on 14 April 2014
Great, interesting, intriguing premise. And to be fair to the writer, I have to say I did read to the end (albeit skimming or skipping larger and larger chunks as I went), intrigued how she would close out this first book of the trilogy.
Unfortunately, this is all that I can say that's good.
The frustrating thing is that it feels like a really interesting premise that was ruined by poor writing and lacklustre storytelling. This book felt eerily reminiscent of Twilight... Which from me, is not a compliment. There are a few spoilers further down this review, I've done my best to keep them minimal, but some of the bad and ugly of this book is hard to discuss without a few minor spoilers.
One of the irritating things overall was that the writer didn't seem to have a grasp on the POV. The book as a whole felt like it should have been written either in first person or in a deep third, but there are odd chapters/sections paragraphs not from Helen's point of view. That wouldn't be an issue if this had been skilfully or smoothly done, but it isn't. Too many of the POV changes just felt like out of place intrusions into what was mostly Helen's head. At times the point of view degenerates into a total mess.
There are also too many plain old grammatical errors, badly phrased sentences, metaphors which entirely fail to work, etc. My absolute favourite moment was after a murder and a bloody fight, melted pavements - this in the town centre, by the way, and Helen finds her way there by following the sounds of hand to hand combat - one of these geniuses says they'd better move because "Mortals will be coming." Gee, ya think?! Give me strength.
Angelini is altogether too fond of said bookisms, with characters gasping and yelling, whining, mumbling, allowing, chastising (yes really), not to mention saying things with gratuitous and unnecessary adverbial additions.
Oh, and the allergy to pronouns: this was a minor niggle for quite some time and then I came to a couple of paragraphs which were almost entirely about Helen, and didn't refer to another female character. Why, then, the need to keep repeating Helen this, Helen that, Helen the other? I know her name. I'm almost 3/4 of the way into the book. She's called Helen. I get it! I don't need it repeating four or five times in one short paragraph. This is what the words "she" and "her" are for!
There's some rather dubious faux science of how the powers work: honestly, I think "it's magic!" works better than throwing in a few science-y words and pretending that's an explanation. They're demigods, I'm suspending my disbelief: trying to make the magic "scientific" is unnecessary and actually intrudes on me buying into the the mythology. Later Helen magics up some power that's "hotter than the surface of the sun": I'm no scientist, but... Really? And they all survived with just a bit of melted pavement?? Hmmm.
Add in some heavy handed foreshadowing just for good measure and a few more grammatical errors than are acceptable in a book the reader has paid to read. Basically, it all reads like it need a darn good edit and a good deal of pruning. Why is a book allowed out in this state??
Then just for fun we have a big dose of Special Snowflake syndrome: Helen is stronger and has more powers and is more beautiful than any of the others of her ilk, with a magic item that makes her practically invulnerable. Excuse me while I vomit... Her dad is, like Charlie Swan before him, apparently blissfully unaware of his daughter's abilities and her increasingly strange ways of spending her free time. He isn't quite as much of a clueless space cadet as Charlie, but it's a close run thing. After enormous chaos he does finally confront her, but, predictably, when she says well, I'm not gonna tell you, he returns immediately to space cadet. Yup, that sounds likely.
The first reaction between Helen and the new people in town is that they all hate her on sight, and she hates them just as much. Nice, conflict, always fun. Except in a passage which is less than clear Helen and the (ridiculously handsome, natch) Lucas end up falling from the sky, and apparently save each other's lives (at this point they were still fighting, and when they fall I think she's unconscious, so... Yeah, this didn't make a lot of sense). This fixes the blood feud just like magic (sorry, can't help myself) and from then on the family spends all their time going on about how wonderful and important she is, though exactly why isn't clear. It's all terribly convenient, though by no means the last convenient bit of plot fudge Angelini will throw in.
Speaking of the ridiculously handsome Lucas: ugh. Apparently he's so perfect, Helen would have a sex change for him. Yuk. Quite besides being one of the most ridiculous lines ever written, that's some pretty gross minimising of actual transgender people who have, you know, actual reasons besides teenage crushes to have gender reassignment surgery. It's pretty revolting on many levels, so let's move swiftly on.
His beauty isn't dwelt on quite as much as good ol' Edward Cullen's, but it's altogether too close. When she's "only seen him twice" (actual quote) she can apparently already tell he isn't vain, despite his excessive beauty, which is what makes him so beautiful. Not the muscles or height or colouring, though these are apparently enough to need describing a LOT. Nope, she loves him 'cause, after seeing him two whole times, she just somehow "knows" he doesn't think about his gorgeousness. I believe you, Helen, thousands wouldn't. She does get one over on Bella Swan in that she calls him out on some of his creepier behaviour; naturally (him being so pretty and all) she doesn't actually, you know, DO anything about it, but at least we aren't expected to just see it as cute. It's a small thing, but it deserves mentioning in amongst all the awful.
We also discover why Helen and Lucas's oh so pure love is star crossed: in fact, it turns out Lucas has known all along but didn't tell her because he wanted to spend time with her. Apparently, it didn't occur to him (or to his family) that if he loved her, it might be an idea to give her the down low on why it's a bad idea and they can never be a couple. Everyone else - including the adults and the supposedly ever so wise mum - knows he's stringing her along, but apparently it doesn't occur to any of them to take him aside and point out the crappiness of this behaviour.
He loves her, but apparently it doesn't occur to him that she is just as entitled to an informed decision about their entanglement as he is: nope, poor Helen doesn't find out till she's already in deep. Wow, Lucas. How loving of you. She does at least confront him about this deception, but it's pretty swiftly swept under the rug of "but I twuly lurve you, really I do!" Yup, he loves her so much he makes sure she will suffer just as much as he's going to. Wow, you're a real catch, Lucas...
Just as well he's beautiful (unlike everybody else who are just, and I quote, "nondescript shapes" to Helen) and therefore easily forgiven. Whoops, need the vomit bucket again. When she isn't able to spend time with him, she thinks maybe it'd be a "comfort" to go "stark raving mad". Because, you know, romanticising mental illness is cool these days. Another yuk.
Not only does Lucas look like a Greek god (well, he should, he is one after all), he's also super sensitive and adorable and admirable (how this fits with his huge deception of the girl he supposedly loves I'm not clear). He doesn't actually display these traits particularly, but why show when you can tell? Oh, and he's apparently super duper perceptive for noticing that "no one acts rationally when it comes to their family." This statement of the obvious makes Helen swoon. Pullease. It made me literally eye roll - credit to Angelini, I don't think I've ever actually done that at a book before, though I've felt like doing so many times.
The baddies are at least actually baddies, in that they're slightly more revolting than the good guys. Part of the family is on a mission to rid the world of evil femininity so that the poor boys can control themselves... I hope that Angelini is intending to revolt the reader by this particular gem, it's not entirely clear. To give her the benefit of the doubt I'm going to assume this is supposed to be totally repugnant. Probably/hopefully this is elaborated in further books, but honestly I can't say I care enough to find out. When the best thing I can say about the good guys is that they're not quite as grim as the bad guys...
Basically, this is a really, really fantastic, intriguing premise let down by cringeworthy "lurve", unlikeable characters, poor writing, less than stellar storytelling, enough really awful lines to give me a migraine (I don't think I'm getting over the sex change comment any time soon, I just...) and plot holes you could fly Pegasus through. I think the horrible writing is almost worse because the premise has so much potential. Greek gods! Blood feuds! Magic! Intrigue! What a shame that the book based on such great themes and ideas is so godawful.
As I said at the start, I do have to give the author just the tiniest bit of credit for the premise, and for the fact I did want to know what happened at the end, but it really is outweighed by the negative to the extent that I can't even bring myself to give this book two stars. If you're looking for a Greek god rehash of Twilight, dysfunctional relationships and all, you might like this. Otherwise, give it a wiiiiide berth.