I am so torn on this review because there was definitely some enjoyment on my end at the beginning of the book; I certainly liked the characters okay, and the whole notion of THE Greek gods fending for themselves to avoid dying in New York City was AMAZING. But then, you know, the rest of the story kept going and I found myself thinking: this could have happened anywhere else and it would have been the same. So now I’m unpacking a whole can of problematic worms and now I’m seeing several issues I cannot put back into the suitcase.
by Alexandra Bracken
Hyperion, January 2021
YA fantasy, mythology
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies
I’m not exactly an expert in Greek mythology, but I will say that I’ve loved reading about it since I was younger. I had stories upon stories of many Greek heroes and heroines, gods and goddesses. I also love The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, so when I heard about a book that was a mixture of both greek myths and THG, I was definitely stoked.
Lore was a fun read. It went from one action-related scene to another, and kind of melded flashback with present time well enough that my attention wasn’t broken up by the pacing. I liked that this had a lot of Greek mythology references, and seeing the House of Heroes was kind of cool. The fact that Lore herself is descended from Perseus’ line makes all the more sense when you’re looking at the cover (if you’re a Greek myth aficionado, that is).
And the characters? Well, I will say I’m glad my favorite goddess didn’t get shafted early on in the game. After all, the whole premise relied on this idea that nine gods of the Pantheon were punished, and every seven years, an Agon would take place where hunters could kill a god and take that god’s power–and immortality. The idea is really frigging awesome, and I wanted to see how things would work out in the end. Were there still original gods left? If so, which ones? Who were the new gods? Lots of questions, and I will say, most of these are answered throughout the book! Of course, I also loved Castor and Miles, and even cranky Van. I didn’t have a problem with how these characters were written, honestly, and even the romance was pretty cute in a way. There were badass girls throughout (though it boggled my mind that for the most part, even though many of the girls were decent warriors, none of them traditionally took on the role of “archon”, which annoyed me). Lore also did tend to make the strangest decisions as well, which became confusing later on.
What ultimately started bothering me, however, is the setting and the logistics of the Agon itself. I felt like the setting was an afterthought, the “How can we make this story refreshing and modern? Oh, let’s set it in New York City in the present time, with phones and modern technology and bombs and stuff!” Except, you know, almost everything the hunters did was archaic: people fought with dories and daggers, swords and shields, bows and arrows. Occasionally we got some magic happening, and oh, Aries’ power has to do with magnifying himself in…TV screens? Computer screens? Why? His power made no sense with relation to the modern world. It also made no sense that the hunters were fighting in New York City with ancient weapons when guns aren’t put into play (and yet drones and smartphones are).
The entire setting could have taken place in any time period, anywhere, because most of the mundies/Muggles/non-Agon folks seemed largely unaffected even by the major-scale events (like the hunt in Central Park or the explosion at Grand Central Station or even the flooding of entire Manhattan). Yes, granted there were a number of injuries and consequences of these major events, but we don’t really get the sense of how people reacted with a bunch of crazy hunters in masks running around, throwing spears and shooting arrows at one another. Yes, it’s New York City, and most people don’t bat an eye at one or two crazies walking around…but the Agon was grand scale. I mean, for the most part, half these hunters are practically breaking the law with the size of their pointy things.
I had to suspend a lot of my disbelief here, and by the end, I was kind of disappointed at how things turned out. There were still some questions I needed answered. There were conversations I wanted to see. That said, at least the book itself seems to have concluded as a standalone, and I’m actually satisfied with that.
3 out of 5 cookies! As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing and the story itself, I can’t help but be put off by the use of NYC as a character.