“It’s not always the truth that survives, but the stories we wish to believe. The legends lie. They smooth over imperfections to tell a good tale, or to instruct us how we should behave, or to assign glory to victors and shame those who falter. Perhaps there were some in Sparta who embodied those myths. Perhaps. But how we are remembered is less important than what we do now.”~ Alexandra Bracken
Lore by Alexandra Bracken
Genre: YA fantasy
Published by: Hyperion, 2021
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: Since it doesn’t rely too much on a mystery and is more action-oriented, I might come back to this one someday.
Reviewed by: Indiana
Synopsis from the publisher:
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.
While most of this Greek-inspired fantasy was gritty and action-oriented, it also touched on modern themes of feminism.
The former was done well, the latter not so much.
Many have compared Lore to The Hunger Games, but I only found this to be true in the novel’s intensity and frequency of fighting scenes. Suffice it to say that there are many fights and battles fought throughout the novel. There isn’t even peace in the past, as Lore remembers how her family (including her younger sisters), were brutally murdered. The gore wasn’t necessarily glorified, though it would be fair to call it gratuitous. These intense scenes kept the pace going and usually ended with a discovery of some sort, making the characters rethink their plans and their understanding of the myths they’d been told.
Peppered throughout the novel are conversations about the role of women in battle and in Greek myths. Perhaps the most obvious are the conversations surrounding a goddess named Tidebringer, who killed Posiden during an Agon and was shunned by the rest of her family and bloodline for doing so because women are not supposed to be the ones to actually kill these gods during the Agon. That privilege is reserved for male hunters, as they’re called.
Historically speaking, that would be sense if it weren’t for the fact that there are goddesses, not only in Greek mythology but in Lore. That aspect of the book seemed disingenuous, or at least completely underexplored.
It’s also representative of the weaknesses in this novel’s worldbuilding. The setting is an intriguing idea; the families of Greek gods living in New York City, the new juxtaposed with the old. Yet, there were important aspects of the Agon and the Greek myths that readers, and sometimes characters, aren’t clued in on. It made it nearly impossible to predict the ending.
This book succeeds as a gritty urban fantasy, but to enjoy it, don’t dig too deep or the cracks will start to show.