I… actually enjoyed this a bit more, surprisingly so because this book was practically an excuse to write all the smut about the god of the underworld and the goddess of springtime and death. ALL THE SMUT. And boy, my reaction to those scenes was a whole spectrum of reactions, including laughter. Not to yuck on anybody’s yum, of course, but it was like a reflex.
That said, one of the things I loved about this–and because I’m comparing it to A Touch of Darkness (#sorrynotsorry)–is Persephone. Assertive Persephone. Confident Persephone. Knows how to play the Olympus politics game Persephone. Perceptive Persephone. Sexually liberated Persephone who knows what she wants and and knows how to get it, and damn, but the consent in this book is absolutely stellar.
If I were Hades, I’d pay my respects to her too. But then again, he already did. Several times.
Also, I am so here for Hermes and Dionysus. And Hades the marshmallow fluff.
by Katee Robert
Sourcebooks, June 2021
adult fantasy, romance, mythology
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies
Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.
With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth… a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.
Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…
Alright, so my summer was clearly busy with all these romance reads…but to be fair, I managed to space these out accordingly!
As a preface, I found Neon Gods in my library on the new acquisitions section, and because I’d read A Touch of Darkness (also another Hades and Persephone tale, also adult fantasy), I knew exactly what I signed up to read when I picked up Neon Gods. Now, both books themselves had a degree of entertainment, and boy, the spice levels in both were astoundingly red-hot. But I will say that Neon Gods had a bit of a leg up between the two because of the way Persephone–as well as the Persephone-Demeter relationship–was portrayed.
In this Dark Olympus universe, Persephone is one of four daughters from a newly-elevated Demeter. As one of the “Olympians,” Demeter is ambitious and has no problem trying to push her daughters into high society life, even going so far as to allow Zeus–the ginormous douchenozzle–to marry Persephone. But there are rumors that Zeus has done away with his previous Heras through suspicious means, and herein lies the issue: Persephone doesn’t want to be part of that statistic, and the thought of even being with Zeus–a much older, abusive, power-hungry man–makes her sick to her stomach. So she runs away, despite leaving many of her loved ones behind, and finds herself crossing a magical bridge from the glitzy nightlife of Olympus to the dark recesses of the Underworld.
Cue Hades. The book goes back and forth between Persephone and Hades’ POVs, and we get to see what Hades thinks of the situation that Persephone runs into. I think this is where Neon Gods does the narrative better than A Touch of Darkness, in that we aren’t constantly stuck in Persephone’s headspace. Without fail–unless we’re talking about Disney’s Hercules, where Megaera reigns supreme–Hades is often a favorite character, not just because of his TDH level of charm, but also because he’s almost always underestimated within the realms of mythological retellings. I mean, speaking in Greek mythology, the guy rules one of the three major domains (earth, sea, and sky), and many of his denizens in the Underworld wield death and destiny as their weapons. Not to mention that Hades is practically the god of wealth. So yeah, he’s my favorite. But damn, I did like this version of Persephone, too!
The two pretty much hit it off. In this retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth, Persephone crosses the River Styx through a bridge, and she does so willingly. I emphasize this because a lot of the book deals with this problem of consent where the woman’s body is involved. Zeus, a man at the top of the highest echelons of society, is depicted as the epitome of toxic masculinity, and expects everyone to cater to his whims, to the point where he demeans and seeks ownership of women. Hades, on the other hand, is practically a bisexual sex god with many kinks, but prides himself in making sure that his players are all consenting adults. Honestly, it’s not a subtle mention by any means, but I really appreciated the autonomy that Persephone has in this story. Much of what she does–ill-advised and not-so-ill-advised–is her choice, including getting in bed–literally–with “the mythical enemy.” And boy, what Persephone wants carnally, she gets. Not that it was difficult. Hades is definitely game in more ways than one. IF YA KNOW YA KNOW.
I also really liked the developing relationship. Surprisingly, the “dark” in this Dark Olympus series doesn’t really refer to the steamy relationship that Hades and Persephone have. In fact, I found that surprisingly refreshing, because their romance with each other outside of the kinky shit is actually kind of cute!
Neon Gods, however, lacks a bit of the oomph in the plot and worldbuilding itself. It’s not very clear what the magic on the bridge signifies, nor why the Olympians hold their status in the first place. We get some backstory of the bad blood between Hades and Zeus, but I’m not quite sure what kind of environment we’re in. I get the sense that it’s in the modern era, because there’s a lot of social media content being used, but at the same time, the two settings–Olympus and the Underworld–are pretty much severed completely from the other. Why does everyone on Olympus think Hades is a myth when many of the Olympians actually go to Hades’ highly selective VIP parties? What’s really the driving force of the treaty between Olympus and the Underworld? Does nobody really talk about wanting to cross the bridge and seeing what’s on the other side? Do the actual gods don their names as titles? So in this case, who was Demeter before? So many could be worked in here, but we get so little glimpses of the actual world and its machinations!
If you’re looking just to get entertained by the smut and the characters, plus their relationships, this is definitely the right book to read. If you want more overarching plot, though…I’m afraid you’re barking up the wrong Underworld. There was so much that could have been done, but a majority of the book is really just Hades and Persephone getting it on in various places in his home. The ending was pretty neat, but it happened so fast that it was almost anticlimactic.
3.5 out of 5 cookies! Will I read the next book in the series? As I am trash, we all know the answer to this.