Our Gods Are Superpowered Douchebags…
In my first year at University, my history teacher started with a lecture on ancient mythology. Now I admit it was a Monday, and early in the day at that so I might have missed some of the detail. But as he whipped through the various Olympian wars, disagreements, and plain old hissy fits, I remember thinking that the Greek Gods were a bunch of whiny, self-important, belligerent, manipulative, entitled SOBs. Because it was a Monday morning, it didn’t take long for me to realize why they seemed familiar, at least in a person-you-met-at-that-awful-orientation-week-frat-party-on-Friday-and-hope-you-don’t-encounter-in-real-life sort of way.
I decided that Mount Olympus was basically a cluster-F of the original frat boys (will I say it? Of course I will!)—the original Greeks. And just like the frat house lounge the morning after one of those parties, the passage of time hasn’t made them any more appealing.
For a look at those old Greek gods in a modern setting, please see my review for CHAMPIONS: At fire’s end by Charlotte Jain.
Champions: at fire’s end by Charlotte Jain
Locked into an endless struggle, the Immortals have finally reached a solution – bestow mortal Champions with control over the elements to wage their final campaign.
Bestowed with control over fire and water, April and Kyle were raised by Immortals with a single purpose – win the war. After finally uncovering the remaining Champions’ identities, April and Kyle must launch themselves into their final battle for survival. Winner takes all. But the Immortals are growing restless, and time is running out.
Teens and Ancient Greek Gods. The setup is almost irresistible for an urban fantasy writer. You take a bunch of
immature, narcissistic, ego-tripping, power-obsessed, borderline moronic gods and put the future of the world in their hands. And then somehow you have them agreeing to let thousands of years of dispute be settled by a pair of only marginally less immature, narcissistic, ego-tripping, power-obsessed, slightly more intelligent teenagers.
The story is told from the alternating points of view of view of two best friends, Kyle and April. As we piece together their backstories, it is revealed that they were raised to fight a battle that will once and for all settle the conflict between the Titans and their offspring, the Olympians.
The stakes are end-of-the-world high, but the costs are even higher. As old betrayals and new secrets are revealed only to spawn newer ones, both Kyle and April each realize that their friendship could mean their deaths. But they also have to come to terms with betrayal on every level. The only rules the gods follow are “don’t get caught”, as everything Kyle and April think they know about themselves, their families, and each other is systematically revealed in layers of deception and betrayal.
There was so much that I loved in this book. The premise of two best friends, each fighting for those they love but forced to face what they have become—literally mortal enemies—was fantastic. The gods who are shown with huge power and even bigger egos are a nice touch too.
But there were things I found frustrating as well. First and foremost, is the pace. There is absolutely no way that this story is one book. The fragments slipped in as backstory were WAY too miniscule to build up a picture of what brought these two teens to this point. People developed convenient new abilities at a dazzling pace but with very little explanation. I kept getting the feeling that the entire story was a movie which had played in the author’s head in many rich scenes, but we only get a two second flashback. Frankly, I was confused. For most of the book, I just had no idea about all the pieces, all the supporting characters, and all the backstory that brought Kyle and April to their confrontations.
On top of that, I literally couldn’t tell the difference in the character’s voices. I had to keep turning back to the beginning of each chapter to see which one was speaking. Plus there were a couple of spots where the author just didn’t play fair. Somehow April and/or Kyle just realize or know things. Yup. The problem with that is that if an action happens on their point of view watch, then it’s cheating for the reader not to be told what that is or how that conclusion was reached, instead of the character making a smug announcement as they display or utilize that hidden piece.
Ares whispered, urgent. “There is a way to achieve what I think you’re looking for. But you’re not going to like it.”
Ares smiled, then leaned closer to whisper in my ear. He leaned away to once again send his attention to the shadowed ruins around us. “You should take appropriate steps,” he added. “Should you both wish to survive this.”
There are lots of unresolved questions. Why would Greek gods choose middle-class non-Greek teenagers to decide the fate of the world? Of course, they’d been messing up the lives of human champions for eons, and that made a mess of Troy and set Odysseus return back a decade, but the gods just carried on with same old/same old for millennia afterward. And why now, if they did choose them as their champions, did the gods take absolutely every possible opportunity to undermine them, even to sewing the seeds of their destruction along with their gifts of powers?
I will definitely look for the other books in this series. Charlotte Jain has everything it takes to be a terrific writer. She just needs to slow down enough to let her readers catch up to her story. If so, she’ll be a writer to watch.
***I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
Book Title: Champions: at fire’s end
Author: Charlotte Jain
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Amazon Digital (November 27, 2015)
Contact and Buy Links:
Charlotte Jain is an Arts graduate from Melbourne and the author of the Champions series. When not scrawling exciting YA tales filled with magic and adventure, Charlotte enjoys travelling the world and snuggling up on the couch watching movies.
Excerpt from Champions: at fire’s end
Eyes bore down on me from all directions. They glared as if they knew, as if they saw me for what I was, for where I was heading. A sea of cheerful faces surrounded me as I moved decisively through bustling streets. Head down, hands buried in my jacket pockets, I continued on. Sure to avoid eye contact with anyone who might be watching, I dropped my gaze and let a deep, purposeful breath fill my lungs. Calming. Forcing myself to see the truth. There was no danger here, only townsfolk going about their business in Caria’s streets and alleys which had come alive with nightfall. He has to be here. But what if he isn’t, and I am truly all alone in this war? I suddenly found myself scrambling to my feel within the shattered remains of a once grand clock tower, now nothing more than a skeleton littered with rubble and scarred with scorch marks.
I took in a steadying breath and then made a run for cover. And for an old friend.
“Where are you?” I spoke to the shadows of a town now built on ghosts. A man dropped down from above, landing effortlessly on the shattered cobblestones before me as if a three storey drop from an unstable building meant nothing. A lanky figure with unkempt, dirty blonde hair strode towards me, menacing. “Not sure a jeans and t-shirt do you justice, Ares,” I noted, watching the powerful immortal figure reach me.
“An attempt to fit in. Or stand out less,” he added. He appeared calm but wary, curious but bored, in control but ready to snap at any instant. Everything about him seemed mortal, as you would expect from anyone else walking on the street, except for the long blade sheathed across his back. Menace melted abruptly into a wide grin.
“So. You’re still alive, then?”
“Afraid so.” Ares drew me in for a rough hug, then stepped away, reluctant to let his guard down under the watchful gaze that always followed their Champions. It was a curiosity to see someone who seemed to care so little for everyone else care so much for a single person who meant barely nothing to the rest of the world.
Silence fell as Ares paused, his eyes glancing to the shadows with what was a keen skill developed over centuries of battle and deception.
Suddenly, Ares raised a finger to his lips and glanced to the ruins above us. His gaze locked on mine, suddenly fierce.
“Get out of here,” he whispered and drew a single blade slowly from behind his back.
“You get out of here.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Ares grinned and nodded in the opposite direction. “Now!”
Bright blue orbs of water burst to life in my hands and we dived into the ruins in opposite directions. Crumbling pieces of stone and wooden debris erupted around us. Tiny chunks flew skyward and then rained down with force and precision only possible using magic. Stone pieces catapulted towards me as I did my best to shoot them down in jets of glimmering bright blue water. My eyes dashed over the scene but, with every glimpse of the assailant, shadows took their place, as if traces of light folded in on themselves to leave behind only darkness. And a faint, red glow that seemed oddly familiar… Our attacker was agile and fast, but not as fast as Ares, who darted around the ruin field blocking attack after attack with ease.
Another wave of debris flew our way. Whoever was out there was sticking to the shadows, using abilities to keep the light away and remain hidden. Using abilities to channel the light… Water fell away in my hands, useless, as realisation dawned. I stood motionless and defenceless in the middle of the debris field, wide open. But it can’t be. There’s no fire.
“You’re back…” I mumbled under my breath and on the edge of silence. A heavy piece of stone flew towards me, but I didn’t react. I couldn’t.
“Kyle!” Ares shouted as he leaped towards me and dragged me to the ground. I heard him cry out. The onslaught ceased. Debris fell away around us to return to its ghostly home among the ruins of Old Caria.
“Ares!” I rushed to gather his shoulders in my hands as he lay sprawled across shattered cobblestones. Blood oozed from a chunk torn in his side where our attacker’s stone had struck him instead of me. But the blood stopped. Muscle and skin twined itself together again beneath my hands as the gaping hole seemed to repair itself beneath my fingertips. In moments, Ares was brushing himself off, the bloodied tear in his shirt the only reminder of a near miss.
Footsteps fell behind us. Rage boiled to life behind Ares’ eyes.
“Jesus Christ, April!” he shouted at the darkness. “You could have killed him!”
“He was supposed to move,” a girl’s voice defended, with reproach and strength that I never thought I would hear again. A tall girl with flowing dark hair threw a hand at Ares and dragged him from the ground before pushing him aside.
“Get away from him,” she warned Ares as if I wasn’t there.
“Not sure if you witnessed which of us tried to kill him,” Ares pushed her in return, but they both stood down. “Much can change in a single mortal year.”
Her reply was scathing. “Do the High Council know you’re down here?”
“They do, as a matter of fact,” Ares’ grin returned. “Bet they didn’t know you were here, though. You shouldn’t’ve stepped from the shadows.”