The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond – Advance Review [Bane of Kings]

The Woken Gods

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, shares his thoughts on The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond, a Young Adult novel published by Strange Chemistry that hits shelves next month. (3 September – US / 5 September – UK)

“A great, fast paced and fun novel that puts a new spin on the “Gods Are Real” storyline that fans of the Percy Jackson series and other similar titles will love.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

Okay, let’s get this straight right off the bat. Every so often, a cover sells me on a book. I picked up Douglas Hulick’s Among Thieves because of its cover, and many others were purchased on that basis. And the main reason why I requested The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond to review was because of that Cover – it’s just awesome, isn’t it? Plain and simple in a thriller-kind of way, whilst allowing for the hint of the otherworldy. Whilst it sadly isn’t perfect, the novel itself allows for some great development, and action, all moving along at a lightning fast pace. If you enjoyed Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, or Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant, or other similar titles, then you’ll find something to enjoy here. The Woken Gods is a great read, and one of the finest Strange Chemistry novels that I’ve read so far.

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. From the author of Blackwood comes a fresh, thrilling urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan.

The book is told mostly through the eyes of seventeen year old Kyra Locke, who is – as to be expected, the main protagonist of this novel and takes up most of the page time. Her character develops strongly and unlike certain Young Adult novels that I’ve read in the past that I’ll not mention here, is actually likeable and rootable, coming off as a pretty strong female lead who gets plenty to say and do, as well as being fleshed out. Her character is easily the most well defined of the novel, but others, such as Osbourne Spencer, nicknamed “Oz” – also mentioned in the blurb, get plenty to do and say here – even if some of them such as Kyra’s friends, Bree and Tam don’t get much depth to them. Kyra however, is of course the standout – and Gwenda Bond’s novel is great for readers who want an awesome young, female protagonist.

The Woken GodsThe setting is pretty interesting – whilst some authors who go down the whole “Gods Are Among Us” route choose to adopt to one Pantheon or draw inspiration from multiple Gods, Bond isn’t afraid to get stuck into the whole lot, meaning we get a wide element of characters, with the Egyptian Pantheon being the most notable one here. But the richness of the world that the author has created for us brings up a whole new problem – there needs to be more worldbuilding. It was one of the main problems that I had whilst reading this novel was that there wasn’t enough of it, and I felt that given the concept it needed to be fleshed out a lot more.

Of course, as is common with pretty much a vast majority of Young Adult novels these days, expect romance. Whilst it’s there, it takes a while to develop, rather than happening instantly – allowing for a large focus to spent on moving the plot forward and there is little let-up in the brisk pace that this novel moves along at. I mentioned earlier that this will appeal to readers who enjoyed Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson and/or Skulduggery Pleasant, and that’s largely because it handles pace just as well as those novels have done. It’s original and doesn’t fall into the trap of being a clone of Percy Jackson only with a female protagonist, which is what I feared at first when starting this novel.

Another slight problem, but not a major one that didn’t bother me (although it may bother some) as I’d encountered it before, namely in James Patterson’s novels, the switch from Kyra’s  first person narrative to third person to other characters. Whilst this may have been done to advance the plot in ways that Kyra’s chapters could not, I would have rather Kyra be the sole POV character if it was told in first person, rather than having a split.

Overall then, The Woken Gods is a pretty solid read with some strong themes and several key elements running through it that help it stand above the average crop of Young Adult novels that we get thrown at us by so many authors nowadays – providing something that’s fresh, unique and interesting, even if the lack of more worldbuilding/discovery harms it a bit. Kyra’s character is strong and awesome, and when this book hits shelves next month, you should certainly pick it up if you can. Young Adult readers will love this one.

VERDICT: 4/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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