Wednesday, July 17, 2013

REVIEW: The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond

The Woken Gods The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ancient gods, a secret society, and the end of the world; I expected to be wowed. I was not wowed.

The book described how bad things were (really bad) and how high the stakes were (really high) but I scarcely felt it. Despite all the danger and how any moment they could die, or at least get maimed, if they did not tread carefully, I was never scared for Kyra and her friends like I should have been.

+ the characters

The most I ever felt in the book was some sympathy for Kyra’s situation and annoyance with her father and mother (mostly with her father since it was mostly his fault) for contributing to her predicament. I understood her parents’ reasons but keeping Kyra in the dark was a giant mistake and put her in greater danger. Given her feisty attitude, her father should have known she would go rescue him come hell or high water instead of leaving town like he asked her to. While her parents didn’t make smart decisions, the silver lining was that they were present and had an important role given Young Adult fictions’ proclivity for the Disappearing Parent Syndrome.

In regard to the heroine, I didn’t really care for her. Nothing about Kyra was annoying or proclaimed her a special snowflake, but simultaneously nothing about her was remarkable. I could not decide if she was courageous or foolish, but I did like how determined and decisive she was. Other than that, the girl was bland as can be. Without her equally courageous (or foolish) friends and some luck, Kyra would have achieved very little if anything. I did not have much faith in her.

One of the few things I did like about the book was how her friends, Tam and Bree, stuck by her every step of the way as much as possible. With Tam, I loved how quickly and firmly the book resolved the issue of his failed romance with Kyra and turned their pre-plot breakup into an amicable one with no lingering feelings. I almost thought there was going to be a love triangle between Kyra, Tam, and Oz but the idea was stomped out before any stupid romantic issue could arise. Not to say the book did not have a love triangle; it just didn’t include Kyra. Thank heavens. Furthermore, the romantic interests between Oz and Kyra was low-key. So low-key I can’t firmly call it a romance, and I liked it that way because I needed Kyra and Oz to attend to priorities.

While Tam and Oz and even Justin, Oz’s friend and a secondary character, were useful, Bree was not equally so. I didn’t like how she was treated like a third wheel and at best a cheerleader for Kyra. Attempts to make her relevant and an individual fell a couple steps short of success.

However, she was nowhere near a great disappointment that was Bronson, a leader of the Society, and the gods, supernatural sovereigns the Society protect humanity against. Bronson’s motives and desperation weren’t pushed far enough to a convincing point. The gods, except for Enki and his cohort, were not as awe inspiring and terrifying as they should have been. They were GODS yet their presence was that of the ubiquitous vampires and werewolves from a typical Young Adult paranormal — ordinary.

+ the world building

Enter another issue, one with the world building. I found the world building too simple to be believable. I found it ludicrous that the fear of permanent death is what stopped the gods from ruling the world like they used to and forced them to make peace with the humans and that somehow all of the gods were in agreement. Also ludicrous was how trainees of the Society like Oz and Justin could go head to head against the gods and how relics, as powerful as the objects may be, were all that was necessary to fight them.

Immortal beings with mighty magic and centuries of experience versus mere mortals with relics that have limited functions, the book did a very poor job of persuasion that humans were a sufficient threat to the these supernatural sovereigns. If I wasn’t a staunch reader of Urban Fantasy and seen similar world buildings (e.g. the Kate Daniels series & the Iron Druid Chronicles), I wouldn’t have accepted this world building as plausible. In sum, the world building didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

I did like that the world building strayed from popular mythologies like Greek and Celtic and aimed towards more obscure ones like African (by Legba) and Sumerian (by Enki). The world building had issues but staleness wasn’t one of them.

+ the plot

The issue of plausibility also gushed into the plot. When Kyra joined the Society they never kept her under close watch and regarded her with great suspicion considering recent events where both parties knew that their interests and goals contradicted each other and oh yeah, the tiny little fact that her father betrayed them. It should have been obvious to them, especially to Bronson, that she only joined to infiltrate and betray them too. Yet I saw members of the Society telling her their secrets and hiding place of their relics as if revealing classified information was a weekly function next to Casual Friday.

The Society did not properly act like a secret society and a global NGO with rules and bureaucracy. In another example, I struggled to understand why Bronson was allowed to lead the hunt for Kyra’s father and continued to dictate the Society’s agenda when the betrayer was a member of his own family. No matter how high and influential Bronson’s position was in the Society, there was no way he could have completely avoided incrimination and political implications. The Society should have benched Bronson and conducted an internal investigation like a competent NGO. I was hard pressed to believe that this was the same organization that mightily restrained the gods from taking over the world.

Good thing the book read fast because this was not a good book to have long moments that would allow the reader to ponder and test for foundation problems.

In Conclusion

I rate The Woken Gods 2-stars for it was okay. Pros: the book read fast, avoided YA cliche, which is easier said than done, and strived for mythological freshness. Cons: the book suffered emotional impotence, mediocre characters, and plausibility issues. The book aimed for awesomeness but ended up being dismally average. That said, the book is definitely worth a read. If readers check their expectations the book can be considerably entertaining.

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