Goddess by Laura Powell

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC ISBN: 9781408815267 Published: 10/4/2014

In a world where England never converted fully to Christianity and instead took on the worship of the Greek gods and godesses, Aura is about to become a high priestess for the cult of Artemis. Separated and sheltered from society, the world she lives in revolves entirely around the goddess. When Aura starts to have visions though, the worlds of politics and religion begin to collide and everything Aura thought she knew is tumbled onto it’s head. Can her faith in the goddess carry her through, or has the goddess forsaken her entirely?

If anyone’s read my blog regularly I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’m a  character reader. I read for characters and if a book doesn’t have characters that especially grab me, I usually end up putting the book down and trying it again in a  few years. This book though has had me going against my usual pratice though because although I didn’t get on with the characters so much, the book did keep me reading all the way through and I ultimately finished it in an evening.

So, why didn’t I get on with the chracters I hear you ask? Well, the main character is (unsurprisingly) Aura, a young girl waiting for her ascension to high priestess in the cult of Artemis. Naive and sheltered, she knows nothing of the outside world and devotes herself entirely to her worship and in practicing what the cult preaches. Unfortunately, this continued throughout the book – poor Aura felt to me like she never really left her sheltered background behind and remained very much a stationary character for me to whom things just happened. Part of this could be because she is essentially the goddess’ puppet, plagued as she is by the frightening oracles that Artemis sends her but that she cannot recall and leave everyone around her horrified. Aura is basically the goddess’ mouthpiece and I think because of this she never really gets much of a chance to really develop. She came across to me as the goddess’ tool and was herself rather powerless – ultimately she wasn’t an unlikeable character, more of a frustrating one. I just kept waiting for her to take charge and she never really seemed to do so, even at the very end. Things just happened.

Similarly with Aidan I found myself not caring too much about him either. He was too convenient – of course he’s sarcastic and witty (but in a clever way, not a jerky way), and naturally he’s a rebel (but very selfless with it). He didn’t stand out for me as a character anymore than a number of other male characters I’ve read recently in YA books. I have to say in his defence that he did have more go about him than Aura did, but he still didn’t leap out at me either.

So, if I didn’t get on with the characters so much, what kept me reading the book all the way through cover-to-cover in an evening? One word: setting.

I LOVED the backdrop of a modern-day world where the predominant religion of England was not Christianity, but the worship of the Ancient Greek gods. If you think about it, Chirstianity has had (still has?) a huge influence over how our country works today, even if many people now don’t classify themselves as particularly religious. Our laws, our general morals, our art, culture and building work, even our speech all ahve some link ot Christinaity. Now, imagine if that founding-stone religion was completely different, where the god was not a benevolent god but just as flawed as the beings He created? Where God was not neccessarily always a He? Where gods and goddesses were free to act on their petty greivances and exact horrible revenge on any they feel has slighted them in some way? Where relationships were more complicated and emotion-laden than the very worst teenage dramas. Where ultimately religious beings were almost more human than humans? How about a society based on that?! Now that sort of setting just opens up a whole world of possibilities and they alone would probably need a whole series to fully explore them. THAT’s what kept me reading!

I’ve never really had much of an interest in Greek gods or myths (I prefer the Germanic or Nordic ones really) but I found myself quickly drawn in to this new Greek world – never before have I ever really understood the idea of humans being made in God’s image; if they were made in the Greek gods and goddesses’ images it’s no wonder we’re as flawed  as we are! Then again, it raises the question of are we flawed, or just rather excellent imitations? Setting the book in a slightly different pagan world was such a nifty idea and I credit that entirely with why I couldn’t put the book down. I loved finding out more about Artemis, seeing how this little aspect or this little snippet of ordinary life differed from our own all because of a change in religion – it was utterly fascinating!

I have one teeny tiny cuationary note about this book. The influence of the economic crisis of a few years ago (is it still ongoing?) and the London riots is clear – very clear in fact to the point where it almost smacks you in the face with it. Not a problem, it’s kind of fun to see the influence an author has had and see where it’s come from and how the writer’s used it in their writing. However, it does have the unfortunate effect of making the book feel like it has a date, and I worry that eventually it might seem slightly dated. I’m quite prepared to raise my hand on this one though, this could well be much less obvious to a younger reader and/or someone without my own particular background and experiences.

So, for me this book has flawed characters but the overall theme of the book and it’s drawing on the Greek myths is what kept me reading to the end. This musn’t be underestimated! Usually if I don’t get on with the characters, I stop after three chapters and put the book aside for a few years.This one though I read all the way through in just a few hours, so obviously the world Powell has created was compelling enough to grab me and get me to forget my usual habits. So despite my starting this review off more negatively than I like to, this is a book I will be recommending to other readers  as I feel the book’s setting more than makes up for it’s flaws.

Thnak you to Bloomsbury for my proof copy. Find Goddess here.

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