Antigoddess tells the story of dying Greek gods, led by goddess Athena to discover what’s causing their slow and gruesome deaths. Their journey points them toward Cassandra, the reincarnated prophetess of Troy who has no memory of her past life while they race against an opposing group of gods.
Antigoddess joins Blake’s Anna duet (Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares) on a list of novels overflowing with potential with stunning prose but lukewarm characterization. Its strong start quickly fizzles, and despite revelations that should bolster character development, secondary characters, and even main character Cassandra, remain stagnant.
Any fans of Greek mythology will take joy in seeing the gods pop up, dying intriguing deaths related to their powers as immortals, but only a reader with knowledge of Greek myth will be able to fill in the holes in characterization.
This review is not spoiler-free.
Despite its strong start, Antigoddess fell into a hole that many of its fellow YA titles are pitching into: focusing on the uninteresting (at least) and intolerable (at worst) male heroes and love interests. A lot of the book’s issues can be tracked back to Aidan, Cassandra’s boyfriend, later revealed to be Greek god Apollo. It was he who gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy in the first place. Then he cursed her so her predictions would never be believed. His reason for this is never explained in Antigoddess (a giant hole in this plot as Apollo’s only source of characterization is his “love” for Cassandra but no one ever tries to explain why he did this terrible thing to her), but in mythology Apollo cursed her because she didn’t return his romantic affections. And still, he’s written as a valid romantic interest. Even his attempt at redemption in becoming Aidan and looking after Cassandra isn’t good enough, as he’s obsessive and controlling, stuck on finally “having” Cassandra.
Though at times the other characters rightfully call Apollo out on his role, it’s quickly abandoned. When Cassandra’s memories are returned she’s angry and mistrustful of Apollo for five minutes before she’s perfectly fine with being with him again. There was a great opportunity for further development of Cassandra, but it was swept aside in favor of a trite romance that was already poorly done before the truth came out.
For a brief moment, it looked like Antigoddess knew what it was doing in killing Apollo off, but then Cassandra swore vengeance at his funeral, and it became clear I was supposed to care about his demise. This was impossible as I was having more of a reaction to Apollo’s betrayal and deceit than any of the other characters were, and by the time he died I was glad to see him go.
Apollo’s faults being glossed over was a huge problem with this story especially when Athena’s were given so much criticism. Athena spends a lot of time thinking about her part in the Trojan war and the bad things she did (including sending Hector, now Cassandra’s brother, to his death), and when she mentions how gross Apollo’s lie is, especially now that he has the girl whose life he ruined in love with him, it quickly gets turned back around on her.
Despite this, Athena is the most nuanced character, even more than Cassandra who becomes wrapped up in Apollo’s icky-ness. Athena’s status as a battle ready goddess makes her the general in the war they’re being sucked into, and she has friends and family she needs to lead and keep safe. At the same time, she’s struggling with her title of virgin goddess as she experiences romantic and sexual feelings for a reincarnated Odysseus.
On a large scale, the character lack complexity. Secondary character of Andie and Henry are given nothing to work with and even the revelation that they are reincarnations of Hector and Andromache do nothing for either of them. At the same time, the gods lack the mental and emotional maturity of thousand year old immortals. They’re teenagers who can say they’re immortal gods who have lived through countless conflicts without ever acting like they have. Their status as gods should afford them more intelligence and experience than was displayed, and their darker traits should have been given more attention to make them less one-dimensional.
At times, Antigoddess wanted to touch on the cruelty of the gods but never went all the way. As mentioned before, Apollo’s is glossed over. Though Athena spends a lot of time thinking about her role in the Trojan War and the things she did, they’re never fully fleshed out or given the emotional punch they require. It’s mentioned early on how Athena and Hera started the war because Paris of Troy didn’t find them as appealing as Aphrodite, and their bruised egos led to the deaths of thousands. Athena’s inability to return the affections of men who worship her implies that she’ll “break them and not care”, but we never see that. The gods continuously refer to themselves as monsters and question whether or not they should die quietly in penance for their past actions, but those actions are never explained well enough for the audience to care.
Though I’d like to see what happens with Athena in particular (and there was some potential for a complex relationship between her and Cassandra) I doubt I’ll be picking up the sequel.