061 – Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

Goddess Interrupted cover Kate Winters has won immortality.But if she wants a life in the Underworld with Henry, she’ll have to fight for it.

Becoming immortal wasn’t supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she’s as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he’s becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate’s coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future.

Henry’s first wife, Persephone.
Confession time: there are parts of parts of this book that I liked. And no, that wasn’t a typo, I really mean “parts of parts”, because it’s difficult to get behind any one aspect of this novel completely. But I felt like there was an attempt, at least, to acknowledge, and even address a few of the problematic issues, and that’s more than can be said for most YAPR books. Furthermore, I was thoroughly impressed by the fact that characters in this book actually had arcs.

I know, how revolutionary, right? I mean, the concept of your character growing as the book progresses? Astounding!


I really feel like Goddess Interrupted tried to have its characters learn something valuable about themselves and their perceptions of other characters, and on the one hand, I respect that.

On the other, the ending was like a sucker-punch to my girl parts, and it was kind enough to remind me of exactly why I so disliked the Goddess series in the first place.

Goddess Interrupted picks up after The Goddess Test, on the last day of Kate’s six-month absence from the Underworld. She’s spent the entirety of her vacation in Greece with her BFF James, and it’s been fun and all, but summer is over, and it’s time for Kate to come back and settle in to her life in the Underworld with doting hubby Hades – er, I mean Henry.

Except that’s not exactly how it goes. Upon her return, Kate finds that Henry has regressed back to being a distant, prickly jerk. The comfort and familiarity that Kate had thought they’d reached in Goddess Test is gone, leaving her to angst endlessly about whether or not she’ll ever live up to the memory of her sister, and whether her future with Henry will ever be the sunshine-and-roses bliss that she wants.

Oh yeah, and also Calliope/Hera has awoken the titan Cronus from his sleep, and his sole desire is to KILL THE GODS for their past betrayals and then destroy the world! Shenanigans!

And yes, the gods are still rolling with their boring human names, leaving me even more convinced that they’re pointless and unnecessarily confusing.


This legitimately confused me for a few chapters.

At any rate, let’s start with Kate, because oh my god, words cannot describe my pain. In my review of The Goddess Test, I called Kate “relentlessly self-flagellating”, and that has not changed. This girl is all about punishing herself – for things that go wrong, for stupid things she did, for stupid things she didn’t do, for things that aren’t her fault or might be or never had anything to do with her. It seemed like every time something went wrong in her life, Kate extrapolated it into somehow being her fault. Her self-esteem throughout the book is so low, it might as well have been nega.

The thing about this is that, not only is it tedious to read about – SO MUCH ANGST, agh – but it’s indicative of a larger problematic element of the story: Kate’s self-esteem is inextricably tied to the way Henry feels about her.

What bothered me most about The Goddess Test was that Kate spent the entire story transferring her masochistic devotion from her mother to Henry. Likewise, the titular test was designed to get Henry to do the same. THIS IS SO UNHEALTHY. And while I would have loved for Kate, or even Henry’s arc to be about overcoming this crippling co-dependency, they’re not.

Kate returns from vacation in Greece cheerful and excited. She can’t wait to see Henry, can’t wait to pick up where they left off, and is more optimistic than we’ve ever seen her. Yet the moment she steps into the Underworld and Henry acts like a jerk, she’s sucked into an abyss of self-doubt and fear. Her confidence plummets. She obsesses over Henry. Her every waking moment is consumed with thoughts of him, and them, and how he feels, and what he wants, and what that means for their relationship. Her self-esteem hinges on whether or not Henry loves her, and after his neglect, she spends much of the book under a never-ending cloud of agonized doom.


I think we can all agree that this isn’t a healthy emotional state, and yet it’s hardly even acknowledged that this could be a problem, much less challenged. Kate and Henry’s romantic arc is about communication, and while I liked the maturity in exploring the idea that relationships take work and communication, and that Kate finally came around to caring about her own happiness as well as Henry’s, their arc only fixes the function of their relationship, not the underlying problem. By the end of the book, it’s very clear that Kate is only happy because she has allowed herself to believe that Henry truly loves her, and it’s actually a PLOT ELEMENT that if Henry were to ever lose Kate, he’d dive right back in to his suicidal funk.

Nothealthynothealthynothealthynothealthy, these characters should be working on the issues that make them broken, incomplete people, not temporarily patching their holes with each other. GAHHHHHHHHHH. I mean, what does this say to the teenage girls reading it? That hinging all of your self-worth on a man is fine as long as he loves you back? That being horribly, suicidally depressed over a lover can be TOTES CURED by finding a new one? No. No. NO.


And can we just take a time out for a moment and acknowledge, once again, just how fucked up this very premise is? I know, I know, I harped on it a lot in the last review, but that was mostly about Demeter’s role – what about Henry? He’s the motivation for all of the shit that’s going down, and you know why? Because he’s so heartbroken over something that happened hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, that he’s resigned to let himself die rather than get over it. He has no will to live, and no will to find will to live, EXCEPT to allow his awful, enabling-ly doting sister to prop shiny new toys in front of him in hopes of catching his interest.

The worst part is that the rest of the cast is SO QUICK to lay this at everyone’s feet but his. First it’s Persephone’s fault for leaving him in the first place, then the burden of motivating his continued existence is unceremoniously dumped on Kate. The only reason that Kate is important to the story at all is because of Henry. He loved her, so Hera started a war; if she dies, Henry will undoubtedly spontaneously combust with grief, and there goes the entire world, because the gods can’t stand up to a Titan without him.

That’s another thing – I was deeply, deeply frustrated with the fact that Kate had so little to do here. Aside from kicking off the search for Persephone – who they needed to guide them in the search for Henry and the other gods – she doesn’t actually do a whole lot. Even on that journey, her participation is largely passive. She follows James, who leads them to Persephone. She follows Persephone, who leads them to Cronus’ prison. Once they get down to the actual rescuing, Kate’s actually been rendered so useless that she’s told not to interfere, and when she does, it almost irreparably ruins the plan.

Once they get back from the rescue mission, that’s it for Kate having even marginal influence on the plot. While the grown-ups hatch a plan to defeat Cronus, Kate is left to wallow in her emotional turmoil over Henry, which she does without ever concerning her pretty little head about, y’know, the fate of the world. It’s pretty clear to me that this book had no interest in being anything but a romance, because we are given ZERO insight into the battle against Cronus. We get no clever schemes, no well-planned traps, and absolutely no action. When it actually comes time to fight, Kate and Ava/Aphrodite STAY HOME and do fuck all but cross their fingers and hope the others don’t fail.

It’s not that I don’t see why Kate would be useless by this world’s standards – she’s young, has no experience with gods or fighting or battle strategy, hasn’t shown herself to be particularly clever, and has little control over the only power she’s manifested so far: remote viewing (or as I like to call it, the power of plot-convenience!). She is functionally useless. But let’s be clear about something: it’s not like this was federally mandated. This was all written by a person, who chose to make Kate the epitome of a passive heroine.

Even Kate’s power, which is relevant to the Cronus aspect of the plot once or twice, is entirely passive. Kate doesn’t try to have these visions, she doesn’t take it upon herself to help in any way possible, doesn’t train herself into usefulness. They just come, she relays the information, and other characters actually do something about it. They don’t include Kate, and she apparently doesn’t care terribly much to be included. How very exciting.

Again, Kate’s only value in the story, once her party has retrieved the other gods, is in her importance to Henry. She’s a target because if she dies, Henry fades.

Which brings me back to my original point – yeah, um, when is Henry’s life going to be Henry’s responsibility? I’m still waiting for everyone – including HENRY – to realize that it’s not Kate’s responsibility to go on existing for his sake. Nor is it a PRIZE, or a TREAT.

At any rate, I haven’t quite given up hope that the story will find a way to actually address this when we get around to The Goddess Inheritance, but it really, REALLY needs to. Otherwise, I’m afraid for me, at least, Kate and Henry will go down as the Absolute Worst Pairing in paranormal YA. And I totally mean that.

Really, the only reason that I have the teensiest bit of hope for some positive development of that situation in the next book is because of Kate’s arc in this one. There are two parts to it – one is that, after putting her mother and Henry on a pedestal upon which they can do no wrong, Kate finally, finally, starts holding them accountable(ish) for their roles in the direction her life has taken. Not Henry as much, although he did seem to lose a bit of his infallibility in her eyes, but I was particularly pleased to see a scene in which Kate called her mother out on her bullshit.

I still hold that Demeter is by far the least sympathetic character in the series, not to mention an AWFUL MOTHER. I was disappointed that Kate never took issue with her in Goddess Test, but in retrospect I can kind of understand, since she was just relieved to have her alive-ish. In Interrupted, I feel like Carter specifically chose to have Kate acknowledge all of the problematic issues that went along with Demeter’s choices, and I’m really glad that they weren’t just ignored or swept under the rug. That being said, Demeter’s explanation for them only made me dislike the character more.

Honestly, I’d like to quote the whole damn conversation for you guys, it’s that fucking frustrating, but I’ll spare you. Suffice to say, after acknowledging that yeah, she is the kind of mother who would birth a child-bride for her brother without remorse, and yeah, she is totally ashamed of Persephone for being selfish and not having more regard for her husband’s “well-being”, we get this little gem:

If I’d had you all those years ago, when Henry was still unmarried, you would have been the one I’d have offered him, not Persephone.
WHY YES, I’M DEMETER, I CLEARLY HAVE NOT LEARNED FROM MY MISTAKES, WHICH HAVE MADE BOTH OF MY DAUGHTERS MISERABLE.

It’s official:


On the upside, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to like Demeter, and I appreciate the fact that Kate has woken up somewhat to her awfulness – even if she is absurdly forgiving – so I can let it slide.

The other part of Kate’s arc ends up yielding better results. You guys may have noticed – I mean, how could you not after those last few lines in the flap summary – that Kate’s low self-esteem has left her with a bit of a security problem. She’s also – either naturally or as a result of her situation – just a smidge judgmental, especially when it comes to other women and fidelity. And by “smidge”, I mean, “raging, judgemental asshole”.

Here’s the thing, though – she’s actually wrong. Like, in the book, too, omg! More than once she’s told that her opinions of Persephone and her actions are unfair, that Persephone is not a bad person, and that she doesn’t understand quite as well as she thinks. Most of this comes from James, who seems present mostly to serve as the voice of the reader, and it’s pretty clear that he’s got a better handle on the situation than Kate. Kate’s arc here is about overcoming her preconceived notions about Persephone. She comes to see her as a human being, and they end the book on a good-ish note, with a tentative wish to find a way to bond as sisters.

See, that was what almost, almost, talked me off the ledge of RAEG. Yes, there were still portrayal issues, but Kate grew! She and Henry grew! They kind got past Kate being threatened by Persephone. We’re going out on a note of promise, with Kate off to actually do shit to help save the world, right? Maybe we’re going places.

Spoilers

But then Aphrodite stabs Kate in the back for the sake of her husband, Hera gets Kate mystically pregnant and executes a plot to steal the “thing she loves most” – now her unborn child, and I’m reminded of just how very awful the female roles in this book really are.

Let’s just take a closer look at our three main, non-protagonist female characters, shall we? You’ve got Persephone, Ava/Aphrodite, and Calliope/Hera. Hera, naturally, is the villain of the piece. Why? Jealousy over a man. She wanted Henry, he didn’t want her, so she spent the next hundred years or so killing off those vile wimmens in hopes that someday he might.

It’s a little difficult to navigate this one, because well, jealousy is Hera’s thing. Mythologically, she was all about the smiting and stalking and generally building the caricature of a woman scorned. But I think we can all agree, that was a pretty goddamn sexist schtick to begin with. Her vengeance was mostly directed at the women, because the other “guilty party”, her husband Zeus, was nigh untouchable, and punishing him through his partners a children were about all she could manage. But after all, cheating, that’s what men do, right? You can’t fault ’em for it. It’s the “other woman”‘s fault for attracting his attention, that hussy.

So in Goddess, we get an antagonist whose unrequited love for a man has driven her to world-ending levels of insanity, who focuses her vengeance, not on either of the men on which it is based (Zeus for driving her away, Henry for not accepting her), but the women around them. Hera isn’t a compelling or well-developed villain – she’s a tiresome old trope, and no matter what the mythological basis, it irritates the crap out of me here. Again, it’s not like this had to be the conflict, or that it had to play out this way. Making Hera the villain of the piece was a choice, and it’s one that plays right into harmful gender stereotypes.

Then we’ve got Ava/Aphrodite, who, aside from being another walking stereotype – ditzy, blond, boy-crazy – is judged pretty harshly by both Kate and the book for that. It’s made clear that both Persephone and Ava are “less” than Kate – they are shown to be shallower, more fickle, and wholly lacking in Kate’s self-sacrificing devotion to their partners, which apparently makes Ava, at least, a bad person. As in the last book, Ava isn’t shy about sex or sleeping around, despite, as I’m sure we’re supposed to be shocked to learn, the fact that she has a husband whom she adores.

Personally, I kind of felt like Ava’s arc was about punishment. So she sleeps around without shame? We best teach that bitch her place. Nevermind that the gods exist in one of the few situations in which I could buy an open marriage free of jealousy – I mean really, you expect to spend thousands of years physically and emotionally captivated by a single person? Yet by the end of the book, it is chronically unfaithful Ava’s husband who doesn’t come back from battle, and it is out of guilt-ridden fear for his safety that she betrays Kate to Hera. After all, she’s not a good wife if her husband doesn’t motivate her every action.

Finally, there’s Persephone, and despite the understanding that she comes to garner from Kate, there are still more than a few problems with her depiction. For one, like Ava, she’s shown to be shallow, petty, manipulative, superficial, and selfish even under the best of circumstances. The man she left Henry for? Adonis, of course – and naturally, desire for his love was a point of contention for her and Aphrodite. Persephone only essentially “won” Adonis by sacrificing her immortality to be with him.

She, too, is still judged by the book, and always portrayed as not as good as Kate, with her pettiness, “lax” morality, and her – relatively, mind you – casual regard for her man. In fact, one of the few defenses Persephone is allowed is that she really does love Adonis and cherish her time with him – y’know, otherwise she’d just be the world’s biggest whore!

It’s really frustrating to see these kinds of relationships in the book, because really, what it comes down to is “how many ways can a man motivate these women to fuck one another over?” Female companionship, solidarity between women, true friendship, they don’t exist in this world. These women are always in competition – unless they’re utterly enraptured with their partner, like Kate – and when push comes to shove, the men will always come first.

And it’s things like this that drag the Goddess series down.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t other flaws – most of the characters, including our heroine, mind you, remain largely undeveloped aside from their man-tivations. We still know absolutely nothing about Kate aside from the fact that she loves Henry and her mother and hates herself. We barely even see any gods that aren’t Henry, Demeter, Persephone, James, Ava, or Hera, so it’s still nearly impossible to tell who’s supposed to be who without a handy conversion chart. And I still don’t particularly like anyone – I was all set to like James, but by the end most of his “voice of reason” schtick seemed more self-motivated than not, so there goes that, and Persephone ends up reading like a cattier Ava.

All in all, it was just impossible for me to enjoy this book. There was too much angst, too much of the fucked-up relationships, too many awful portrayals of women, and too little interesting action for me to recommend it. Too many strikes for it to be saved by a few decent swings. Maybe next time.

two stars


 

6 Responses

  1. RogueFiccer

    June 17, 2012 9:04 pm, Reply

    Kate’s whining about how everything is her fault and she has to martyr herself is a major annoyance. The girl needs therapy. STAT.

    One thing that really pissed me off about this book was that it comes out James messed around with Persephone and has a thing for Kate, and Kate continues to pal around with him. Pardon? If you love someone and they have a legitimate reason for being wary of a friend of yours who has admitted to having Feelings for you, it’s a good idea to put some distance between yourself and the friend, for the good of your relationship with your Twu Wuv, if nothing else. I came away from the book with the view of James that his main reason for telling Kate she doesn’t have to stay with Henry if she doesn’t want to is he wants her for himself, though I can’t remember if he says as much or if that’s just the impression I got. Either way, my regard for James dropped. He’s telling her what she needs to hear, but his motivations are likely selfish, and that sours it for me.

    Kate deciding to burst into the cave and be a Big Freakin’ Hero made me grind my teeth. I understand she’s worried about Henry and what will happen if they fail, but they told her to stay outside and out of danger. She knows that she’s a weakness for Henry and would be used against him if captured. So what does she do? She goes in because one of her predecessors says she should. *headwall* The way that was handled afterward was totally disappointing as well.

    • Kayla + Cyna

      June 18, 2012 4:26 pm, Reply

      One thing that really pissed me off about this book was that it comes out James messed around with Persephone and has a thing for Kate, and Kate continues to pal around with him. Pardon? If you love someone and they have a legitimate reason for being wary of a friend of yours who has admitted to having Feelings for you, it’s a good idea to put some distance between yourself and the friend, for the good of your relationship with your Twu Wuv, if nothing else.

      See, I’m split, because it doesn’t bother me that she actually did – after all, thus far James is the only one who’s shown concern for Kate making her own choices – but it doesn’t seem like something Kate would do if she really were super-devoted to not in any way treading on Henry’s tender feel-goods.

      I’m right there with you on the interpretation of James’ motivations – that’s why I couldn’t end up liking him, either.

      It’d be different if Kate could actually do something besides getting caught of being held hostage, but she can’t, so it winds up as an example of spunky agency. It’s pretty much fail either way, just because of the shit position the book has put Kate in.

  2. atypical.oracle

    June 18, 2012 5:03 am, Reply

    Wait… Calliope is the name Hera uses? So she calls herself by the name of one of the nine results of her husband cheating on her with the titaness Mnemosyne? That’s… what?

  3. zelda-queen

    February 17, 2013 2:23 am, Reply

    For me, the hatred of Persephone just went way past infuriating and into downright uncomfortable territory. Carter basically wrote out Persephone as – in her eyes, apparently – the worst sort of woman. She’s unfaithful. She abandoned Her Man in favor of personal happiness. She screwed up the whole order of things, causing them to go through the whole test and rigamarole.

    I’d like to note that Persephone is rather remarkable in Greek mythology for being in one of the most faithful marriages recorded. Abduction aside, most tellings of the story have that she and Hades were incredibly happy with one another.

    So to me, Carters re-imagining of Persephone came across as disturbingly vindictive. It reminds me of a particular fanfiction writer I came across, who got unhealthily attached to certain fictional characters. She had a disturbing tendency to write fanfictions in which original characters of hers (all of whom were thinly-veiled stand-ins of herself) would become the love interests of her favorite Lust Object Characters. The canon love interests, meanwhile, were written as being jealous, bitchy harpies with nary a redeeming quality. To give an example, she found out between fanfictions that in Pirates of the Caribbean, Tia Dalma was the love interest of Davy Jones. Davy Jones was the Lust Object of her latest fic. She responded to this by inventing a backstory in which Jones had an original character as his lover, and THAT was who he gave up his heart for in despair. Tia Dalma, meanwhile, was rewritten into being a complete bitch who murdered said original character, killed a toddler and an unborn child, and apparently considered a tyrant universally amongst pirates. The fic was concluded when another of the author’s self inserts murdered her and was proclaimed a hero for doing so.

    That author, incidentally, is considered immature, terrible at writing, and generally off her rocker (she also insists her husband is Gerard Butler and she married him in Notre Dame). It doesn’t speak well of Carter’s writing that it makes me think of this person’s fanfiction.

    • Kayla + Cyna

      February 17, 2013 4:48 pm, Reply

      There are a lot of things, in this and the next book, that made me uncomfortable and basically convinced me that I probably don’t want to mess with Carter any more as an author. I don’t think our views on things will ever align well enough for me to not want to punch her.

      The vilifying of Persephone was front and center, I really don’t know what is so difficult about writing ex-girlfriend characters who are not portrayed as gigantic assholes, but I guess no self-insert fantasy is complete without the satisfaction of being morally superior to the ex, as well as walking away with the man. Internalized misogyny is a terrible fucking thing.

      Also, that fic sounds horrifying. 🙁

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