(Actual rating: 2.5 stars)
The Goddess Test is one of those books that doesn’t quite measure up to its intriguing synopsis. I love stories about Greek mythology and was looking forward to seeing Carter’s take on Hades, Persephone, and the rest of the Greek pantheon, but now that I’m done reading I feel a little dissatisfied.
My problem with this book is that the deities don’t strike me as being authentic. Henry, for example, is not at all what you would expect the god of the Underworld to be like. Although the synopsis describes him as “dark,” “tortured,” and “mesmerizing,” I suggest that more accurate adjectives would be “polite,” “careful,” and “tame.” I pictured him as an impeccably well-mannered English gentleman in a cravat and smoking jacket, not the powerful, mysterious lord of death that he was supposed to be. (Also, as a side note, what kind of name is “Henry” for a god? “Hades” sounds badass, but “Henry” sounds like the name of an accountant.)
The other gods and goddesses present in this book didn’t seem anything like the deities I learned about in my high school’s mythology unit, either. I’m used to associating Poseidon with the sea, Artemis with the hunt and virginity, Ares with war, etc., none of which comes through in this novel. The gods’ and goddesses’ defining characteristics are missing, and if I hadn’t been told that the characters in the book were supposed to represent Hermes, Zeus, etc., I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea that they were anyone other than random people.
Something else that is highly questionable about The Goddess Test is the plot itself. The premise is that Hades/Henry has been abandoned by his wife Persephone and must either find another consort to help him rule the Underworld or abandon his post and fade into oblivion. The consort can’t be just anyone, though – she must prove her worthiness by participating in seven tests and must be approved by the 13 major gods and goddesses.
This is where we get to the questionable part. All of the tests faced by Kate, Henry’s intended consort, focus on virtues such as purity, generosity, etc. Anyone who’s even the slightest bit familiar with Greek mythology knows that the gods are petty, fickle, and rash, and that kidnapping, rape, and infidelity are common features of the myths. Therefore, it seems pretty uncharacteristic for the deities in The Goddess Test to be so preoccupied with whether Kate is a virtuous person.
The tests themselves are not what I expected. I imagined Kate completing tasks and trials that would require active participation and effort on her part; I guess I was picturing something similar to the tasks Harry Potter and his fellow competitors face in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where the characters must perform feats of bravery, intelligence, etc. In The Goddess Test, however, the tests are so subtle that Kate has no idea she’s participating in them – and neither does the reader. Someone asks to borrow one of Kate’s dresses, and she says yes? Awesome! Test number one is complete! It’s anticlimactic and kind of bewildering.
For all its faults, though, The Goddess Test isn’t a terrible book. I may not have been on the edge of my seat the whole way through, but I wasn’t bored either, and the way everything comes together at the end of the book goes a long way toward redeeming the novel. I appreciated getting to read another take on Hades and the Underworld, even if isn’t necessarily my favorite version of the story.