First in The Goddess War series
By Kendare Blake
Available now from Tor Teen (Macmillan)
When ANTIGODDESS began, I recognized the Kendare Blake who wrote ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and GIRL OF NIGHTMARES. Athena, hiking across a desert with Hermes, is slowly dying of feathers growing in her body. She recounts, in detail, what will happen when one finishes coming through her mouth. It is quite the image, full of blood and tissue and canker sores.
At other times, I had trouble recognizing Blake's style. Where were the sharply drawn characters like Anna and Cas? I love Greek mythology, and felt I was often leaning on my knowledge of The Iliad and The Odyssey to shade in the characterization of ANTIGODDESS. Hermes, Athena's ally in companion, was perhaps the most inscrutable. Now, Athena doesn't understand him, but surely the narrative could've dropped hints to help pull the very different parts of his personality together.
The two main characters are Athena, the goddess trying to find a way to survive, and Cassandra, the prophetess reincarnated and unaware of her past with the gods. I felt like Cassandra's story was the stronger one. She had a clearer motive, protecting her friends and boyfriend, and her romance with Aidan was quite sweet. (Those who have read the book might not believe me, but it turned out better than I expected!) With Athena, I felt more was being told than said. Many characters emphasize that she's the goddess of strategy, but her strategy never goes much beyond, "Let's go to this place next." Blake does do interesting things with Athena's status as a virgin goddess, however.
But I did get into ANTIGODDESS once the plot really kicked into gear - enemy gods show up, Athena and Hermes get a lead, Cassandra clues in. I wish the book hadn't taken so long to get to the good stuff, but it does give me high hopes for the next book in The Goddess War series. However, I felt like Athena and Hermes showed a shocking lack of curiosity in the second half. They don't even question why another god they meet isn't dying like all the others.
ANTIGODDESS is full of great ideas and has an interesting approach to mythology, but the characters are thin and the book is slow to start. I think Blake is a terrific author, but this highly anticipated release disappointed me. The ending is strong enough to make me want to read the second book, which I hope fulfills the promise of the series instead of briefly touching it.