Start Date: 30 June 2011
End Date: 2 July 2011
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 19th 2011
Summary (from Goodreads):
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 possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.
Overall, I enjoyed reading the Goddess Test, and although I had a few minor issues with it, overall I felt that it was well-done.
I study Classical languages and love Greek mythology, so I was very excited at the premise of this book. From what I had read, it seemed like a combination of Gail Carson Levine's Ever and a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth. That wasn't quite what I got, but I think Carter did a great job for what it was.
For some reason, I didn't read many reviews of this book before reading it, and looking back, I'm glad I didn't, as the reviews I read were overwhelmingly negative. Many people were bothered that Carter gave the Greek gods Christian values (the tests Kate must pass are each based on one of the seven deadly sins) and a modern mindset. Personally, I couldn't care less. I thought the deadly sins were a nice way to organize the tests and present them in a way that the reader could understand, rather than having random events turn out to be tests for no particular reason.
When I read the book, I knew I would be dissatisfied if I compared the characters in the book to the Greek gods I knew and loved through the familiar mythology. (As a side note, I must say, for someone who is living in a myth, Kate seems a bit clueless about the mythology, which bothered me a bit. For example, when she was studying for the test, how could she not know about such basic myths as Theseus and the Minotaur? For goodness sakes.) So for the most part I tried to keep the characters isolated to the book in my mind, and only played Guess Who That God Was (because it never explicitly says who's who, and everyone has different names) after I finished.* On their own, I found the characters fun to read about and developed separately from (and often contradicting) their mythological counterparts. I liked how the characters didn't always fit so nicely into the caricatures sometimes assigned to them when doing a retelling such as this. They all seemed very human, which I enjoyed, because that is what they were supposed to be from the beginning, and even in the myths - as anthropomorphic as you can get.
*Actually, that was one of my favorite parts - figuring out afterwards who was who. I have what I figured out below, but please don't highlight if you're planning to read the book at all, because it gives away a ton of major spoilers:
Hades - Henry (obviously)
Demeter - Kate's mom, Diana (which really confused me, since Diana is Artemis' Roman name)
Aphrodite - Ava
Hermes - James (That one actually took me a while to figure out. I got it at first from the snakes on his chair, like on the caduceus, and then everything else just fell into place. )
Poseidon - Phillip (because Poseidon is the god of horses as well as the sea)
Ares - Xander (because Ava wasn't supposed to be "together" with him, and he was a guard)
Hephastus - Nicholas (because he walked with a limp)
Athena - Irene (of course, she is the scholar of the house)
Zeus - Walter, I suppose (but I'm not really sure why, other than he walked into the council first. He never really seemed like such an important character.)
Hera - Sofia? (not really sure about her either, other than she walked in with Walter, and she sort of took care of Kate the entire time, although that's more of a Hestia thing, so I don't know.)
Artemis - Ella (because Diana said that she took Ella's Roman name)
Apollo - Theo (because he's Artemis's twin)
Dionysus - Dylan (by process of elimination)
Hestia - Calliope (again, by process of elimination)
I know this review is changing subjects all over the place, but I wanted to mention how I thought the names were very strange a lot of the time. I just couldn't figure out how Carter chose the names for her characters. Some, like Henry, were obviously not Greek-mythology-related, but others, such as Calliope, were related to figures from Greek mythology other than who the character was in the book. For example, in mythology, Calliope is the muse of history (one of the nine muses of arts and sciences). But in the book, she is definitely not the muse of history; she is another figure from mythology instead (spoiler, highlight to view). Also, there is a character named Diana who isn't Artemis, even though in mythology they are one and the same. Generally, it seems like the gods are taking each other's names right and left.
I liked how Carter dealt with the romance between Kate and Henry. It was fairly inevitable for them to fall in love, given the premise and the fact that this is YA fiction we're talking about here. I appreciate that Carter kept the romance fairly clean, and even when "stuff" happened, she conveniently skipped that part (which made me smile).
I would really, really like this cover if only the model was wearing slightly less makeup. Other than that, I think it is wonderfully done. On the physical copy, the square design is only visible when it catches the light, and I really like the attention to detail down to the silver sandals and the style of the dress connecting it to the myths. I also love the design around the lettering, although the sigmas tempt me to call it Teys Goddsss Tsst. Also, it's not on the picture I have on this review, but I like the picture that wraps around the spine.
Altogether, even though a few things bothered me, it was an enjoyable read. If not the most captivating book I've ever read, it was definitely worth a couple of afternoons. And although I'm happy with how it wrapped up, I will be reading the sequel in 2012.