Tuesday 23 February 2021

#CBR13 Book 5: "Lore" by Alexandra Bracken

Page count: 532 pages
Audio book length: 15 hrs 47 mins
Rating: 4 stars

Official book description:
Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.

Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family's sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt's promises of eternal glory. For years she's pushed away any thought of revenge against the man--now a god--responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore's decision to bind her fate to Athena's and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost--and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees. 

Melora "Lore" Perseus has been trying to stay away from the brutal world she was raised in after her entire family was ruthlessly slaughtered seven years ago just as the previous Agon was about to end. She's living in a Brooklyn brownstone left to her by the kindly old man she worked as a caretaker for, who passed away about six months ago. Her only friend is Miles, a young man completely unaware of her dangerous background. Now it seems, her past is determined to catch up with her. She discovers that her old friend Castor didn't die of leukemia after all, but is in fact not only strong and healthy but has taken on the mantle of Apollo after the last Agon. She also finds the goddess Athena brutally stabbed on her literal doorstep and when the goddess offers her a bargain that will allow her revenge on the man who is responsible, Lore is reluctant at first but realises that she can't really refuse. She agrees to bind her fate to that of Athena, so giving her extra strength and resources. However, if either of the two dies, the other one will too.

Over the course of the next week, Lore and Athena work together to try to track down the man who has taken on the power of Ares and is systematically trying to wipe out all other gods (or those who have their power now) in the Agon. They are aided by Castor, his friend Evander and Miles, who insists on helping, even though he's the only mortal not trained from childhood in this strange deadly tournament. As they work on achieving their goal, Lore comes to discover that her childhood goal of becoming a legend may be achievable after all, but it will only come after even greater cost than she has already paid.

I don't know if this book is being marketed with 'Percy Jackson meets the Hunger Games', but it probably should be. The concept of the story, the Agon, is explained at the beginning of the book. I don't entirely remember why the descendants of all the great heroes have to keep hunting down the occasionally fully mortal Greek gods in order to earn power and glory, but that's the world we find ourselves in here. A world that sadly still considers only male fighters truly worthy, and which won't allow any women to be the head of a house and very few as acceptable as Hunters. Until her family was killed at the end of the last Agon, Lore was determined to prove everyone wrong and become legendary. After she found her father, mother, and two younger sisters brutally slaughtered in their small New York apartment, however, she determined to have nothing more to do with the Agon or the rivaling families vying for power. 

While Lore has spent most of the last seven years estranged from the world she once knew and is quite lonely, she has a very solid friendship with Miles, and it's good to see her reconnecting with Castor, Van (Evander) and later her old friend Iro as well. These teenagers have all been raised with some truly warped values and this last round of the Agon seems to be making all of them, not just Lore, realise that the old traditions cannot continue. Changes need to be made.

This book seems to be entirely stand-alone, which is unsual in and of itself nowadays. I enjoyed it and found the mix of Greek mythology, action adventure and death race interesting and enjoyable. The audio book is narrated by Fryda Wolff, who does a good job with the sprawling cast of characters. 

While I think this book absolutely fits into the YA genre with many of its character archetypes and plot beats, it should probably be recommended for older readers, as there are some really very violent scenes throughout. I remember being surprised that Pierce Brown's Red Rising series was being marketed as YA, and this is a bit in the same vein. Lore, Castor, Evander and Miles have neither of them turned twenty yet, but a lot of the themes and action set pieces are distinctly gory. So be aware of that.

Judging a book by its cover: I have always found Medusa a very fascinating character, and this cover, where a statue appears to be coming to life and staring straight at the reader was one of the things that first struck me when I decided to check out the book. Any cover image arresting enough to make me interested in picking up and reading the book has done its job well. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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