Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.
The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
Ahhhh. 2020 me was so young. So naive! So full of hope and promise. How times have changed.
Bracken’s young adult urban fantasy infused with greek mythology elements has gotten a good deal of hype over the past few months. In 2020 I saw it on numerous most anticipated lists. It even made its way onto mine (so I’m sure you can understand my disappointment, but we’ll get to that). I’m a sucker for greek mythology. Killing gods? A fresh take on mythology? Athena? What I heard was The Hunger Games meets greek mythology? (I realise I’ve written mythology approximately three times in the last paragraph, but I was really excited for the mythology, okay?) Sign me the hell up.
Or so I thought. I’m a changed woman now. Jaded and… other synonyms for jaded, because I’m basically jaded. As you can probably tell from my rating, this was not good. It wasn’t even average. It was meh at best.
First of all, the world building. I know fantasy is often criticised for info dumping, but this book really blew it out of the water. The first quarter of the book or so was so hard to follow, even though I know a lot about greek mythology? I’m intimately familiar with the myths, heroes and gods references and yet I was struggling to keep up. The author decided to explain most of the complex details about the setting and stakes and competition and went, oop, that should be enough for them! Just going to leave them to stumble through it half blind! That should work out! It didn’t.
Since I’m discussing the incoherent world building, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the plot. Why was there so much of it and why was it going by so quickly? Honestly, the pacing in this book is god awful (see what I did there? I’m hilarious, I know. I swear, I only use puns in blog posts). It went by so fast I struggled to feel connected to the characters which meant that I wasn’t particularly invested in all that plot that was happening.
The ‘big plot twist’ of the book didn’t do much for me. Not only because everything was going by so fast, but also because it became so incredibly obvious. Fantasy authors, gather close, I have a pro tip for you. If the reader can guess the plot twist before you’re supposedly cunning, intelligent, intuitive, skilled (insert various adjectives here) main character, you probably need to do a better job of disguising the hints. I don’t have a problem with guessing plot twists in advance. General omniscence wouldn’t bother me. But I do have a problem with it being rather obvious and the main character who is all those adjectives (supposedly) not being very suspicious at all.
Now, you may be wondering. How could a 500 odd page book have too much plot? What could possibly be done? Make it longer? God no. I have a simple one step plan that will solve the issue! It creates more time to be spent on the plot and main character while also removing something incredibly annoying!
I can not possibly hope to verbalise how completely unnecessary the romance was. It felt forced and like the author had just shoved it in there to check the romance box for YA fantasy. It didn’t need to be there. We certainly didn’t need to waste so much time on it. The only other option is spending more time on it to actually develop it and that’s the last thing I want.
Here’s some information for all you YA authors out there. A hetrosexual male (I even put male instead of guy so you’ll get it, SJM) and a heterosexual woman can be, say it with me kids, just friends. And not just friends as a precursor to romance. Be just friends, and stay friends. That is allowed. Do we know that? Did we not know that? I feel like we should know that. No? Just me? Okay.
The characters individually weren’t particularly compelling or interesting and shoving them together with a sign that screams SEXUAL TENSION in neon lighting and forced me to endure their unbearable flirting did little to endear me to them.
Since we’re on the topic of characters and romance, let’s discuss the representation real quick. Or, actually, let me sum it up in one eloquent sentence.
“Her best gay friend is marrying my best gay friend!” – Sex and the City: The Movie (It never should have happened. The movie, this quote, the representation in this book… The list is endless.)
I’ve a good amount of ranting, so I’m going to give myself a second to tell you what I did enjoy in this book. There was some stuff. After all, I gave it two and a half stars. It got that one and a half extra star for a reason, and that reason wasn’t my generosity.
The writing was decent. Nothing amazing, nothing to write home about, but it didn’t actively make the reading experience ten times worse, and in a way, that is something to write home about. Or at least write about on this blog.
I also didn’t not like Lore. She was a decent main character, enjoyable and interesting at times.
Honestly the biggest reason this gets an extra star and a half is – 1) it was genuinely fun to read at times, and 2) I loved the NYC aspects of the story. The concept was also genuinely cool, even if it wasn’t executed particularly well. And, you know, I’m not giving points for originality, but it’s worth noting.
If you’re excited about this… maybe don’t be? I’m not saying don’t read it, necessarily. I’m incredibly picky. BUT, maybe lower your expectations a little. I’d hate for you to get your hopes dashed. One person having to endure that is enough.