The Goddess Test is the first novel in Aimée Carter’s new series for young adults, Goddess Test. Kate’s mom is terminally ill and wants to move back to her childhood home for the last few months of her life. For Kate, this means moving to a new high school – but unlike most, she’s not interested in making new friends or dating. Kate just wants to spend as much time with her mom as possible. With the sudden and miraculous appearance of Henry – tall, dark, and handsome – Kate realizes that she may be able to have more time with her mom than she expected. But it comes with a cost: Kate must undergo seven tests, administered by the Olympian gods, to determine whether Kate can become an appropriate Queen of the Underworld to replace the long-lost Persephone. And the King of the Underworld? That’s Henry. Or as the Olympians call him, Hades.
Breezy and short
I finished The Goddess Test in a couple hours. This isn’t only due to the novel’s brevity; Carter’s writing is swift, clear, and all too easy to get lost in. Kate narrates the story in first person, and she is a no-nonsense gal. Pages whip by before you’ve even realized you’re at the halfway point. This novel isn’t one to sink your teeth into, but it is a light and fun story that will keep you planted in your seat until you’re done.
But darkness hides behind the breezy style, too. Carter wisely chooses not to dwell on this darkness, but Kate is obviously a troubled girl and, particularly at the beginning, you can tell she is really suffering. The novel is refreshingly as much about Kate’s relationship to her dying mother as it is about Kate’s budding romance with the dashing Henry. Kate’s thoughts on dying and loss are poignant without being saccharine, and her relationship with her mom is the most natural and touching relationship in the book.
Greek mythology takes a backseat
I was really excited to encounter Greek mythology in The Goddess Test, but unfortunately it takes a backseat to the novel’s plot and character requirements. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the book’s still good, mythological accuracy be damned – but it is important to lay out what you can expect from this series. Henry is nothing like the traditional Hades; our Henry is kind, sweet, tortured, and (duh) gorgeous. Henry just wants somebody to love. He’s not exactly fearsome.
The other gods are the same way. There’s very little connection between the gods as they appear in The Goddess Test and as they’re depicted in real Greek mythology. Carter’s gods are manageable, timid, and unnoticeable to the human eye. In fact, there’s not much difference at all between eighteen-year-old Kate Winters and the ageless, immortal Henry. Again, this isn’t a problem with the novel (nobody’s ever actually met a god to verify their personality type), but if you come into The Goddess Test expecting a young-adult, lovey version of N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, or even Marie Phillips’ Gods Behaving Badly, you’re in for a shock. The Goddess Test isn’t about gods. It’s about romance.
The romance builds a little too quickly
Kate and Henry meet. They make a deal. They talk a bit. And suddenly Kate finds herself wanting desperately to save Henry’s life, bring him back from the abyss of loneliness, and make herself into his lovely and eternal (literally – gods don’t die) wife. All this at the age of eighteen years old.
Actually, all of those things could be plausible. A writer could make me believe in them. But my main problem with The Goddess Test is that there just isn’t enough build-up to make the couple’s devotion to each other believable. What is it about Henry that makes Kate fall for him so fast? Why is she so certain she’s not making a mistake? I’m sure that as the series progresses, this romance will deepen and feel a little less like puppy love on steroids – but in this first novel, it just didn’t make sense to me. Although all the characters are individually interesting, most of the connections between the characters felt underdeveloped.
Why should you read this book?
It’s fun, it’s fast, and there’s just enough depth in Kate’s relationship to her mom to anchor the novel in reality, too. It’s a light, easy read, and if you’re sick of vampire romances, why not try godly ones instead?
Caleigh received a review copy courtesy of Harlequin Teen.