I picked up Goddess Test from my store because it sounded interesting, because I love (love!) mythology, and because the sequel just came out last month. I read it in less than twenty-four hours and ran out to get the sequel. And yet I'm conflicted about this book.
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.
I'm worried about writing this review in a compelling manner, because so many things that I did or didn't like are tied into spoilers, so saying, "I despised X" wouldn't really be true, because by the end I understood why Carter wrote X scene a certain way.
Okay, let's start with Kate. Kate is by far the most honest and least-complicated character in the book, which was a great relief to me by the end. I liked her because I could identify with her - she's stubbornly devoted to her dying mother, introverted, hates the spotlight, and would rather wear jeans than a dress. I loved the dynamics between her and her mother. There was no teenage angst, no surliness. Hooray functional families! Well, as functional as one can be with a terminally ill mother and no father, you know?
However, I think Kate was underserved by the story. The pre-Henry part of the story was too rushed and too shallow for my taste. Relationships were formed in the blink of an eye and given unrealistic depth. For instance, Kate meets a Mean Girl named Ava, who sets up a hoax to embarrass Kate because Ava's boyfriend becomes smitten with the new girl. Kate saves Ava's life when the hoax goes awry, and suddenly they're friends. Friends?!
It's Ava and James, another boy from school, to whom Kate turns when she receives Henry's offer to join him as Queen of the Underworld... and everyone's okay with it. I mean, really? Even Kate only half-heartedly doubted Henry, and even then, she only doubted his claim to be Hades. She didn't seem to have much of a problem with promising to marry the god of the dead, despite the fact that she'd only met him once.
Listen, chick, I know your mom's dying and all and you feel completely alone in the world, but have a little self-respect. Marriage is kind of a big deal, even if this guy - who you have no reason to trust - promises it'll be platonic and only six months out of the year. No one, not even Kate herself, raises the possibility that this Henry guy might be a psychopath, a serial killer, a deranged lunatic, anything like that. The only argument Kate makes is that even if he's not Hades, then, well, he's just a lonely guy, awwww.
I would have appreciated more depth and believability in the setup from Carter, and I would have appreciated the same in regards to Henry. I get it, he's the lord of death; therefore, he must be troubled, conflicted, and gloomy. I'm okay with that. I like troubled and conflicted bad boys! But I was confused as to why Kate fell in love with him. (Puh-lease, don't even talk to me about spoilers. That is NOT a spoiler.) I would understand her falling into fascination (he's mysterious and troubled) or lust (he's handsome), but love? Why? I found myself frowning and muttering words like "savior complex" and "Stockholm syndrome." Don't get me wrong, I liked the romance and completely understand why Henry might fall in love with Kate, but not the other way around. For me, the romance felt stilted, shallow, and underdeveloped.
I know this sounds overwhelmingly negative, but it really is a good book. The twists are what make it a good book. Some twists I saw coming. I even had the murderer figured out before the reveal. But The Big Twist took care of a lot of things I didn't like so much, and it was an excellent twist. Really, really excellent. I could make a comparison to one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels, but I'm afraid that would give things away.
Of course, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While the Big Twist excited me and helped quell many of my complaints, it also introduced a few more, especially concerning Kate's mom. I felt the twist cheapened much of Mrs. Winters' struggles regarding her cancer and her relationship with Kate, but that's all I'll say on the matter.
I'm sorry all. I know this is a cryptic, less-than-stellar review, but I don't want things to leak. It was an exciting read with sweet moments. I look forward to reading the sequel in hopes of seeing growth in Kate, but especially in Henry, because I believe he could grow on me with time. It's worth the read for the relief that the twist brings ("Oh, thaaaat's why so-and-so acted that way."), as well as the chance to follow Kate in her adventure.
Points Added For: James, because he's cool; Greek mythology/history; a Big Twist.
Points Subtracted For: A flimsy romance, rushed setups, stereotypical scenes (they make her wear a dress, and now she's gorgeous! he gets her a puppy!, etc.), a girl who describes herself as "not a knockout" and yet is represented on the cover as an Angelina Jolie look-alike.
Good For Fans Of: The Betrayal by Mayandree Michel, Everneath by Brodi Ashton, Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz (so says Amazon for all three).
Points For Parents: Moderate language (d's, gd's, and a b), premarital sex by several couples, makeout scenes.