Book Review



  • Author: Alexandra Bracken
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: January 5, 2021
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

CONTENT WARNING: violence, blood, gore, murder, grief, mention of cancer, mention of death of a parent, mention of death of children, sexual assault

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals. They are hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.

Long ago, Lore Perseus fled that brutal world, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory after her family was murdered by a rival line. For years she’s pushed away any thoughts of revenge against the man—now a god—responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek her out: Castor, a childhood friend Lore believed to be dead, and Athena, one of the last of the original gods, now gravely wounded.

The goddess offers Lore an alliance against their mutual enemy and a way to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to rejoin the hunt, binding her fate to Athena’s, will come at a deadly cost—and it may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

I read this with my favorite person to do a buddy read with, Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog. I’m so grateful to have had her to read this with, because I really needed someone to process the book with as I read it. She’s the perfect buddy reader for me, because we are usually on the same page (no pun intended) about what we’re reading. And there were so many things that we both agreed on, both positive and negative.

The first thing that really stood out to me was the way that Greek mythology is threaded through the story, but it’s brought out in such a thoroughly modern way. It was an entirely new take on traditional stories, and kept it fresh. Rather than sticking to the retelling route, it was more updated, so it was unpredictable and intriguing in a way that’s utterly refreshing. I also loved the decidedly feminist spin that was throughout the story. Lore is a strong woman, and has no problem questioning the patriarchal status quo. She doesn’t understand why Athena only mentors men or why only males can lead the lines and houses associated with them. But instead of accepting these misogynistic ways, she actively works to change them.

The action is fast-paced and pretty much non-stop. This book is one of the few I’ve read with a gasp factor higher than 20, and I was hooked. Although Becky was definitely faster at reading the chapters than I was, I definitely didn’t have a hard time flying through the pages. I couldn’t put it down, and found myself delaying other things to keep reading.

Another thing that I really enjoyed is that so many parts of it felt like a love letter to New York City. While I always enjoy books that clearly show love to a city, there’s a special place in my heart that embrace a city that I know and live so close to. Bracken captures the spirit, sounds, sights, vibe, and even smells of Manhattan so well. 

“For all its exhausting complications and crowding, the city had always been her home. She understood its difficult personality and was grateful it had given her one of her own, because in the darkest moments of her life, that resilience alone had saved her.”

I loved Lore’s character. She isn’t an easy person to get to know — she’s got a tough shell, strong values, an immense sense of pent-up rage, and walls a mile high to protect a big heart that would do just about anything for the people she loves. While those people are few, she’s a really good person deep down. But she wasn’t raised in a traditional way. As the daughter of one of the houses involved in the Agon, she was also raised as a warrior, trained to kill and hunt down people from other houses. It all comes down to honor and glory, traditional Greek values passed down from ancient times. However, this conflicts with her core values now that she’s had a taste of the life.

“‘We are exactly what they made us,’ Lore said, not caring that her voice had cracked, that the words were trembling with long-held pain. ‘We’re monsters, Can, not saints.’”

While I adored her roommate, Miles, I couldn’t resist the bond that she had with Castor. They were training partners in their younger years, and he’s probably the person who knows her best. There’s a connection that she has with him that she doesn’t have with anyone else, and no matter what is going on, he’s the one person in her life that she can lean on:

“But she wanted the one person who had always been able to settle her, whether it was her temper or fear. She wanted the one person she had always been able to look to, knowing she’d find him there. She wanted Castor.”

While the story was a good one, it lost a lot in the execution. Becky and I had so many questions throughout the story. And while they were answered in the last third of the book, it felt a bit rushed. Becky suggested that this is the kind of book that would have been better as a duology, and I can’t help but agree with her. Spacing this story out over two books would have given additional time to explore more of the story, so that it wouldn’t be as rushed. While I like a fast-paced story, this one felt a little too fast-paced, which is something I never thought I’d say. And it’s a great idea, but since it’s complex, I felt like it was just too much to unpack in one book. Which is a shame, because this is the kind of book that I was just so prepared to love, and ultimately didn’t love nearly as much as I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good story, but it definitely could have been great. 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 23

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