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Shadowhawk takes a look at Gwenda Bond’s stand-alone second Young Adult novel from Strange Chemistry Books. This is the 14th in his Advent Review series and you can check out the details here.
“Mildly entertaining but not too exciting is the best way that I can sum this book up.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
Continuing its trend of putting out novels that are as different from each other as you can get, Strange Chemistry published Gwenda Bond’s The Woken Gods a few months ago. This is a novel set in the near-future where all the gods of various cultural mythologies the world over have awakened and have taken Washington DC, USA as their homebase. This has caused some pretty major upheavals in all the different nations and now an uneasy truce exists between all the gods and the Society of the Sun, which is the organisation that manages all relationships between the gods and the mortals. Its quite an interesting premise, all things considered, where we have teenager Kyra Locke going on a journey to discover her true history and exposing some of the lies that she’s grown up with.
On the whole, this was a decent enough read, but I confess that I wasn’t too taken with it. The pacing of the book seemed to be all over the place right from the start. I just could not get into the characters all that much, aside from a few supporting characters like Kyra’s friends Bree and Tam, or some of the trickster gods who had great scenes in the novel. If the balance between advancing the story and still maintaining all the character drama had been better maintained, then this would have been a much better read, that’s for sure.
Being very much a coming of age story, there are certain beats that the author gets right, but there are a few that she gets wrong as well. One example of the latter is the way in which Kyra deals with the revelations in the second half. She seemed to be speaking by rote, with little passion in her voice. And she’s as being quite naive at times, which is acceptable to some degree but was taken to the extreme a few times. One of her best scenes however was in the first half, when she visits the compound of one of the mythological hierarchies. The entirety of the events that happen in that location are some of the highlights of the novel and they set a good tone that is met and exceeded several times, even though there are quite a few downer moments too.
Speaking of supporting characters, the ones I liked most were definitely Bree and Tam. Kyra’s love interest and an up-and-coming agent of the Society, Oz, was sadly too stereotypical with little in the way of helping him stand apart from the crowd. And this extended to his tech/geek friend Justin as well. Compared to the former pair, the latter pair comes off as clumsy and uninteresting. Bree and Tam get a fair bit of development throughout the novel, but Oz and Justin don’t, and this all ends of affecting the make-up of the team that Kyra puts together and all the shenanigans that the team finds itself in.
Something else that didn’t work for me was all the fuzzy world-building. We see a very little cross-section of the various cultures that are now represented in DC by their deities and the relationships between the gods and the mortals were not dealt in as satisfactory a manner as I would have liked. Sure, the climax depends almost entirely on these relationships, but it all comes too late and is too little unfortunately. And this goes back to the pacing of the book, which wasn’t all that good. I wanted more information on the religions that were represented and the ones that Kyra actually did interact with, but the story never went all the way like that, and this was a disappointment.
While I didn’t have high expectations from this novel, I did have a fair number of them, and few of them were met. I’ll reiterate that The Woken Gods isn’t all that good or bad a novel, its a decent one. The open ending, which isn’t something that I liked given how the story had gotten to that point, didn’t help matters either. Hopefully Gwenda Bond’s next novel is better. And I still have her 2012 debut, Blackwood, to read as well.