The Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter is a resetting of Greek mythology in a modern context. Though it touches on each of the thirteen major gods as well as the Titans, the series focuses primarily on Hades and his relationship with new girl Kate Winters after his story with Persephone ends.
For a little background on the series, here’s the Goodreads synopsis of book one:
Every girl who had taken the test has died. Now it’s Kate’s turn. 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 that 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. If she fails…
*SERIES SPOILERS TO FOLLOW*
I have always found Greek mythology to be fascinating. It’s complicated, messy, but also very personality based – you can focus on one individual god or goddess and give them a whole lifetime of stories. So when I found this series I was really excited about it, specifically because I always felt that the story of Hades and Persephone had a lot of potential for a retelling. Unfortunately, I was a little let down.
The bare bones of the series were good. The idea of testing a mortal’s eligibility for immortality on the basis of the Seven Deadly Sins and then fighting against Kronos in books two and three were both promising plotlines. However the execution was horrendous. There was never enough detail to show how Kate was passing the tests (she spends most of the time completely ignorant of the fact that she’s even started taking them) and the fight scenes told from Kate’s perspective completely glossed over the technicalities of staving off the attacks of an immortal titan. It made the story feel shallow when really there was so much depth to work with from the original mythology.
And to make matters worse the quality of the main character dissolved over the course of the series. Kate started out rather strong. In book one she had the fortitude to take care of her dying mother (Demeter in mortal form), something you could easily see in the fierceness of her determination to protect her and the selflessness to do whatever it took to make her healthy, even at the expense of her own childhood. However, by the time book two rolls around Kate’s world revolves almost entirely around Henry (Hades). She spends so much time worrying and crying over him, and feeling jealous of Persephone, all for very little reason. Where was the determination we saw in book one? Did it just evaporate with her wedding vows? Kate’s interpersonal conflicts were necessary at some points, but they totally overwhelmed the rest of the plot and completely undermined the point of the story.
I also really didn’t like how loosely the mythology was followed. Most of the characters were completely unidentifiable as their Greek counterparts, with only a few exceptions. If I hadn’t already been familiar with Greek mythology, I probably would have missed the connections all together. Carter also completely rewrote the familial connections of the Gods. She took them from being actual brothers and sisters, children of Kronos and Rhea, to being just “so close they’re like siblings, but not actually.” Which, to be fair, helps with the incest issue, but also wasn’t entirely necessary. If you’re reading about the Greek myths, you probably already assume that their complicated origin stories are just a part of the package.
One aspect of the book that I did genuinely like was the evolution of the Hades and Persephone story. Henry has spent the last thousand years in love with a woman who didn’t love him back; learning to let go of that fixation was never going to be an easy process, no matter how he felt about Kate. However Carter managed to capture that change exceedingly well, at least from Henry and Persephone’s perspective. Despite Kate’s overdramatic, jealous, and whiny narration, you could see the beginning of an actual friendship developing. Which I thought was the proper transition for their characters. Unrequited love is terrible, but to be able to move past that and at least have a companionable friendship is actually kind of beautiful and I loved that that was included in the series instead of just writing off their past as ancient history.
Overall this series was a quick read, but not one that I would recommend to anyone else. The lack of depth in the plot, the whiny main character/narrator, and the drastic deviations from the original myths completely undermined what little potential this series had to begin with.