It’s always been just Kate and her mom – and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate’s going to start at a new school, with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won’t live past the fall.
Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld – and if she accepts his bargain, he’ll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.
Kate is sure he’s crazy – until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possibly. If she succeeds, she’ll become Henry’s future bride and a goddess. If she fails…’
This is a difficult review to write – mainly because I want to talk about how and why it disappointed me – but I don’t want to spoil too much for those of you who haven’t read it yet – although I feel as though the blurb on the back pretty much gives away most of the plot.
I was quite excited about this book because it promised to be all about Greek mythology, with a focus on the story of Persephone. Sadly – The Goddess Test fell short for me. Aimee Carter had the awkward job of re-imagining the Greek myths to fit a modern-day high school romance, but it just didn’t work.
Henry, is Hades, God of the Underworld, ruler of the dead. Without a doubt he is meant to have a dark side (all the Greek Gods are – they’re hardly your upstanding, compassionate group of immortals). He certainly isn’t the misunderstood, brooding, but caring and sensitive, teenager that we see here. Unfortunately, all the Gods in this book are shown as rather pale, bland, shadows of the characters they are supposed to be. The Greek Gods didn’t care about human life. They didn’t preach morality. They were all-powerful immortals who did whatever the hell they wanted and were guilty of adultery, murder, rape, incest, bestiality, patricide, jealousy, betrayal among other things. Everything that made the Greek Gods so fascinating to read about has been stripped away; their relationships re-imagined, to fit the story Carter wants to tell.
This was one of the main issues that I had with The Goddess Test. The characters just didn’t interest me. An attractive man doth not tension create. Henry was a bit of a bore – overly serious and irritatingly cryptic about everything. If I were Kate I would be beyond exasperated with him. He is barely there at all in fact, and felt more like a background character. Much of the supposed interaction between Kate and Henry takes place ‘off stage’. Kate tells us, briefly, about their evenings together but we rarely get to see them first hand. There was no passion there and as it was, I couldn’t bring myself to care about or even believe in, their relationship. It felt like Carter was simply telling the reader a bond had formed between them, rather than allowing us to experience it with the characters.
Kate was… forgettable. A little harsh perhaps, as she is nice enough, but she had no spirit. She evoked some sympathy in me as she is lied to and betrayed so many times I lost count (though she herself never seems to care much). I felt Kate was too quick to trust and far to quick to forgive.
The majority of her actions just didn’t make sense to me – why would she sacrifice herself for an unpleasant girl she’s barely known 5 minutes? Why does she never question why Henry cannot help her mother if he can bring people back from the dead? Why does it never bother her that 11 girls have already died for Henry? (Not a spoiler – as this is revealed on the second page) Henry’s responsibility in this is glossed over and the blame placed firmly elsewhere, the same with his actions towards Persephone – in this version of the story, Hades never kidnapped or tricked Persephone, he loved her (and loves her still). She broke his heart. All of this is done so Henry can play the part of the sympathetic hero in this tale. The concept of a modern-day woman falling in love with Hades, in-spite of his darker personality, could have been intriguing – prompting several difficult questions. Carter passes over this opportunity and instead with have the somewhat generic love story we have seen a hundred times before.
Given the description of this book (and the title) I was expecting to see Kate facing dangerous and thrilling tests, but in reality, very little action takes place. The tests themselves are nondescript and happen without Kate’s (and therefore the reader’s) knowledge – another example of Carter’s tendency to tell not show. Once revealed, the nature of these tests truly make little sense, given the context of this story. It is highly doubtful the Gods would have advocated or cared about any of the issues Kate is tested on – more likely, several of them would have been on their to-do list. Carter has tried to incorporate western religion with Greek Mythology and it. just. doesn’t. work. Given that immortality was the ultimate prize, the tests were also far, far to easy.
I’m aware this review sounds like one long list of dislikes. The Goddess Test wasn’t bad per-se, but it was a let down. Carter’s writing flows well and The Goddess Test was an enjoyable enough read. It would be wrong not to take the time to mention the beginning chapters of this book because they were very good. Carter’s handling of Kate’s grief, pain, fear and anger over her mother’s battle with cancer felt very raw and real. The writing here was excellent and both gripped and moved me. I was sorry when we moved away from that part of the story as it was the strongest aspect of the book. It certainly struck a chord with me, so perhaps that is why I felt so betrayed and irritated by the ending.
Kate is groomed and manipulated over and over again by those she trusts. I don’t feel there was a single female character that wasn’t unflatteringly portrayed in one way or another – for a book aimed at young women, this is a great shame. How Kate readily accepts everything that has happened is baffling to me, because, frankly, if it were me, I would have walked away from them all there and then.
Recommended Reading Age 14+
This wasn’t one for me but there are many great reviews out there. Check out some of these reviews on The Goddess Test: