Immortality, a sunken city, a violent Minotaur and a cult join in contemporary Australia for adventure that’s haphazard but fast-paced.
Sadie longs to leave Perth’s stultifying beach days for “Oxford. Melbourne. Anywhere.” Excitement comes when she witnesses an attack on an old man. She chases off the attackers, and before dying in the hospital, the stranger bequeaths her his house—then promptly returns in a teenage body. Jake’s an 8,000-year-old immortal envoy from the Gods. The attackers, who escaped into the sea, are Drowners with “soft-boiled eyes” and “bile-coloured lips,” doomed to rot in the ocean depths. Jake guards a power-wielding demon in a box, which the Drowners want for their ruler, who’s underwater in Atlantis; but if anyone uses the demon’s power, “the Gods will set the whole planet ablaze.” There’s gore and nonstop action as Sadie and Jake dash around town coping with Drowners, a murderer, a human-devouring Minotaur and evangelists craving blood sacrifice who think Jake’s their savior. Despite deft handling of Sadie’s grief over her parents’ deaths years ago, Bartlett neglects Jake’s crucial emotional back story: Supposedly, fear and shame prevented Jake from solving the demon/Gods crisis ages ago, but the text gives barely a nod to Jake’s emotions, so that explanation seems empty. Narrative perspective wanders; careless slams (“lezzo”; the Drowners “look…Japanese”) rankle.
Aussie-flavored excitement with ancient Greek tidbits, underdeveloped in places. (Fantasy. 12-15)