THE GODDESS TEST
(Goddess Test #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Received via NetGalley for review
Kate has known this time was coming for years. Her mom was supposed to only live a couple more months, but she's held out for four long years, though now her body is finally giving out. Wanting to return to the town she grew up in, Kate's mom moves them from New York City and sets Kate up at the local high school.
After an unfortunate run in with resident popular girl Ava, Kate finds herself in the presence of dark and mysterious Henry, a young man offering to fix some of the problems in her life in exchange for her spending six months of the year with him. Unwilling to believe he has any power to save those she cares about, Kate reluctantly agrees, and then finds herself at Eden Manor with Henry who now claims he rules the dead.
He also informs Kate that she must pass seven unspecified tests in order to uphold her end of the bargain, and in doing so, she will gain immortality and be able to rule the Underworld at his side. Though she at first rejects her circumstances, Kate begins to have a change of heart the more time she spends in his presence, and suddenly her passing these tests becomes of the utmost importance. But there is someone that doesn't want Kate to pass, someone who will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure she not only fails, but fails in a way that takes her life with it.
The Goddess Test is a story that elicits from us a mixed reaction, both warming us with a quiet and sweet romance but also weighing us down with the tangible despondency of two heavy-hearted individuals for whom life has never been simple or easy. Circumstance forces Kate and Henry into a delicate situation where fear and affection are entangled to a spectacular degree, and we as readers must carefully sort through the tenuous threads linking them together with them, hoping and willing both to soften the hardened exterior their complicated lives have forced them to build. This story is not one with a frenetic pace where the action catapults us from page to page with blurring speed, it is rather one permeated by a sense of unease–an underlying tension resulting from Kate and Henry's fragile relationship as well as the inordinate pressure both face in terms of the seven tests propelling us forward at a slightly slower but no less riveting speed.
Kate is a character with whom it's a bit difficult to relate in the beginning, projecting an attitude of complete indifference her first day at a new school while proceeding to pull a second layer of emotional armor down around her even thicker than the first shortly after our introduction. Her only focus and area of interest is her dying mother, and while we can certainly sympathize with her difficulties, her armor does have the desired effect and keeps us at bay. She's almost self-sacrificing to a fault, jumping into a situation with Henry to save enemy-turned-friend Ava but then refusing to see it through with fairly disastrous results. In order to right her wrongs, she again offers herself up to extend her mother's life, and while her actions are admirable, she does mope a bit upon first arriving to Eden Manor after her decision is made, causing the distance between her and us to grow instead of lessen as we feel a connection to her slowly slip from our grasp.
About halfway through however, Kate begins to make the best of her situation, engaging in her new life and those who are now a part of it, and we finally begin to be drawn deeper into the story. While she does adhere to her personal credo of "no one else will be hurt because of me" throughout, her gradual change in attitude toward Henry is a pleasure to read, and hope for a positive outcome for both of them together and individually begins to penetrate the cloud of melancholy surrounding them, each admission of growing emotional involvement causing it to dissipate ever so slightly. By the end, Kate is a far more interesting character, and one whom will be more enjoyable to read about in future installments now that she's dropped her guard and made herself more accessible.
Interestingly enough, despite a premise that suggests otherwise, those who pick up this book expecting strong references to Greek mythology will most likely be a little disappointed as that element is surprisingly subtle. Gods and goddesses are alluded to but they don't play a major role, and even Henry's position as Hades is subdued as both the growing romance and the mystery surrounding the deaths of Kate's predecessors remain the primary focus. It only detracts from the story in that our expectation for a greater mythological prominence is high, but the story is entertaining in and of itself even with that noticeable absence. With the shift in both Kate and Henry's demeanor from one of grim depression to one of reserved excitement for the future at the end, the second book has the potential to be more immediately compelling, and I do look forward to its release.