Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond

The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond is the author's second published book. The first was Blackwood, which I rather enjoyed. Unfortunately, although I quite liked the idea behind The Woken Gods, it did not come off as well. Blurb (which does not contain all the spoilers, well done Strange Chemistry):
The more things change…

Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke all around the world.

The more things stay the same…

This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school because of an argument with her father.

Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., dominated by the embassies of divine pantheons and watched over by the mysterious Society of the Sun that governs mankind’s relations with the gods. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way home, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn't what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne "Oz" Spencer, a young Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous Egyptian relic. The Society needs the item back, and they aren’t interested in her protests that she knows nothing about it or her father's secrets.

Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary Sumerian gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz--whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn't? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it.
The strong points of The Woken Gods are the characters. Kyra is believable with her issues stemming from parental semi-abandonment and the way she relates to her friends (and sometimes has difficulty relating). Her absentee mother and her father who is always working and pays little attention to her fit in well with the doubts Kyra feels throughout the story. Her friends, Bree and Tam are positive characters. The former depicting a positive female friendship, and the latter a post-breakup friendship. All good stuff.

Where I thought The Woken Gods really fell down was in the delivery of the worldbuilding. Not the worldbuilding itself, that was pretty good. I could tell the author had thought through past events and worked out how the world now worked, but it took much longer than I wanted for me to understand what was going on. For the first third or so I didn't have a very good mental picture of the world and how it worked. Bond did win me over with the depiction of Enki's realm, which happened about a third of the way in, I think. What I didn't work out until about half way is that the world of The Woken Gods is the result of an apocalypse gone un-stopped. (Well, actually the details are slightly more complicated, but spoilers. And they weren't necessary for understanding the context of the world.) The fact that this wasn't obvious from the start — only the presence of gods was obvious, not so much the apocalypse of them returning — felt sloppy. I can tell you now, having finished the book, about the back-story involving a secret society of Indiana Jones-like relic hunters and their inability (sort of — spoilers) to prevent the god-awakening apocalypse. But I didn't get that until about half way. For half the book I had little idea what was going on beyond the characters' actions and the events immediately happening to them.

Ultimately, I think The Woken Gods is a very ambitious book that the author didn't quite manage to pull off. Which is unfortunate because, as I've said, there's a lot of good stuff in there. I quite liked that it was the trickster god in each pantheon that bothered liaising with people (well, more so than the others) and that they had formed the Trickster Council. It makes sense, really. And it was nice to see such a wide variety of pantheons represented in the text: Greek, Aztec, Egyptian, Haitian, Native American, Sumerian and possibly others I've forgotten.

I would recommend The Woken Gods to fans of YA and varied mythology. It feels like a book one in a series, although I haven't found anything indicating that more books are planned. I would definitely read a sequel. Despite what I've said, the second half of the novel was quite readable and I think it's a series that can only benefit from Bond's growing expertise as a writer. If there's another book coming, sign me up! Bond is a writer to watch.

3.5 / 5 stars

First published: September 2013, Strange Chemistry
Series: No? But I think it should be
Format read: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley

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