Mortal Gods is the second book in “The Goddess War” Trilogy by Kendare Blake. I’ve already read the first book, Antigoddess (though, I did forgot to write a review for it). And I quite liked it. Because I’m not good at time management, I constantly got distracted with school and work while reading both books, but when I did get into them, I was hooked. I may go back and do a review of Antigoddess, though I’m not sure. Also, I feel I should say this now:
This review is FULL OF SPOILERS FOR ANTIGODDESS AND MORTAL GODS! I tried to write this spoiler-free, but I felt I couldn’t adequately get out my feelings on this book and properly explain my thoughts without it. If you don’t want spoilers, scroll down to the summary which is ALWAYS spoiler-free.
Mortal Gods continues the adventure that Antigoddess set us on with God-Killer, Cassandra, her friends, and Gods, Athena and Hermes, a few months after the events of book 1. Cassandra’s mourning over the death of Aidan (Apollo) from the end of book 1; meanwhile, Athena and the others begin the book on the hunt for Artemis and try to either snag or kill Achilles. But, while this is all happening, Ares, the God of War, Persephone, and Hera (yes, Hera. She survived. I’ll talk about it later) all try to take them all down to end the war and stay alive. I’ll talk about how much I like this plot and how it connects to everything later on. Now, onto characters.
Characters & Character Development
Athena, Cassandra, Hermes, and everyone else stays true to their characters from book 1, but while they’re the same as they were before, what happened in book 1 and the things they found out do begin to alter them slightly. Their character arcs become more fleshed out and defined, and I feel I have a clear idea of exactly where they’re headed for book 3. I also have some suspicions for what I think might happen, but that’ll be a little bit later.
The only characters that I wish we could’ve gotten a bit more development on and seen change–albeit slightly–from book 1 were Athena and Odysseus. Their romance is blossoming, and I can clearly see the way things are happening with them, but I kinda wish that there was more to them in general.
Let’s start with Athena. One of the things I liked about her in book 1 was that she had these moments of painful and eye-opening introspection on humanity and mortality. There was some of it in this book, but it felt–to me, anyway–like it had been toned down for her romance with Odysseus. There weren’t any memories of life back on Olympus, of her grappling with her impending death like she had in book 1. Even when she found out that Olympus was back, there were a few lines of “time to be a Goddess again”, but not much beyond that. And for the romance with Odysseus, we got a love triangle. It seems like Athena learning to fall in love is going to be her arc for the trilogy, and while I suppose it kinda makes sense that “hey, learning love and death is a very human thing for someone who’s a God”, I’m not particularly a fan. Athena, the warrior Virgin goddess, stuck in a “will they won’t they?”
Again, I’d rather have her grapple with her own mortality and the costs of war. She continually talks about Cassandra and the others are weapons and soldiers, seeing them as nothing more than pawns to be moved. When the Gods have caused massive collateral damage, everyone’s flipped out… except Athena really. Cassandra had the most adverse reactions to it, and I feel like that and all of these other moments could’ve been great for having Cassandra and Athena be adversarial–yes in the way they are now with Cassandra just wanting them all dead–but also maybe having Cassandra point out to Athena that (or possibly refuse to fight if) people die in these battles. I don’t know; maybe it’s just me who thought of it, but I just would’ve preferred the romance be secondary for Athena instead of something that continually steals her thoughts from her. Athena was famously a cold bitch of a Goddess. People were cordial with her, yeah, and she did have an air of vanity (see the Trojan War) that I suppose could be exploited and used for her arc, but I felt things could’ve gone differently. Anyway, onto the others.
Odysseus: He was pretty much someone for Athena and Calypso to argue over. Athena and Odysseus talked about Calypso quite a bit and what that meant for their relationship status, and even some of the other characters pointed it out some of the time. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of love triangles (or romance in general. YA has kinda made me jaded… kinda), so I will wholesomely admit that my thoughts are biased on that end. But, there was a lot more “will they, won’t they?” in this book and less of the introspection (at least within Athena’s memories) that I saw and loved in the first book. The romance was blossoming in Antigoddess, but I’m not sure if the love triangle was really needed.
Cassandra: She’s a radically different person than book 1 Cassandra, even after she got her memories back. Cassandra was very very caught up in Aidan and getting revenge on Aphrodite for his death. It consumed basically every action she did in the book. She argued with Athena to go down to The Underworld to see if he was there literally hours before they would’ve stormed Olympus to take down Hera and the others, Calypso read her mind and planted the thought in her head that maybe Aidan was there because that’s what was on Cassandra’s mind, and she constantly argued for going after Aphrodite. I was honestly surprised at the end when she actually didn’t make a mad dash for Aphrodite while Olympus was collapsing. Now, before you think I thought this was all bad, there were some nice moments like Cassandra imagining him in the mirror behind her that I liked, and I’m not saying that she shouldn’t think about the death of her boyfriend because, well, that’s her boyfriend. And Aidan did genuinely care for her, even if he did a crappy thing 2,000 years ago because she rejected him. And this also forced her hatred of the Gods (and Athena, in particular) to intensify greatly. Much more arguing and Cassandra talking back than she had in book 1, which… I’m not sure how I feel about that. Athena’s losing control of the ship and her weapons, and, yeah.
Andie and Henry: I’m lumping them both together because it’s connected. They’re slowly getting together. A lot more this book than last book, but they’re not quite there yet. Not sure if they’re gonna get their memories back or not, but something’s happening. They train and their bodies remember what they had learned before, so I honestly think it could go either way with them getting their old lives back or not.
Ares: Ares was fascinating. I love how Kendare was able to make him somewhat sympathetic. He’s still a murderer and not someone to aspire to be, but he was definitely not “evil evil, bad guy” with no dimensions to him. All the villains gained more dimensions to them really. Aphrodite, Hera, Ares, they all got a bit more added onto their personalities.
Achilles: Achilles. The second weapon. He was nice and friendly and charming… up until his heel-face turn in, literally, the last 10 pages of the book (yes, I counted). All it took was the notion of being a true god and boom! Betrayal. Someone dies at the end of this one too, thanks to our lovely little traitor. Now, this, I feel unsure of my feelings on. On one hand, it’s a heel face turn and invokes lots of Revenge of the Sith, dark middle chapter vibes. But on the other, while we don’t get too into his head on it, I feel like we’ll see it in the final book. So, jury’s still out on whether that’s a good or a bad in my eyes.
Calypso: Same thing as Odysseus. There isn’t much to her aside from the romance. That’s basically her only purpose. She’s sweet and charming enough, but she doesn’t do anything.
Persephone: Okay, so I know she probably doesn’t really need a paragraph to herself since she was super minor, but I’ve been wondering about Zeus and Hades since book 1. We saw Poseidon, so why not the other big two? The Underworld is mentioned. And the way Persephone looks and acts is just gothic, horrible, and sad all at the same time. She’s there pining for blood, pining for people to come down. She has a true air of sadness and loneliness about her, and I love it. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Persephone in the myths, and Mortal Gods played on that. Her and Aphrodite are the two most tragic casualties in my eyes. Also, Athena acts slightly out of character in this moment which struck me as odd; first, she acted super cautious and sure that Persephone was up to something and that Aidan wasn’t in The Underworld, but then when Athena does get Persephone to tell the truth, threatens her and essentially insinuates that she’s lying, even though Athena’s never broken before. If anything, Cassandra would be the belligerent one, and she kinda was, being so eager to make a deal that Athena had to try to rein her in multiple times. But, I digress.
Here I’ll be talking about how the book works as a sequel: whether it advances the plot of the first, how it sets up the next book, things like that. This’ll be a category that pops in and out (only for when I do a series of books), but Mortal Gods as a book functions much much more like a Revenge of the Sith style sequel. It’s the dark middle point of the series where everything goes to hell and we must pull it back out again in the last book. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and leaves us wondering how everything’s going to be pulled back together. The world of the first was expanded on, we were introduced to more Gods and characters from the Trojan War, and (for the most part) pre-existing characters’ arcs were built upon in a logical way.
We also find out exactly why the Gods are dying in the first place: The Moirae. It isn’t explaining why they’re suddenly sick, and I’m not sure whether the third book is gonna round that out or get us into the head of Atropos and her sisters at all, but it was interesting, to say the least. I liked the twist, though it kinda took away a slight bit of agency from Hera and the others, I feel. It presents a bigger bad than the big bad, and while that does have its place in fiction, I feel like with Hera, it does her a disservice. In book 1, Hera was certain she’d be able to get back to life after she got Cassandra and Achilles, and so was Athena. Sure, we didn’t know much about how they were dying, but they were both certain and that was their driving motivation. Now, not only has Hera been downgraded from main antagonist to side villain that appears at the end, she’s also under the heel of The Moirae. Now, I think we can make the argument that none of her actions are her own. Though, it was fun to see Athena just sink to the ground the instant The Moirae said kneel. Also, I know I talked about Cassandra already, but wow she turns full bitch at the end. I’m just gonna quote from the book.
“They made Athena obey. It made Cassandra almost like them.” And, further down the page. “It could be good. Leashed Gods were easy targets.” Cassandra, now is not the time for any of that! Why in the world would you think this? It just made me like her a little bit less for that. Sure, she hates Athena, but almost liking The Moirae because they made her kneel? No.
Mortal Gods functions as a good sequel to Antigoddess. It continues the story in a logical way, and it does set up the final book of the trilogy (albeit in a real sequel-baiting way). The character arcs are all continued and I can see where they’re headed (with the exception of one that I’m just kinda not a fan of). The characters are mostly likable, but one character and thread we could cut entirely because it literally does nothing for the plot in any way. Another character that was likable turns into someone that I can’t exactly like a lot, and I know that wasn’t the intention whatsoever since they’re one of the main characters. However, the book was enjoyable, and I am intrigued enough to want to see how everything gets resolved in Ungodly. I give Mortal Gods 3.5 out of 5 stars. Things did weigh the score down (see above), but it was a well-written book that I really quite enjoyed.
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