Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond #review

Title: The Woken Gods
Author: Gwenda Bond
Publisher: Strange Chemistry, 2013

Seventeen-year-old Kyra Locke’s world is very different from our own because five years ago the ancient gods woke, and since then things have been a bit chaotic for humans.

Washington D.C. where Kyra lives is the epicentre of all the action and is where the gods have their headquarters. Kyra’s truly in the thick of things due to the fact that her father works for the Society of the Sun, which acts as an intermediary between gods and mankind. Mostly, the Society has access to relics that help them keep the gods in line.

Kyra’s not exactly a happy camper because things between her and her parents aren’t all that great. Her father is absent most of the time and her mom – an oracle – has left the family for unknown reasons.

Things truly go south for Kyra when the trickster gods take an unhealthy interest in her, and she finds herself in a race against time to rescue her father from execution for treason.

Okay. Deep breath. I wanted to like this book a lot. From the outside, it has all the elements that I treasure, BUT, try as I might, I just couldn’t follow the storyline or understand the characters’ motivations, which seemed to shift continuously. By the time I was done, I was as confused as when I started, and I pride myself on keeping things straight. Not good when I continuously ask, BUT WHY? while I’m reading.

I get the idea that Kyra, due to her bloodline, is somehow the centre of a prophecy, and her parents are desperate (to the point of sacrificing all semblance of a normal family life) to try protect her, but their efforts don’t strike me as being all that effective. If she really was in so much danger then why not just leave the city entirely? Why allow her to grow up ignorant of the danger she’s in?

The presence of all those gods was a nice touch but I gained the impression that most of them were just waiting in the wings as set dressing for a convenient (and literal) deus ex machine at the grand finale. Anzu, Kyra’s “pet” monster is pretty neat, but I don’t get *why* Kyra is so important to deserve this special attention from a deity.

My biggest gripe with the story is the choppiness of the writing. For the most part we’re in Kyra’s first-person point of view – that is fine, perfect. The genre calls for a sassy heroine who’s doing her thing against great odds and Kyra has a lovely voice and she’s not going to take things lying down. Big thumbs up for a strong female lead.


Her storyline is somewhat diluted by the introduction of secondary viewpoint characters (in third person) that get introduced quite far in, so that the shift in point of view is jarring. I’d just gotten used to Kyra when suddenly I must get invested in someone else?

I understand *why* the author has done this because the plot calls for her to show what else is happening behind the scenes but then I feel it only serves to weaken the pacing and steals some of Kyra’s thunder. In the end she gains her outcome largely due to the efforts of others.

The romance elements feel forced – there simply isn’t enough time to develop romantic attachments but it’s there. However, I’m almost tempted to say this would have been a stronger novel if there’d been more focus on the conflict between Legba, Kyra and her grandfather, and dispensed entirely with the secondary characters (and the romance).

Then a word too on some contradictions. A fair amount of emphasis is placed on how technology doesn’t really function properly around the gods due to their innate magic, but then why does a television crew bristling with cameras and technology, go into the heart of things to cover breaking news? They end up riding in a horse-drawn carriage because cars don’t work, but their cameras are fine… I just had to point that out because it jerked me right out of the narrative at the time.

I’d have liked to have seen further development of the gods themselves as characters. There is so much potential there. Why are the tricksters banding together? Surely they themselves wouldn’t all be in agreement? What about plots within plots? I wanted to see more of their personalities, wanted to see them interact and be more active. Then we might also have gained a better idea of why Kyra was the lynch pin to the entire saga, and also sympathise more with her plight.

All this being said, this is not a bad book. If you’re looking for fast, on-the-edge-of-your-seat urban fantasy with a female lead who totally kicks ass, and that offers a nod to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods then yes, you’ll enjoy this. But, if you’re like me and you wanted a story that digs a little deeper, you might feel the same way I do.

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