**Nota bene: This review has been truncated due to spoilers. You can find the entire, spoiler-ridden review on Goodreads.**
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is very very hard for me to write. Had you asked me up to a certain point what I would have rated this book, I probably would have said somewhere in the solid 4-4.5* range. But then the ending just…I’m sorry, we’ll get to that in a moment.
I’ll be honest: I’d had zero intention of reading this book. In fact, I’m fairly certain I even rolled my eyes when I first read the synopsis. Greek gods are real and running around New York City and must suddenly “embrace their former roles” — to solve a murder, no less? Eh…I don’t know. This isn’t a particularly new or innovative premise — the idea of ancient deities in modern settings with powers that have significantly waned — but what an author does with this premise that can make a book enjoyable, and Brodsky does do some things that I liked.
First off: the research that went into talking about the Classicist topics. When one of your (best) characters is a Classicist, I’m going to be notably on edge, bracing myself for something that’ll put me over the edge. But I didn’t! In fact, Theo (our resident Luke Skywalker-lookalike Classicist) became my favourite character. Selene (Artemis) may be our primary protagonist, but any man who starts lecturing a New York City cop on (an admittedly but also understandably conflated) Elusinian Mysteries has my eternal devotion. He’s smart, not fabulous at relationships and, honestly, just not particularly fabulous with people in general outside of the classroom save for a small few. Basically he’s probably not fun at parties. Theo is my academic spirit animal and I loved almost every page in his perspective.
Selene started off as a great protagonist. There was just enough of a cold distance to her that made it easy enough to believe that she is, indeed, not human; while this also sometimes made her difficult to connect with when in her perspective, I thought it was a good way to reinforce her status as a god. However, I have to express some disappointment that the chance wasn’t seized for an asexual heroine. I am aware that Artemis is a dichotomous figure: on one hand, she can be this great feminist icon, while on the flip-side also representing many of the patriarchal aspects of Ancient Greece — yes, I’m referring to her status as a “virgin goddess” and remaining “always chaste.” Here’s an idea: what if Artemis just had zero interest in sex? Not for the sake remaining “pure” and, therefore, divine, but just because sex held no interest for her. Given that somewhere around 1% of the world population identifies on the asexual spectrum, why is it so difficult to believe that the goddess of the hunt, who swore of sexual relations of all kind, is on that spectrum? She always struck me as a veritable poster-child for asexuality — or, at the very least, gray-A/demisexuality.
This would, I think, also help explain the depth of her “affair” with Orion, which is a central point of the novel and of Selene’s character. I’ll be honest: the relationship between Artemis and Orion was one that always interested me. There are many different versions of it, but I will admit to always gravitating towards the more “romantic” version of them being very close before Apollo had a hand in tearing them apart.
Here’s where I have to air what was, probably, my biggest grievance: the romance between Selene and Theo. I was either rolling my eyes or physically gagging, especially by the back third of the novel, whenever this was brought up. Frankly, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to because, you know, it’s Artemis. Here’s the thing, Theo’s attraction to her, I totally get; it reminds me of the line from the film, Elizabeth, that:
All men need something greater than themselves to look up to and worship. They must be able to touch the divine here on earth.
She’s not human — she’s a goddess — and he’s enthralled. Cool, totally get it. But what happens between them? It really started to kill my enjoyment of the novel, especially towards the end.
Also, Classicist pet peeve alert: the poor treatment of Hades. I mean, I get it: it’s the Elusinian mysteries, which are all about Persephone and Demeter, and from the perspective of the goddess who swore of men and hates violence against women. But, still. This isn’t something unique to this book; Hades always seems to get a bad rap and it irks me. He seems perpetually cast as either the antagonist or a power-hungry dick. Let’s get some things straight here: Hades was Zeus’ most loyal brother — for the record, it was Poseidon who tried to lead a coup against Zeus, not (and never) Hades. He was also the only one of the sons of Kronos who actually practiced monogamy; not that that probably matters to anyone, but I think it’s just reinforcement of his loyalty to those he cares about. I’m in no way trying to romanticize Hades, but I just can’t understand why writers (for page and screen) insist on casting him in such a negative light. Just because he’s the Greek god of the dead doesn’t mean he’s a total dick. Okay, moving on.
This was a book that basically started out with a ton of promise and had so many great things, but tripped its finish line so hard that I have to dock stars from it. It actually left me groaning and then sighing in disappointment because this book had really gotten my hopes up.
Would I continue the series? Maybe. Theo is fantastic, but I don’t think I could keep reading the romance between him and Selene — if they’d just stayed partners-in-crime, I’d have been totally gung-ho about going on because the book, for the most part, was fun. I can’t deny that. I’m torn. Very, very torn.