Mythological Mondays is a feature I created to spotlight books brimming with--you guessed it--mythology! I adore this sub-genre and can't wait to share my love with all of my fellow bookworms! This feature isn't just focused on novel reviews; it may also include interviews, looks at original mythological tales, etc.
Aimée Carter puts a unique spin on Greek mythology in her debut novel, THE GODDESS TEST. Her world is set in modern times, centered around a girl named Kate, whose mother is dying from cancer. Upon moving back to her mother’s hometown, she soon finds herself the center of a prank gone horribly wrong. After getting on cheerleader Ava’s bad side and being left stranded in the woods near a river (The River Styx, though she doesn’t know this at the time), she witnesses her classmate’s accidental death. A stranger named Henry appears and promises to save Ava if Kate will do something in return for him. She agrees without knowing what that is, and later learns that she must live in his house for six months of the year during the fall and winter, much like Persephone was once forced to live with Hades. In fact, Henry is Hades and his sprawling manor is home to the Underworld.
Kate discovers that she must undergo a series of tests in order to be granted immortality, become Hades' future bride and rule the Underworld. Of course, the tests are a secret and Kate won’t know they’re coming. She doesn’t even get to meet the other gods and goddesses beforehand to know who will be judging her. She’ll pass or fail based on how she reacts as a human being. While I appreciate Carter’s subtle take on this aspect, I wish the tests were a little more obvious. It was very “tell” at the end when explaining the tests, and very little “show” throughout the novel. This stripped a lot of conflict from the book. It would have been nice if the tests had been more strenuous or quest-like; at times, they got lost due to the fact that the Greek gods were following a Christian God’s ideology. It didn’t always work, but it was an interesting take. I also wish Carter had synced various characters to their god/goddess counterparts a bit more heavily. Most of the characters-revealed-as-gods came as a surprise because their personalities didn’t match up or stand out. I’m hoping Carter will expand this aspect in the second book. It was interesting to see a new take on Hades where he wasn’t a mean, vicious god, but one of the sympathetic, brooding love interests so popular in YA right now. You could tell how much he loved Persephone in the past and how hard it was to move on. I’m hoping that in the second book, when Kate begins to learn more about the Underworld, the darker side of Hades will come out more.
My favorite thing about the novel was the way Carter built Kate’s relationships. My heart hurt for her whenever she mourned her dying mother. She went through so much in order to have a little more time with her. I loved the scenes where they could spend time together and really appreciated the realism brought to Kate’s grieving. I also liked the way Kate and Henry had a slow-blooming courtship rather than the instant rush of sexual attraction so prominent in YA these days. It moved at a natural speed as the characters learned to care for one another, though I did wish for a bit more of a spark at times. Their relationship also had a very BEAUTY AND THE BEAST feel to it at times.
Even though THE GODDESS TEST is the first in a trilogy, it is also very much a stand-alone. There is a bit of set-up for the next book, but there is no cliffhanger ending. The conclusion feels natural. In fact, the novel could have been a one-shot with no one blinking an eye. It will be interesting to see how Carter plans to flesh the story out over the next two books.
I like how the text was treated; the curly swirls add an element of the fantastic. I like that each letter has a swirled element burned behind it in addition to the dark white swirls visible on the letters G, O, and T. This same font is used for the first letter of each word in every new chapter. I also like the way there are swirls at the top of each chapter, which again go back to the exterior cover. The model posing as Kate looks lost amidst all the foliage, yet pure in her white dress. These represent her inner struggles throughout the book. I also like the way the white dress ties in with the white used in various fonts on the cover.
[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]