Review: “The Goddess Test” by Aimée Carter

For the love of books

Many people in the world ignore or are unaware of what past civilizations have contributed to modern times.  The ancient Romans and Greeks, for example, are still considered to have been pagans with no depth in either their customs or their religions.  However, it is truly ironic that commonly accepted religions like Christianity have been deeply affected by Greek mythology, despite the tendency to pollute narrow-minded readers with various misconceptions about the meanings behind certain myths.  Moreover, myths concerning particular gods and goddesses, like the story concerning Persephone and Hades, are well worth pondering.  This tale about the daughter of the goddess Demeter and the god of death contains one of the most touching love triangles ever conceived in Greek mythology.  Persephone’s involuntary odyssey sets off a debate between the deities and forces her to choose between the caring mother she is deeply attached to and the lonely neglected god she has come to love.

Indeed, this myth is the essence of romanticism and truly deserves further reflection in retellings by modern writers.  Aimée Carter undertook this in The Goddess Test, a creative sequel to the original circumstances of Hades and Persephone.  Here she has re-created a love story with many perspectives by analyzing Greek mythology and lightening the romance for young adult readers.  However, despite the merit in such a difficult endeavor, critics have attacked The Goddess Test with various retorts.  The harshest criticism they have put forward is that the Greek deities have been made “pathetic” by the author in her attempt to separate their temperaments from the immorality they infamously indulged in within Greek mythology.  However, this fallacy in reasoning proves that mortals must tread carefully when trying to imagine the supernatural and higher beings.  One must never forget that according to logic, being human and not divine makes any human idea of a supernatural power insufficient, since it is impossible for a human to create a true image of a power or being higher than itself.

Moreover, it is blatantly obvious that the ancient Greeks and Romans attributed their own vices, weaknesses, and imperfections to their deities in order to justify their own behavior and actions.  By eliminating indecent sexuality and excessive violence in her counterparts of the deities from Greek mythology, Carter has innovatively hinted at how an interesting concept could have been manipulated by people until it was completely different from its original form.  Also, the author’s interpretation of the Greek gods’ nonsensical “blood ties” is an excellent point.  Why would deities be physically connected by human-like bonds or DNA when they are immortal and above physical needs?  However, it must be noted that Carter’s metamorphosis of the Greek deities into modern semblances of themselves is somewhat confusing and incomplete.  For example, she transforms gods like Hades and Hermes into teenagers but never explains why she has chosen to portray Zeus and Poseidon as much older men.

This lack of a pattern is minor in comparison to Carter’s acknowledgement of the theory that these supernatural deities are neither omnipotent nor omniscient, which evokes an old atheistic argument.  This will in turn make a reader wonder why these characters are termed deities when their only main characteristics are the gift of immortality and frighteningly human traits.  However, Carter does demonstrate that her deities are more or less physical visualizations of ideas like beauty or the arts.  Another puzzling concept is the afterlife that the author introduces in The Goddess Test.  During the course of the story, it is made very clear that justice, judgment, and eternal punishment or reward do not belong to this picture of eternal life, since every person will only experience the afterlife as he/she has believed or wanted it to be (prior to death), a notion that is neither Christian nor pagan in this case.

Therefore, integrity is not important, but on the other hand, the author’s deities are such strict judges of personal merit when it comes to the seven tests Kate must endure.  Apropos, the seven deadly sins (a Christian idea) are crossed with petty trials for these seven tests, which are simultaneously clever and inadequate.  It is unfortunate that the tests themselves were not very demonstrative in terms of Kate’s virtues, in spite of their significance to the storyline.  Only the tests for lust and anger were more suitable, while the rest were kind of pathetic evaluations by deities with serious principles.  Aside from this, the novel’s themes of sacrifice, love, death, and immortality are well described, especially Kate’s love for her mother.  This mutual relationship is by far the best and the most developed in The Goddess Test.

Although Carter focuses strongly on the romance between Hades (a.k.a. Henry) and Kate, their love seems insipid and unemotional, unlike James’ interest in Kate.  Moreover, “Henry” is a good guy who is missing the foundations of his personality, a circumstance that applies to most of the other deities in the novel.  Carter may have wanted to make the gods and goddesses as credible and mysterious as possible in her tale of suspense and mystery, but certain main characters, like Henry, had no excuse to be vaguely illustrated.

Nevertheless, Carter presents some very intriguing ideas about Greek mythology and theology in The Goddess Test, especially the surprising “set-up” at the end of the story.  She binds all of her storyline’s loose ends admirably, and her placement of Greek mythology in the modern world is moving and influential, not to mention a good initiation for readers who have never before come across ancient myths.  Most of all, her perception of the myth about Hades and Persephone is an inspiration to those who have waited for this wonderful love story to be envisioned again with more intensity and intelligence.

Original review: Part 1: Do not underestimate ‘The Goddess Test’Part 2: Do not underestimate ‘The Goddess Test’Part 3: Do not underestimate ‘The Goddess Test’, Examiner.com

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