses act like gods and goddesses, despite their modernization. They felt right. They may be teenagers, and maybe I'm just reading way too much into words, but they had that air of world-weariness that comes with having lived for thousands of years. They're not perfect, but then again, the original gods and goddesses never were.
If you know your history, you will know the gods and goddesses were so very mortal in their feelings. They are petty, they get angry, they get jealous. They hold long-ass grudges. They do stupid things in the name of love. They are overgrown children with powers of destruction. Hell, it's how the Trojan War started, Hera and Athena are basically children wanting a toy that Aphrodite has and they can't.
The sweetness left Aphrodite’s face. “Nothing else? I have everything that this apple represents. And you are angry, because you are second to me.”
If Hera is second, that makes me third, Athena remembered thinking. It had been difficult to hold her head up. She’d never wanted to be more beautiful than them. But she had always known herself to be smarter, and standing in her gown, staring at the golden apple and still ridiculously wanting it—she had failed herself.
All this started over a fucking golden apple. They know how ridiculous it is. They know how stupid it is to fight over such a little symbol...but vanity wins, and the world paid the price.
The main point of this book is that the gods and goddesses are at war. They've split up sides, and they're fighting. All of them are dying, except for Apollo, for some inexplicable reason, but it was so confusingly represented that I never felt compelled or intrigued. The splitting of the narrative didn't help, and the lack of explanations further added to the mess. I never got a clear idea of why all this was going on, and so I ended up not feeling like I cared very much.
There's some action in this book, but for the most part, it was slow...almost Jack Kerouac-ish, in some parts. The lack of intrigue combined with the plot holes and unanswered questions left me feeling unfulfilled. As in...is this all there is?
The book felt like it was 200 pages too long for the absolutely lack of the plot that it contained. It was just an average book.