Monday, January 28, 2013

The Goddess Test by Aimée Carter


     Title: The Goddess Test (Goddess Test #1)
     Author: Aimée Carter
     Publisher: Harlequin Teen
     Published: April 19, 2011
     Number of Pages: 293 
     Genre(s): Mythological Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
     Date Read: January 23, 2012
     Acquired: Wal-Mart

Kate Winters and her mum have been on their own for as long as Kate can remember; she has no memories of her father and her mother never even goes near the topic and Kate is fine with that because her mum is her best friend. Things are about to change though, Kate's mum is dying and soon Kate will be even more alone. Her mother's dying wish is to move back to her home town in the middle of nowhere in  northern Michigan. Kate agrees even though it means senior year in a new school, surrounded by new people who have known each other their whole lives. 

For a girl who grew up in New York she thought she was used to weird. But the people at her school are weirder than she's used to but she can't pinpoint why at first; they seem more like a dysfunctional family than school mates, but maybe that's just a symptom of being in the same class with the same people from kindergarten on up? It doesn't take long before the weirdness comes to a head when her new friend takes her to a mysterious estate and that's when everything gets crazy. Ava ends up dead and the owner of the house, a handsome, brooding, dark young man (who we actually met in the prologue talking about his drowned girlfriend..and the other 11 girls who have died being with him in the last 84 years...) claiming to be Hades, god of the Underworld. He tells Kate that he can give her what she wants most, her mother's life, and all she has to do is pass seven tests. To prove to the doubting Kate that he means business, he brings Ava  back from the dead.

Kate, overcome with optimism dives headlong into the tests, and the mysteries of Eden Manor and the surrounding town of Eden. The deeper she goes the more questions she has and the more her life begins to unravel. Has everything she's ever known been a lie? What is the truth? Who is she? And just what is her destiny? Most important of all though, can she survive long enough to learn the answers?

I love Greek Mythology; I know I've mentioned that more than once, but I'm reviewing another book in the mythological fiction sub-genre so I feel it needs to be reiterated. The story of Hades and Persephone (no Google Chrome spell checker I do NOT want to change that to "Phonephone"!?!) has always been one of my absolute favourites in the Greek canon. I've long since been fascinated by the intricacies in the relationship between Hades and Persephone, and each of their relationships with Demeter (huh spell checker has no suggestions for that one go figure!). I'm intrigued by complex relationships in fiction (and in life) and I think that's all thanks to this story. It never fails to pull me in. As a big fan of the story, I feel comfortable saying that Aimée's re-visioning definitely does it justice; in fact it's got more of the complicated interwoven relationships that I love from the original story!

Putting the Greek Pantheon and the Classic stories into modern day settings is obviously a huge trend right now, especially in the YA field. It seems to be one of several supernatural trends, including zombies, faeries, and werewolves, vying to take over the top spot of vampire romances. I for one hope that this trend wins because I think the stories are rich and vibrant and by bringing them to today's teens in recognisable settings they become a gateway to the original tales; tales which today's teens might not actually be inclined to read, which to me is sad because I started getting Greek Mythology from about the age of 6, so that's my bias.

Obviously it's not perfect, nothing ever is, and if it was it would be boring and uninteresting  because perfect is no fun. One of the major problems I have with this story, but also the whole series, is the characterisation of James/Hermes. Being a fan of the Classic tales I find the behaviour of James/Hermes perplexing. In the myths, Hermes was a cheeky little bugger, he tricked Hera into suckling him by disguising himself as Ares, he stole Apollo's cattle as a newborn and then invented the lyre to apologise; he was a chronic giver and enjoyed his supporting duties as herald and soul conductor. In Goddess Test he's a mopey, emo, mean guy. He comes off as very unsympathetic to me, but I think Aimée meant for us to feel for him, I just don't. I'm also not a big fan of the characterisation of Calliope/Hera, but I can't get too much into what bothers me about that characterisation without spoiling the plot and I hate doing that, so I'll issue a warning instead. If you're a mythology fan and you actually know a bit of information about Hera, try and pretend you don't okay?

Oh and I'm still not sure I'm entirely sold on teenaged versions of the Greek Gods, I just feel like they should at least be portrayed as in their 30s, but given that this story is for the YA market, that's an understandable and forgiveable style choice. 

What are your thoughts on the current trend of taking the Greek myths out of ancient Greece and plunking them down in the modern day? What about the de-aging of the gods in this series?


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