Review of The Pantheon Trilogy by James Lovegrove

I used to be a great proponent of the Military SF genre.  I devoured the Sten series by Chris Bunch and Alan Cole, the Honor Harrington series by David Weber (although I gave up after a while as this went on soooo long).  But after a while I drifted toward fantasy and then romance and then supernatural romance.

As a child I always loved the tales of the Greek gods, the Norse gods and all the other pantheons that weren’t Christian.  It was fascinating to me and the stories were wonderful tales in and of themselves.  These gods had distinctly human characteristics, which made them incredibly fun to read about, as these beings with incredible powers had the same foibles as us mere mortals, and the troubles they got into were exciting.

I think that is why this series caught my eye.  It was military sf (well, sf in that it was alternate history rather than set in space) which I had strayed away from, but there were gods involved, which intrigued me.  The series consists of 3 novels:

Book 1 – The Age of Ra

In the Age of Ra, the blurb states “The Ancient Egyptian gods have defeated all the other pantheons and claimed dominion over the earth, dividing it into warring factions, each under the aegis of a different deity. Lt. DavidWestwynter, a British soldier, stumbles into Freegypt, the only place to have remained independent of the gods’ influence. There, he encounters the followers of a humanist leader known as the Lightbringer, who has vowed to rid mankind of the shackles of divine oppression. As the world heads towards an apocalyptic battle, there is far more to this freedom fighter than it seems…”

Book 2 – The Age of Zeus

In Age of Zeus, the blurb states: “The Olympians appeared a decade ago, living incarnations of the Ancient Greek gods on a mission to bring permanent order and stability to the world. Resistance has proved futile, and now humankind isunder the jackboot of divine oppression. Then former London police officer Sam Akehurst receives an invitation too tempting to turn down, the chance to join a small band of geurilla rebels armed with high-tech weapons and battlesuits. Calling themselves the Titans, they square off against the Olympians and their ferocious mythological monsters in a war of attrition which not all of them will survive!”

Book 3 – The Age of Odin

In Age of Odin, the blurb states: “Gideon Dixon was a good solider but bad at everything else. Now the British Army doesn’t want him any more. So when he hears about the Valhalla Project it seems like a dream come true. They’re recruiting from service personnel for execellent pay with no questions asked to take part  in unspecified combat operations. The last thing Gideon expects is to finding himself fighting alongside the gods of the ancient Norse pantheon. The world is in the grip of one of the worst winters it has ever known, and Ragnarok-the fabled final conflict of the Sagas-is looming.”

These books can be read in any order as they are all stand alone novels.  Also, and this is a first for any trilogy I have ever read, each novel is a completely different alternate reality to the other.

Out of the three my favourite was The Age of Zeus, whether that is because of my fondness for the Greek pantheon or because the main character was female and therefore easier to relate to I am not sure, there was something about this book that I loved.  It is a tale of revenge, of the underdog trying to triumph over unspeakable odds, and of the three novels, it was the alternate reality I found the most believable.  It has its whimsical moments, with an Australian character thrown in for comic relief (although stereotype much?  I’m sorry but I actually don’t know anyone who speaks in rhyming slang anymore unless they are over 70).  It is from the point of view of a British woman, so it is not surprising that a lot of Britishisms (is that a word?) are sprinkled throughout the novel (and indeed through all three novels).  I did find myself wondering what something meant every now and again and then thinking, not important to the story so I can’t be bothered looking it up.

This novel was the one with the most satisfying ending for me.  The first novel, The Age of Ra, could have used a sequel I think as there were a lot of unresolved issues in my mind.  The last novel, The Age of Odin, was the least satisfactory for me.  It was the only one in which nobody really knew about the gods.  In the other novels, the pantheons had taken over the world, where as in this one they were a secret.  I thought perhaps the theme should have continued on with the third novel.

If I were to recommend this series I would say that fans of military sf will enjoy these books, all the main characters are ex-military or ex-cops so the style of writing is quite male oriented, even in The Age of Zeus where the main character is female.  I think the style would appeal to a YA audience, although there is quite a lot of profanity in the third book (nothing a high school student hasn’t heard before but enough that a high school library probably wouldn’t stock the book).

You don’t have to read all three books to enjoy this series, so if you only want to pick one, pick The Age of Zeus.  It is a fun read with a bit of a commentary on the way the world is and what it might take to set us all on the straight and narrow.



Review of The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

One look at the cover art to this book and I knew I had to read it.  Oh not the insipid, appeal to teen girls cover that appeared on the Australian edition,

but the radical, oh my god this book will be awesome, cover art that appeared on the American edition.

I grew up on tales of Changelings, faeries who were left in place of a stolen human baby, and that image of dangling iron above a crib spoke to something inside me.

The blurb starts off like this:

“Mackie Doyle is the Replacement.  Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess.  He is a Replacment – left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago.  Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world.”

There was so much potential in that one paragraph, so many what ifs that my brain practically exploded.  Unfortunately, while the book was extremely enjoyable, and it certainly held my attention (not an easy thing to do these days) I felt that its potential was not quite realised.  My initial excitement at the possibilities inherent within this idea did not eventuate.  Maybe the lead characters were too young for me to relate to, although I normally don’t have a problem relating to YA fiction (being so very young at heart while at the same time having the right to say ‘Kids these days!’)

Perhaps it was the fact that I was brought up on the faerie changeling tales, so very much a part of my Irish heritage.  My expectations were very high and they weren’t fulfilled.  Please understand, I am not saying this was a bad book, in fact it was extremely well written and kudos to a new author for coming out with such a great first novel.  It is an achievement to get into print that I am extremely jealous of and I don’t make any pretensions that I could have done a better job, I couldn’t.

It is just that when you get to a subject that you love, you so, so want it to be your ultimate book.  Your expectations are so high that you cannot help but be disappointed.  I find this happens a lot with sequels.  The author is such a favourite of yours that you automatically buy the next novel sight unseen.  You wait months for it to come out, tensions mounting, until the day it is published and you can go and finally purchase it.  You read it in one sitting, devouring the prose of your favourite author, delighting in meeting favourite characters again, but thinking in the back of your mind that perhaps the author is coasting a little, perhaps they are resting on their laurels a touch?  Perhaps this could have been better?

But you persevere, knowing that the quality will come back, that perhaps they had a bad year, perhaps the deadlines were too tight and they didn’t get a chance to review as much as they usually do.  Perhaps they simply have nothing left to say about the characters, but the publishers want more, more, more.  Needless to say, I will buy, and keep on buying this author purely for their past brilliance and the hope of future brilliance.  It will take more than one lame book to turn me off a whole series.

This post was longer the first time round, in fact I had my rant up and going at a million miles an hour but the internet went down half way through and the autosave didn’t work so now my rant has fizzled and I can’t even remember what I wrote before.  What I will say is that I can recommend The Replacement, although it is a YA book and, unlike most YA books, you can really tell.  The print is extra large, like they think the young have bad eyes?  It is beautifully written and I did enjoy it but I think if you want to read about things that go bump in the night I would recommend Faerie Tale by Raymond E Feist, one of the most chillingly scary stories I have ever read.  (In fact I should reread it and do a review!)