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Summary: High school senior Kate Winters is leaving New York City to move to her mom’s childhood home in Michigan. With her mother dying of terminal cancer, Kate knows her life is about to change forever. The way it actually does, however, will surprise her. She encounters an attractive young man named Henry, who in reality is Hades, god of the underworld. Kate strikes a deal with him to extend her mother’s life. She’s required to spend six months in his magical mansion facing several tests that will also determine whether she’ll become his bride, like Persephone did millennia ago. Soon, however, Kate may not be able to discern friend from foe.
Review: Caution: Snark and Nit-Picking Ahead. Now that you’ve been warned…Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting anything life-changing when I picked up this book. Really, I was just looking for some “brain candy” to fill a summer day. Seriously, though, this book was pretty disappointing all the same. I thought it had the potential of a beauty-and-the-beast-type story. Who doesn’t love a little Stockholm Syndrome? (Only joking!) Nevertheless, the characters and set-up really fell flat.
First, there’s Kate. As a central character, she’s fairly boring. It’s not that I have a problem with shy, introverted, somewhat quiet characters. (These are all adjectives that have been used to describe me). Read Jane Austen’s Persuasion and check out my review of Rebecca to see a working example of a book with a more under-the-radar protagonist. It’s just that Kate lacks substance and realism. At times, she feels like more of an empty shell than Bella Swan. It’s one thing to be selfless, but the way Kate’s “altruism” is portrayed is slightly ridiculous. I can understand her making a deal to save her mother. It’s when she ignores her own wants and needs to try to save a girl she barely knows who just tried to abandon her in the middle of a dark forest, or preserve the soul of aloof man who is risking her life to save his own in the first place that it really gets far-fetched. Come to think of it, we don’t even really know what Kate’s wants and needs are. She doesn’t seem to possess any ambitions or interests.
I also don’t get the appeal of Henry. Yes, lots of female readers like hot, enigmatic, tortured men, but throwing all these qualities into a mixing bowl does not a fleshed-out character make. The point of the tests for Kate are that he gets a wife in order to maintain his place as god of the underworld. However, he seems sort of apathetic about whether or not he survives, despite the fact that he’s risking Kate’s life, since his other candidates have ended up assassinated. He also seemed pretty cold to Kate for much of the book. I didn’t feel the chemistry.
Finally, some “plot twists” at the end of the novel make you rethink the entire book. I would have gotten angry on Kate’s behalf…but she did not become dear enough to me for me to really care.
I know others have made a big deal about how the mythology in this book isn’t accurate to the legends. I don’t claim to be an expert so I won’t tackle these issues, and frankly, I think I’ve already raised enough problems with this book.
In short: Very weak characters and a poorly-executed premise result in this book being unfit for even a brain candy read.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars (Note: Because I give a 1 star doesn’t necessary mean it’s a book I absolutely loathed – that type of book I don’t even finish. And if I didn’t finish it, I don’t feel qualified in writing a full review about it.)
Something similar: Though it’s for a younger audience, try East by Edith Pattou. For a story about a young girl who marries a man with a big house who has skeletons in the closet, try the previously-mentioned Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
Cover & Title: The title is self-explanatory. Again, the cover is generic, but the color scheme is attractive.