Wednesday, February 27, 2013

REVIEW: Hera, Queen of Gods / T.D. Thomas

TITLE: Hera, Queen of Gods
AUTHOR: T.D. Thomas
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book) 

Recommended for fans of urban fantasy and Greek myths

Fantasy—Urban/Young Adult

Hera, Queen of Gods is written in a style that’s conducive to page turning. Between Hera’s snappy voice, the ongoing mystery, and the action scenes, it seems like it should be a fairly quick read. However, the length slows down the pacing, and I started getting impatient toward the second half.

Hera, Queen of Gods is written from the first person past perspective of its titular character. Hera’s voice is very stream-of-consciousness and could almost be first person present.

The Fates, who hold the universe’s order in their hands, have been kidnapped. An enchanted cloud covering one town prevents divine interference, forcing Hera, queen of the Greek gods, to inhabit the body of a mortal girl in order to search for them. Along with five of her fellow Olympians, she explores the mortal world searching for answers. Because of their mortal bodies’ limitations, each god and goddess can only bring one divine power. Hera chooses the power to enter peoples’ minds and command them to do her will.

Hera is joined on her quest by a teenage boy, Justin. Although Hera tries to hide her true nature, Justin soon realizes that she and the others aren’t his high school classmates. He boldly volunteers to join the quest, and the Olympians agree because whoever took the Fates has the power to block them, but not mortals. As mysteries unravel and danger approaches, Hera finds herself growing unexpectedly close to Justin. 

Hera, Queen of Gods is a fantastically imaginative urban fantasy with elements of paranormal romance. Thomas writes under the assumption that the audience is familiar with the basics of Greek mythology—the twelve gods, Hera’s reputation as an unforgiving queen, Zeus’ fondness for mortal women, etc. He adds his own twists to the mythology, such as a dream dimension and a universal set of laws called the Necessity, which binds even the gods.

To those familiar with Greek mythology, Hera is a coldhearted shrew with a nasty temper. Many stories tell of her wrath, especially against the mortal women Zeus beds. Thomas tells, for the first time I know of, Hera’s point of view. In Hera, Queen of Gods, Hera is a strong, independent woman who has been forced to maintain order while her faithless husband enjoys himself. Her ruthless determination earned her the unfavorable reputation, since she cares more about getting things done than making people like her. She is very much the modern career woman. She sacrifices her own happiness and remains loyal to a philandering husband to keep her house in order. Seen in this light, it’s easy to sympathize with her.

The relationship between Hera and Justin adds forbidden romance to the novel. It soon becomes clear that Justin is completely taken by the goddess. Hera is quick to dismiss his affections, for she must remain married to Zeus in order to co-rule the heavens. Although she repeatedly denies her feelings, it’s impossible to miss her attachment to Justin. Her dilemma is one that will be familiar to anyone who has read of divorce dramas or arranged marriages.

Perhaps Thomas’ greatest strength as a writer is his ability to blend Hera’s personal struggles with the danger surrounding her. The stakes are high—so high that if Hera fails, the universe could shatter. She and the Olympians face dastardly monsters, powerful villains, and puzzling riddles. Much of Hera, Queen of Gods is devoted to action scenes. Giants, harpies, pythons, witchcraft, dreamlands—there’s plenty of excitement in this novel. Thomas has a relentless imagination, and the plot takes many twists and turns.

My one criticism of the novel is its length. Much of what happens could be significantly condensed, especially since Hera has a tendency to repeat herself in her narration. She does it for emphasis and as a rhetorical device, but it loses its bite after being used so many times. 

Hera, Queen of Gods easily falls into the Young Adult category. The bodies the gods inhabit are teenagers, and the Olympians behave accordingly. Many of their attitudes and ways of thinking feel very adolescent, which could be explained in the novel by the fact that mortal bodies have an effect over the immortals’ minds. Several scenes take place inside a high school, and much of the supporting cast consists of teenagers.

All in all, Hera, Queen of Gods is an entertaining and exciting read with a clever plot and an original premise. Hera is a powerful protagonist, who is far more human than she’ll admit to herself. I’m glad I took a chance on this novel, for it was, to me, a fantastic adventure that never loses sight of the characters at its core.

I didn’t notice any significant typos or errors.

This book contains some violence (mostly monster fights), but nothing gruesome or graphic.

[From the author's Amazon page]
When not battling to save Azeroth from its latest calamity, T.D. Thomas lives and works in the frosty north known as Canada. He lives with six of his closest friends, all of whom are ruled over by a little white dog named Teo, who firmly believes he's a reincarnated Egyptian pharaoh and demands to be treated as such. Favourite things include temperatures above 0 degrees Celsius and cats who don't take guff from pretentious little white dogs.  

RELATED: An Interview with T.D. Thomas

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