Book Review: Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

Kate Winters survived the seven tests and has ascended to immortality.  As the new wife to Henry (Hades), god of the Underworld, she still struggles with Henry’s closed-off personality and secrets.  As he becomes more distant, Kate struggles with her feelings for him and the very real possibility of losing him–and the life–she’s fought for.  When the gods start preparing for a war with an evil that could destroy them all, Kate must navigate the maze that is Tartarus.  All of this leaves Kate with one question: what if immortality isn’t forever?

Well, then it’s not really immortality, is it?

The sequel to last year’s The Goddess Test finds Kate, Henry, and all the other Greek gods (still prancing around with their confusing, unnecessary, modern names) exactly where they were in the first book.  A lack of character development, a plot that feels like complete and total overkill, and a weirdly sex-negative message make this book a huge steaming pile of disappointment.

As in the first book, Kate is a glutton for punishment and is willing to sacrifice everything to save Henry.  There’s been no real development with regard to her characterization.  Her quest to rescue him from capture in the Underworld takes up much of the plot, and while it works in keeping the pace clipping along at a fairly quick rate, it doesn’t provide much actual intrigue, as Carter’s book is clearly aimed at readers who want all of the angst and the romance and none of the actual action.

Perhaps Kate’s mounting panic at losing Henry would be more compelling if Henry felt at all like a real character.  What is supposed to be stoic mystery comes across as condescending vagueness.  Henry…Henry kind of blows, actually.  There’s not enough of a personality to find him at all complicated or interesting, and his complete inability to take responsibility for his own feelings or actions is frustrating (but not as frustrating as the fact that none of his fellow gods or goddesses hold him responsible, either).

In fact, one of the book’s biggest weaknesses has to do with the characters and their refusal or inability to speak to one another.  For too much of the novel, everyone refuses to tell Kate what is going on.  Everything that Kate manages to extract from her new coven (I guess?) requires so much prodding and pleading that it becomes almost comical.  All of this felt forced, as if Carter was trying so hard to create tension and suspense that she completely lost her footing.  It feels manufactured, never authentic, and certainly not suspenseful in the least.

There’s also the fact that the book has a weirdly sex-negative message.  It’s hard to tell if it was intentional or is subconscious on the part of Carter, and that makes it all the more disturbing.  Virtually all of the female characters, save Kate herself, are made to be morally-corrupt nymphos.  All of them are slut-shamed in some way or another for choosing to indulge in sexual activity.  While some of Kate’s thoughts about Persephone’s past indiscretions can be chalked up to Kate’s (irrational) jealousies about her, it doesn’t excuse her judgement about her supposed best friend Ava (Aphrodite).  Kate’s own preoccupations about physical intimacy with Henry are oddly prudish and often feel forced.

The problem with the sex-negative message, and with the treatment of the female characters in general, is that it doesn’t really feel intentional.  Virtually all of the women in these stories are motivated by their interest in the men they either have or desire, and as a result they are willing to sacrifice everything–their friendships, their families, and themselves–in pursuit of these aforementioned men.  If there was some hint that Carter was aware of this–that Kate was heading towards some sort of epiphany about her own pathetic behavior with regard to Henry or a realization that her judgment of these women and their choices was wrong–the book would be much more palatable.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Despite my obvious issues with the novel, it’s likely to find an audience.  Carter has potential as a writer, and readers interested in Greek mythology (but not actual mythology), retellings, and angsty romance are likely to be satisfied by this sequel.  The book’s ridiculous cliff-hanger will definitely work for some readers, but this one found it way too derivative of some other YA paranormal romances out there.

Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter. Harlequin Teen: 2012.  Electronic galley accepted for review via NetGalley.

 

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