Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I read it, so you don't have to: The Goddess Test

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Before we begin, a big heads up: I'm going to ruin this book for you. This "review" is breaking all the rules of book reviews, wherein I'm going to spoil all the parts of this book, including the ending. So if you have any desire in your giant beating heart to read The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter, I suggest you look away.

Maybe go read this. Look at this.

Or watch this, or this.

Or just go read the damn book. I'll wait.


**

The Goddess Test is one of the books I've recently picked up at the library. I've heard a lot of buzz about this book, but I would not be surprised if you haven't. Because after all, I might be the only one in my circle who frequently keeps tabs on what the various Harlequin imprints are publishing and follows trends in YA fantasy/romance. Because hypothetically, if one is considering writing a sweeping series of fiction about, say, a girl's unrequited love for her stepbrother who is ACTUALLY a mythical unicorn, you might be inclined to keep tabs on those sort of things. Hypothetically.

The Goddess Test, and the two sequels, and the two additional bonus-reel novellas set in the same world, are written by Aimee Carter, who is younger than me and I'm pretty bitter about it.

To make myself feel better about the fact that I'm twenty-eight years old and haven't even published a SINGLE novel yet (sigh), I decided I would read The Goddess Test and decide for myself what this publishing wunderkind has that I don't.

Turns out, what she has is an uncanny knack for making greek and roman mythology really after-school-specially and a big ol' imagination that appeals to tweens. I'm not saying she's not a good writer. Her ability to write is not what this is about. Good for you, Aimee Carter. If I were you I would stop reading this right now, and just go pop another bottle o' bubbly, because Giiiiirl, you wrote some books and people masses of teenage girls obviously loved them and you should be proud, and plus, I'm just a bitter husk of a woman who hasn't actually finished a draft and who might be a little bit drunk right now because it's 4.99 Keiths night at the pub down the block, and who can resist that?

So, to save those of you who aren't teenage girls some time, here is my review.

The Goddess Test. Here's the blurb from the back of the book:


EVERY GIRL WHO HAS TAKEN THE TEST HAS DIED.


NOW IT'S KATE'S TURN. 



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 that 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.



IF SHE FAILS..


Dramalicious, right? Well, here's where the problem starts.

This book has a prologue which kills the entire thread of suspense running through it. There's a big reveal at the end, but the answer to the big reveal is given in the first 2 pages. What?! Kate's mom isn't actually dying of cancer? She's a Goddess? And this whole thing is rigged? No. You don't say.

So the book is basically a play off the Hades-Persephone myth. Without doing any fact checking and simply referencing what's rattling around in my mind from that degree I took that I'm still paying for, the gist of it is that Hades, Lord of the Underworld, traps Persephone into marrying him, her mother loses her shit, they work out a deal that Persephone can hang out up here for half the year, but for the other half, she has to rule the Underworld with Hades, and that's what we call Winter. (Did you see that Kate's last name is Winters? Clever. Oh, wait, that's not clever at all, that's offensively obvious. My bad!)

One of my favourite story concepts is "tell me a story I already know in a different way." Well, that's sort of what happens in this book. But less awesome.

Kate strikes a bargain with old Hades and gives up her life to save the life of a friend. A stupid, selfish, obnoxious friend she met minutes earlier. But teenage girls frequently bond quickly, and she has a hero complex and doesn't like it when people die, so ok. We can get past that.

She agrees to submit to The Goddess Test, seven tests that, if she passes, she'll become immortal and spends her winters for the rest of time with Hades, ruling the Underworld with him, side by side, as his child bride wife. Except instead of calling him Hades and him being a badass Lord of the Underworld, we call him Henry and he's a pasty, wimpy emo boy. Which is pretty annoying, and we all know that I am a sucker for pasty, wimpy emo boys.

Greek Myths are really big on the concept of the test. Heracles and his Labours, for example. But instead of doing awesome things like stealing cool stuff from important scary people and beheading three-headed dogs (who, by the way, makes an appearance in this book as a big and cuddly dog with only one head) and impregnating 50 virgins in one night, our heroine has to pass 7 tests based on the Christian concept of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Here are a few of the tests that Kate passes. (SHOCK! SHE PASSES!)

She is given a room full of fancy fancy ballgowns and shares them with her dumb friend, because she'd really rather wear jeans and sweaters anyway! (greed)
She stops eating because her boyfriend tells her to!
She studies very hard for a written examination, but doesn't manage to score above the minimum grade! (sloth)

And my favourite, the test she doesn't pass: Girlfriend gets roofied, but oh-oh...she can't resist the charms of her milquetoast mopey Underlord boyfriend and they do it. (lust)

But it ends well, because "they" decide, well, meh, good enough, and they make the broad immortal anyway.

Now, to my recollection, Greek Mythology is rife with violence, rape, murder, incest, and general bad behaviour. The gods certainly wouldn't be testing people based on a belief system much, much more recent than them, that doesn't define their values anyway. So that didn't really make sense.

And, there was not a lot of smut in this book. I was expecting more smut. Our heroine does get roofied, and she does apparently do the no-pants dance with the hero, but it happens behind closed doors. And she refers to sex as "that" (ie: I don't want to do that; you'll have to earn that; I wasn't thinking about that) which is even more obnoxious than the 50 Shades of Grey "inner goddess" business.

AND THEN they reveal that Henry, Oh Whiny Love God of the Underworld, was a virgin. Despite the fact that he's spent the last hundred years auditioning nubile young things for the role of Wife.

There is only one character in this book who is even remotely trampy in the Greek tradition, and she gets punished big time for having two boyfriends on the go, and then, to add insult to injury, one of them dies. It's not even like she has both of them in the bed with her at the same time, nope, just dates two of them. But then one must die. Because, well...consequences are important.

The Goddess Test has taken a concept that is pretty awesome and washed out all the potential things that would make it awesome: the lust, the backstabbing, the greed, the lust, the incest and the violence. Those things are not things I want to happen to me in real life, or to anyone else for that matter, but I sure want to read about hot young gods doing them to each other.

Kate was annoyingly self-aware, made responsible decisions and accepted the consequences of her actions. She was about as un-Bella Swan as they come, but she was still basically just a soggy cardboard cutout. She gets half marks as a likeable Heroine.

Henry was boring and mopey and quasi-British, and I would have been AAALLLL over that when I was 14, so we'll give him a pass in the Hero category.

The rest of the characters were bland and forgettable and I'm really glad the author provided a cheat sheet at the back to explain which god or goddess each character represented, because I could not figure it out on my own and I resented being outsmarted by a book published for teenagers.

 And seriously, who would rename Zeus - Lightning bolt tossing, raping while disguised as pretty much every animal on the planet, child-killing, maiden impregnating Zeus - Walter. Walter. Walter is a fine name but it is not the name of the head god. Or whatever they call him, King God? Big God? Head God? Oldest God?

But, all things considered, I burned my dinner while I was reading this book because I couldn't put it down and stop to feed myself, so it held my attention. I will probably read the rest of the books, all nine hundred and eighty seven of them (I think there's going to be 3, but who knows? I smell a cash cow!), so I guess I didn't hate it.

I just hate myself.

I give this book: three stars out of five.

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