Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: The Goddess Legacy by Aimee Carter

It may seem strange that I'm choosing to review this first, rather then The Goddess Test. But with my background in mythology, and some of the things that I want to say about my impressions of this series, this seems the most logical course of action.

The quick version, for anyone new to my blog: I am obsessed with anything related to Greek myths. I have been most of my life. But I've heard a lot of stuff about Aimee Carter's Goddess Test series, and when I picked up The Goddess Test and The Goddess Legacy on a whim at WalMart, I fully expected to hate them and maybe give them to my friend Kate as a gag gift, since the heroine shares her name.

I'll save you some trouble if you'd rather skip all my blathering and get to the heart of the review: I might still buy Kate copies, but she's not getting mine.

I can fully understand why some of my friends thought they might need flame resistant clothes when I finished these books. But the strange truth is, I loved The Goddess Legacy. Now let me tell you why.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
For millennia we've caught only glimpses of the lives and loves of the gods and goddesses on Olympus. Now Aimée Carter pulls back the curtain on how they became the powerful, petty, loving and dangerous immortals that Kate Winters knows.Calliope/Hera represented constancy and yet had a husband who never matched her faithfulness….

Ava/Aphrodite was the goddess of love and yet commitment was a totally different deal….

Persephone was urged to marry one man, yet longed for another….

James/Hermes loved to make trouble for others#151;but never knew true loss before….

Henry/Hades's solitary existence had grown too wearisome to continue. But meeting Kate Winters gave him a new hope….

This is, hands down, the best collection of shorter fiction I have ever read. It's certainly the only one I've ever felt legitimately compelled to read fully. There are several reasons for this. First, of course, is the fact that all of the stories are by an author whose work I already knew I liked. Second, the subject matter of these stories is something near and dear to my heart, and I found it very fun how Aimee interpreted some of the myths she chose to tackle here and made them fit with her versions of the Gods myths and lore. Last, and most importantly, is that while this is a bunch of short stories, they all interconnect and build to form a whole. 

I loved getting to read a story from Calliope (Hera) 's point of view. As far as I know, we *never* get this in actual Greek myth. Hera is generally portrayed as a villain, even though in many ways she herself is a victim. Aimee chooses to tackle this and I feel she has done an absolutely awesome job. When I read The Goddess Test I had issues with some of the things that happened to Calliope (Hera) but after reading The Goddess Legacy, I am convinced that the angle taken there actually makes valid sense. I would not go so far as to suggest it is the truth for the original myths, but it's a fascinating take none-the-less. (Notice I'm keeping very shhh about it. I don't want to ruin something vital and it's hard to stay quiet.)

Perhaps you are looking to read a love triangle unlike any you've ever witnessed in YA before? Ava (Aphrodite)'s tale is exactly what you need. I'm pretty sure anyone who knows their mythology thinks they know all the details of the situation with her, Ares and Hephastus. What I found myself wondering was how it would be handled here. I'm not going to spoil it for you. Instead, I'll say that the story fits these characters -- the take Aimee has on the myth -- perfectly. While purists of Greek myth might take some issue with it, I think it is commendable that an author had the guts to tackle this at all and I think that Aimee did a fine job.

And then, of course, we come to Persephone's tale. I'll tell you right now: my heart ached for her and for Hades. I think that despite its sadness, this may be one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen written about this couple. That's saying something, especially from someone who generally detests Persephone and tends to take Hades side. (Yeah, I know how screwy that sounds.) Blame The Polka Dot Door. It started my whole Greek myth obsession, and the story of Hades and Persephone was the tool through which this was done. Anyway, getting back to the point... 

For once we get to see how this situation effected Persephone and how she felt about it. And I think the way she is shown -- both the good and the bad -- is fascinating in light of the series this book is from, as well as for anyone who likes mythology in general. This story was absolutely spectacular and, for me, definitely the highlight of the collection. I was totally captivated and could not put this down. 

The last two stories in the book are from James (Hermes) and Henry (Hades) perspectives, and these did not work quite as strongly for me. I've never been terribly obsessed with Hermes in a general sense, so I'm not overly surprised at my lack of involvement here. The story was in no way *bad*. It just couldn't live up to the awesomeness that came before it. What was great about this story is how Aimee gradually pushes time forward throughout the collection, and to me bits of this had a sort of Robin Hood feel to them since it takes place in England and is about the God of Thieves.

Why wasn't I totally enthralled with Hades story, if I am so utterly captivated by him as a character in Greek myth? My first and probably largest problem is that while the rest of the stories in the anthology were written in first person this one was written in third. Now, I have absolutely no issue with third person. I write it myself in my work. But in this collection, due to its placement and the style of everything that came before, I felt distanced from him and I did not *want* that. My other big issue is that his story was essentially setup for the rest of the series. On one hand, that's brilliant and I would strongly suggest anyone new to the series to start with this because of it. On the other hand, I wanted *more* from him and I didn't get it. Which kinda broke my heart a little. 

The Characters: 

There are a ton of characters in this book, and I've already given a shout out to how much I loved the way that Persephone and Calliope (Hera) were handled. There are a couple other characters that I want to give a bit of praise to, because I think Aimee has done a fantastic job on them.

First, big surprise, is Hades. This is what would have been the dealbreaker for me with this series. If she hadn't written a Hades I loved, we would not be having this discussion. Fortunately, the way that Hades is portrayed is one of the most beautifully down depictions of him that I have ever read. He is, perhaps, a bit softer then I would normally expect. But that's a refreshing change from stuff like the Disney villain for Hercules. (Man I haed that movie.) Most people just don't have the guts to touch a character like Hades and getting to see him portrayed in a bit more balanced light is something that has been a joy to read. 

The other character who is going to get some praise from me is Nicholas (Hephastus). What a lovely and moving portrayal. I don't care if there are a few liberties taken with his birth. The point remains that this character is so often abused, used as a joke and swept under the rug that when I read his parts in Ava (Aphrodite) 's story I wanted to stand up and cheer. The warmth and compassion presented in this version of Hephastus, the level of humanity, is an intriguing and inspiring consideration. 

The Romance:

This, for the large majority, is not a book filled with happy love stories. Prepare for your heart to bleed a little, but it's in the best way possible. There is some love here, but there is also loss, longing, loneliness and betrayal. Make sure you know what you're getting into, but as long as you're cool with not getting a Happily Ever After for each story, this is absolutely marvelous reading.

In General:

Wow. Just wow. You've probably noticed that I haven't been around as much lately. It is partially that I am very busy. But it's also partially that everything I was trying to read was turning into alphabet soup on the page as I tried to read it. I absolutely could not focus. These books have reminded me why I do this whole crazy reading thing. Why I love books so much more then TV or movies.

I do not necessarily feel that The Goddess Legacy is for everyone. But if anything I have said here intrigues you, it is a beautiful collection that I would strongly encourage you to give a shot. I can say with absolute confidence that it exceeded my every expectation. 

1 comment:

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