The Goddess War begins in Antigoddess, the first installment of the new series by acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake.
Old Gods never die…
Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.
Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.
These days, Cassandra doesn't involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn't even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.
Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.
Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.
The Goddess War is about to begin.
From Goodreads [or That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named if you prefer]
From the first line, this book is imbued with a sense of urgency that pulls the reader through the story. Gods are going mad and slowly dying, Cassandra’s power of prophecy allows her to see an ambiguous blank spot in her immediate future and enemies are closing in. From the get-go, Kendare Blake has you in her grip and does not relent.
Blake has gift for bringing the creep factor in a major way. Athena’s fate is my new most-horrible-way-to-die. Imagine slowly suffocating to death on feathers sprouting in your lungs, feeling them slowly filling in with every breath you take. At one point, one pops out of her eye. OUT OF HER EYE. Pardon me why I go sit in the corner and shudder for 5 minutes straight.
Blake’s writing style is quite enthralling, it’s blunt but still conveys rich atmosphere, parts of this book are incredibly eerie. She’s fantastic at painting word pictures, I could visualize every part of the book as I read (including some parts I’d rather not.)
One of the most compelling things about Antigoddess is the mythology. I had a thing for Greek history as a kid so when I saw that the author of Anna Dressed In Blood was writing a goddess book, I was so in. I like Blake’s version of what the gods have been up to since ye ole’ days of glory, bumming around the human world and getting really really jaded. Blake has clearly studied up, random bits of knowledge are leaking out of the story at every turn.
Large chunks of the plot involve the Trojan War but you don’t need extensive knowledge, or any knowledge really, to understand what’s happening. Here, I’ll give you the highlights and save you a trip to Wikipedia: the Trojan War centered around the Greeks vs the Trojans. According to myth, it started because Paris of Troy made a snap decision, fueled by his dick, and offended Athena and Hera. Gods got involved, the Spartan queen was kidnapped, Cassandra of Troy tried to warn everyone that this was all going to go horribly wrong and no one believed her, many people died, at some point there was a big wooden horse (the horse wasn't all that relevant to this story but I don’t think you can talk about the Trojan War and leave it out), everything else Blake will either fill you in on or you can google yourself.
I loved Cassandra from the moment we first meet her, charmingly scamming freshmen out of their pocket change by predicting coin tosses with unfailing accuracy. I ended up having very maternal, protective feelings for her (not my usual state of being). She does a 180 over the course of the book, going from slightly naive high schooler to badass prophet and I have to say that though I liked her both ways, she’s a much more interesting presence as the latter.
Athena is a little more difficult to get a read on. She is determined to save her family and that leads her to make some hard, at times brutal, decisions. The way she grapples with her identity as a goddess, what is expected of her due to who she is vs what she’s feeling and who she may want to be given the option, is fascinating.
Another of my favorite things about this book is the juxtaposition of the gods and the mortals’ perspectives. The gods are immortal, they’re seeing the big picture, whereas the mortals are more caught up in the moment to moment immediate circumstance. This theme is subtly (maybe sometimes not so subtly) woven through every interaction between god and human and I love it. From Cassandra’s perspective, Athena is just waltzing in and destroying lives, but from Athena’s POV we know that she is grappling with a previously unthinkable concept, desperate and running out of time so she justifies her actions as the most expedient route from A to B.
Though it doesn't contain any Shamalan-esque twists, the story does cough up a few surprises, some less surprise-y than others. There was one in particular near the end that got me. While it was never outside the realm of possibility, I honestly didn't see it coming and was left staring slack jawed at the page for a few moments before I was able to collect myself and move on.
So with all this awesomeness, why only 3.5 stars?
I have no good answer for that. All I can say is that this book somehow lacks that undefinable extra something that grabs you and makes you squeal. This may very well be a personal thing, if any of the above sounds intriguing to you I definitely recommend giving Antigoddess a shot. It’s a captivating and engaging read, but there was something about it that kept me from getting completely immersed in the story. That said, I am looking forward to continuing the series. I’m excited to see what happens and there is at least one ship I am very much anticipating being explored.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery Book Blog: http://cuddlebuggery.com/blog/2013/09/21/review-anigoddess-by-kendare-blake/