Author: Aimée Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: April 19, 2011
Series: Goddess Test #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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 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...
Kate is an admirable character. She selflessly puts her life on hold to care for her dying mother. She has a purity about her, but without coming across as a prissy little goody two shoes. Her actions stem from her love of her mother, loyalty, and a general desire to do the right thing. Because Kate is not Persephone retold and is actually looking to become what I guess you could call Persephone 2.0, she suffers from something like second wife syndrome. Henry (Hades) has got Persephone and his memory of her up on a pedestal, and Kate feels that she can never live up to that image. She can never be what Persephone was to him. But she does her best to be Kate and hopes that he (and the gods who are testing her) will find some worth in who she is and what she can be. This part of the story, these feelings of inadequacy, of standing in someone else's shadow, gave Kate a depth and relateability. Her relationship with her mother is something you don't get to see a lot in YA fiction. It is nice to see that angst-free devotion.
Henry is somewhat dark and tortured, as the description says, and can be a little bit emo at times. But he's freakin' HADES, separated from the other Olympians, an outsider due to being the ruler of a realm which is not of the earth, and so these character traits seem to go with the territory. What I like is that he seems sad about his situation at times, but not bitter about it. When he gets angry, the reader sees a hint of the god of the underworld and the potential there for some serious wrath. I admit that I would like to have seen more of this angry Hades.
I am not yet sure what I make of the relationship between Kate and Henry. It starts out as resistant but resigned, on both sides. They spend time together so that they can grow to appreciate each other, but the reader only witnesses their interactions some of the time, usually when something important is happening. Much of the time that Kate and Henry spend together is mentioned in passing rather than being shown. I would have liked to get just a little bit more of Kate and Henry's less exciting interactions, for relationship growth purposes.
The plot had me pretty much hooked. It moves along at a steady pace; there is always something happening to drive it forward. It is easy to become engrossed in Kate's story - her constant worry for her mother, the deal she makes with Henry, her mission to pass her tests. There is a bit of mystery in the plot as well, because someone is willing to kill Kate in order to see to it that she doesn't have a chance to pass the tests (though I did figure out who it was pretty easily). There are liberties taken with regards to the mythology and character of some of the gods. Some of these liberties I didn't mind so much and some of them are sort of irritating. The personalities of some of the gods aren't exactly accurate. They're like PG versions of the Greek gods. Some people won't mind this, and some will be bothered by it.
I liked The Goddess Test - more than I expected to. It is a fun read. The ending leaves the reader with resolution, but also plenty of room for adventures ahead. If you're a fan of mythology and/or re-imaginings, then you may enjoy it, provided that you don't mind the inaccuracies. If that sort of thing bothers the heck out of you, then you will probably want to pass on this one. While I enjoyed the story on a shallow level, these inaccuracies did start to wear on my nerves more the more I thought about them.