In this teen fantasy novel and love story, an orphaned girl finds herself at the center of a war brewing among the gods of Olympus.
When a book opens with a bang like this, readers might expect great things. Fifteen-year-old Therese is riding in a car with her parents when a gunman opens fire, hitting her mother and causing her father to careen off the road into a pond. Before Therese can free herself from the submerged car, she watches helplessly as both her parents die. Pohler’s (The Mystery Box, 2012, etc.) description of their deaths is gruesomely clear and heartbreaking. While Therese is still in a coma following the accident, she travels through the dream world and meets two alluring young men, Hypnos, or Hip, and Thanatos, or Than, twin sons of Hades. Hip is a cad—he says things like “Are we going to make out now, or what?”—while Than is quiet and sensitive. Than, whose job is to eternally guide the souls of the dead to the entrance of the underworld, is immediately drawn to Therese. After this fast and eventful introduction, things slow down—way, way down. Than makes a deal with his father: 40 days among humans to try to make Therese his bride, with some stiff and arbitrary conditions attached; these are Greek gods, after all. As Than and Therese flirt with one another, the story plods along with unnecessary subplots and minor characters, as well as turgid descriptions of everyday actions. Things pick up again about two-thirds of the way through: The entire pantheon of Greek gods picks sides, and, in an arena battle sure to thrill Hunger Games fans, Therese shows her mettle. The outcome neatly tees things up for the three books (at least) in the series still to come. But Pohler’s straightforward storytelling might not appeal to many teenagers, and the book’s central metaphor, a dying tree, feels like an afterthought.
Teenage readers might be swept up in the passion between Therese and Than, though the story is unlikely to inflame any sort of literary fervor.