Author: Alexandra Bracken
Narrator: Fryda Wolff
BECHDEL TEST: Uncertain (didn’t really keep track! Find it super hard to on audio).
Content Warnings: Blood depiction, murder, loss of loved ones, graphic torture depictions (some to children), graphic violence, gore, sexual assault, grief depiction, PTSD, child abuse, threat of paedophilia, threat of rape, implied paedophilia, slavery, talk of cancer (leukaemia), child cancer (mention of chemo, radiation & stem cell transplants), mention of heart attack, mention of cancer recurrence, bombings, explosions, brief mentions of suicide, war themes, sexism, loss of a limb, drowning, injury, discussions of child marriage, animal attack, fire/burning, sacrifice & self-sacrifice.
As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, I love Greek mythology, I’ve been interested in it since I was a kid (actually pre Percy Jackson!) so naturally when I saw Lore, which was described as Greek mythology meets The Hunger Games (one of my favourite books) I was immediately hooked. Sadly, I didn’t find that the final product lived up to the inventive premise: it was confused in a lot of places, somehow managed to be both too fast and too slow at the same time and I didn’t feel massively invested in any of the characters. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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.
My biggest problem with this book was honestly that I was confused a lot of the time! There are an awful lot of characters to follow (9 houses in the Agon, all with a lot of people in them), there were a lot of new terms to learn and very little explanation as to how everything worked, so I spent a lot of the first part of the book incredibly confused. The book sort of acts as if the readers have the same information as Lore and that we don’t really need to know how the Agon works, so it takes a while before you get any kind of explanation for what is going on, which meant in the beginning, I didn’t really know what was happening. I settled into things more during the middle, but then the breakneck speed of the events at the end meant I again lost track. I felt kind of at sea for most of the book, which is not an experience you want to have as a reader.
I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the narrator which is quite a big problem when you’re listening to an audiobook. Her actual reading voice was fine, but I didn’t like her accents for the characters: some it was difficult to tell the difference between them, so I couldn’t really follow when different people were speaking and some were just bad (her French accent for Iro for instance grated on me, and her British accent for Van was the kind of posh accent that every American show assumes that British people have. That’s not to say that accent doesn’t exist, but it definitely felt like the kind of British accent that is hammed up for an American audience!).
I liked the idea of the Agon, but I was expecting there to be more action than there was. Most of the book involves plotting and planning and sneaking around each other but with no actual conflict until the end when there was so much that it was hard to keep track of, it would have been nice if the action had been more evenly spread throughout the book and that the Agon had been a bit more dramatic.
Also I would have liked to know more behind the logistics of the Agon, for instance, this book marks the second cycle in a row that the Agon has taken place in New York, is that usual? Because the author also says that the Agon moves round different cities, so do these Hunters only take part when it’s in New York and there are other Hunters in other cities? Do all these Houses pick up and move to other cities every seven years? Are they usually based in New York? I had so many questions and felt like I got fairly few answers! How the Agon came about was also very vague, we learned that it was a punishment from Zeus for a rebellion, but we never know what the rebellion was about.
This book was definitely trying to make feminist points, by talking about how women were forgotten in Greek mythology and how the women of the Agon were treated by the men, but I think Bracken could have gone further with this as there didn’t seem to be anyone actively pushing for change within the Agon (even Lore just complained about her position without trying to do anything to change it). I also found it hard to believe that the Hunters would be so cut off from the mortal world that feminism completely passed them by? It’s been several centuries and they treat their women like they’re in Ancient Greece even though all of them would have grown up in the modern world. Like I get they are somewhat of a insular society but it seemed ridiculous to me that this generation of hunters would have the same views on women as ancestors several thousand years earlier. Basically, the violent misogyny was a bit much, and unnecessary in my opinion.
One of my other issues, aside from the violent misogyny, is that this book talks so much about female power and how women have been abused and forgotten, but LORE HAS NO FEMALE FRIENDS? I mean kind of Iro, but they’ve not been friends in a long time by the current events in the book. It just felt very wrong to me in a book which I think was attempting to have a feminist message, that the main female character has no female friends AT ALL? It’s also something I really hate just in general, that so many books with female MCs don’t allow them to have any female friends.
The classic YA drooling over boys with perfect muscles was a bit cringey for me, now obviously I’m not a teenager anymore, so not the target audience, but to be honest, I found it quite cringey even when I was a teenager. I really don’t love the general trend in YA that boys must be super muscled and attractive because I think it sets unrealistic standards for boys reading YA if all the boys they read about have “perfect abs” and look like movie stars.
I wasn’t a massive fan of the romance in this book. Usually friends to lovers is one of my favourite romantic tropes, but I didn’t feel like it was done well here. Castor and Lore haven’t seen each other in seven years, they’ve both changed a lot in that time, and barely know who the other one is now and yet suddenly they’re instantly in love after spending less than a week together? I mean I get that there might have been feelings there when they were younger, but it still seemed kind of out of the blue for them to almost instantly couple up given how much time has passed.
Speaking of the past, the flashbacks to Lore’s childhood and the last Agon were kind of clumsily integrated into the main storyline, just as something exciting was happening in the present, which took me out of the story somewhat.
I almost think Bracken crammed too much into one book, it felt like it would have been more natural if this had been a duology? I mean this entire book takes place over one week, and we have to learn all of the logistics of the Agon, Lore’s past, finding the Aegis, there was so much in here, it definitely could have used being two books rather than one.
The world building was fairly lacking, not just in terms of the Agon and the logistics of how everything worked, the relationships between the Houses etc but also just that the author seemed to assume that everyone was familiar with New York City? Like I’ve visited New York once, I could name the tourist attractions but in terms of being intimately familiar with the city? Nah. Even if you are setting your book in a real place, you can’t assume that everyone who reads it is going to be familiar with the place: if I was writing a book about London for instance, I wouldn’t assume all my readers knew London in the same way I did (and even then London is massive, people may be more familiar with certain areas than others). Basically assume that everyone has as limited a knowledge of a real world setting as they do with a fantasy one and put the same amount of effort into your world building please!
The characters weren’t all that well developed, I had high hopes for Lore in the beginning but she never really develops much beyond the surface level, “badass fighter girl” and the same went for all the other characters-like I liked Miles because he seemed sweet and funny but he doesn’t get much development beyond that.
I was expecting the Medusa myth to be more important to the plot of this one given the cover and I was kind of disappointed that it wasn’t.
There is an assault scene in this which I wish I’d known about before because I find them really hard to listen to, thankfully it wasn’t too graphic, but pre-warning for survivors who might be triggered by it.
The writing style was fine, there were some really lovely lines but overall, it wasn’t anything particularly standout or special.
I felt like the characters should have been older, really, at least they read as older to me. I mean the flashbacks has Lore doing all of this stuff when she’s supposedly ten, but she feels more like a teenager and Lore in the present feels more like she should be in her early twenties. I don’t know if this is another case of a story that’s been aged down to be considered YA, or if I just read characters as older than they are a lot, but yeah, I didn’t buy Lore as a teenager.
I struggled to get a handle on Lore’s motivations as well, which made it hard for me to root for her. I almost had whiplash trying to work out exactly what she wanted, if she wanted revenge, if she just wanted out of the Agon, if she wanted power and glory, it was difficult to tell because she seemed to change her mind every ten seconds. I wouldn’t have minded if she did have multiple motivations, if it had been clear, but it wasn’t.
There was some diversity, Miles is Korean and gay, Van is Black, gay and disabled, but it all felt very surface level as neither of them were that well developed and seemed to only exist to help the white MC rather than having their own developed personalities and storylines.
I would have liked the gods’ powers to be developed more, we learn a little about them but not really enough in my opinion, it all felt kind of hand-wavy. Athena was really interesting, I was definitely suspicious of her from the beginning, but she felt kind of flat and distant and I would have liked it if she had been developed more.
There were some great twists, I didn’t predict all of them, though I had my suspicions and some took me completely off guard.
I was a bit annoyed that certain things didn’t really get a resolution, I can’t really talk about them in detail without being spoilery, but there were some storylines that were kind of dropped and unresolved by the end, which is fine in a series, but this was a standalone, I kind of expect everything to be largely resolved and I didn’t feel like it was here.
And that brings me to the most infuriating part of the book: THE ENDING. Never mind that I was super lost and couldn’t really follow what happened in the final battle, which was annoying enough, but the ending was so abrupt! It didn’t feel like there was any resolution to what happened in the book, it was all just kind of over. Like what happened to Lore and Castor? Was the Agon really over? I was just so confused and it kind of left me with a sour taste in my mouth because I just had no idea what happened.
Overall, the concept of this book had a lot of potential, but it didn’t live up to it and I reckon it could have really benefitted from being a duology because there were too many big ideas and too many characters to really do justice to in one book.
My Rating: 2.5/5
My next review will be of The Unbound by Victoria Schwab.