8 February 2012

Review 12: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

"Every girl who has taken the test has died. Now it's Kate's turn. When her mother's dying wish is to return to her hometown, Kate's willing to do anything to make it come true. Even if it means starting at a new school with no friends - and no hope. Then she meets Henry. Dark, tortured and mesmerising, Henry offers Kate a reprieve. She thinks he's crazy. Yet when he brings a dead girl back to life right in front of Kate's eyes she's not so sure any more... Claiming to be Hades, God of the Underworld, Henry's prepared to make Kate a deal. He'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests. If she succeeds, she'll become a goddess - and Henry's bride. If she fails she'll never see her mother again."

This is a rather confused novel. It has an excellent prologue with an intriguing premise and many twists and turns but is unfortunately let down by messy plotting and confusing characterisation. Disappointing due to the huge potential of the basic story but ultimately a bit of a frustrating read. Having said that, I imagine it will be very popular with its target audience due to the supernatural romance and tormented hero.

First Line: 'How did it happen this time?'

I found this book whilst I was buying for my library at the wonderful Peters Booksellers (a lovely booksellers where I do the majority of my book buying - it is my favourite part of my job when I get to spend a day there). I read the prologue and found it hugely intriguing as our hero, Henry, discusses unspecified events with a woman. It really captured my attention but then I read the blurb which I'm sure you'll agree from reading it above is pretty horrendously written and gives away an awful lot about the story. I bought it anyway as I knew it would appeal to my readers and read it myself to see how it panned out.

The story is pretty much as the blurb tells us and for the most part it is as under-explained and strange as the blurb. Kate moves to a small town with her dying mother and a very bizarre (in a badly written sort of way) sequence of events leads her to meeting the mysterious Henry who brings a girl back to life in front of her. The girl in question is the school bitch, Ava. I want to relate pretty directly how this happens as it is so badly conceived and is hardly a spoiler as it is included in the blurb and happens very early on in the story.

So, Ava hates Kate because she is beautiful and Ava's boyfriend is friendly. Under the pretence of a party, Ava takes Kate on a wild goose chase through the woods to a river. Now Kate is super scared of water and swimming so Ava leads her to this river and then jumps in the river and swims off, only to bash her head on a rock and die  (before being brought back to life by Henry). Presumably if Kate can't bring herself to cross water, they managed to get there without doing it so why Kate doesn't try and retrace her steps is beyond me. Presumably Ava jumps in the river to avoid Kate trying to follow her home but seriously its just a really bizarre situation which no people would ever get themselves into. Elements of it are explained by a twist at the end when you're reading it, it seems frustratingly stupid and only some of the stupidity can be explained away. Unfortunately this is not the only situation like this, they crop up at an alarming frequency where people end up in the most ridiculous situations that Carter just doesn't give good enough explanation for - they just happen so that various plot points can occur and the story an move forward.

Other little inconsistencies crop up frequently, such as one minor character who Kate finds standoffish and aloof to begin. Neither of their behaviours change at all, but Kate suddenly proclaims that she 'likes Ella more and more'! Finally, the basic premise of the novel is that Henry gives Kate the opportunity to pass seven tests and become a goddess and rule over the Underworld with him in exchange for Ava's life and more time with her mother. Kate constantly questions whether Henry is telling the truth about being a god but goes along with it anyway and only decides that she believes he is a god  about half way through the story. If Kate doesn't believe Henry then a) how on earth does Kate (a character we are supposed to think is intelligent and sensible) think he raised a girl to life and b) what on earth is the alternative? If he is not what he says he is, then he is a strange, human man who is asking you to go and live with him for six months a year. She also says dim stuff like 'No one tell me anything, it's freaking me out' and a few sentences later, 'I would have to work this out for myself'. The romance is also unconvincing and Kate constantly refers to sex as 'that' which would seem to demonstrate she should not be engaging in any of it. I found the romance uncomfortable as there was no real reasoning built up for why they would like each other and I was also ill at ease when (spoiler ahead) they do have sex as it is after they have been slipped some sort of love potion spell so they didn't mean to have sex and so Kate loses her virginity to a man she barely knows who is keeping her in his house after taking a love potion. Not exactly a love story for the ages.

The books only appeal is the basic story at its core and the retelling of the Greek myth will appeal to lots of readers. I was really interested to read a modern retelling of Persephone and loosely, the structure of the actual story works. Unfortunately it is bogged down in predictable twists and bizarre characterisation. There is a big twist at the end that actually alters most of what you have just read, which I found frustrating and I felt wouldn't work if you read it back in the knowledge of the ending. It also casts Kate very much as someone who has stuff happen to her and has no control over her situation which does not make for a compelling or aspirational heroine. Despite the fact that all the previous girls have died there is very little tension in the story and the threats never seem very menacing.

Ultimately, the inconsistencies just occurred too much for me to enjoy this book and I was disappointed as I felt as though the basic story was fascinating but the story is badly plotted and the characters and events of the novel are wildly unbelievable and erratic. The ending is left as though there might be a sequel, but I won't be reading it.

Try it if you like... supernatural romances with messy plotting and characterisation like Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

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