A review by emfass
Neon Gods, by Katee Robert

adventurous challenging dark emotional fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.25

 Two weeks after finishing it, and this keeps hovering between a 3 and a 3.5 for me...but I don't think I can round up, even after sitting with it.

I liked the relationship between Hades and Persephone, how gone they were for each other from the beginning. However, at times the characterization felt unfounded. We're told Hades is this Big Dark Baddie but there was literally never any evidence for it. On page, he's a big softie who cares about the people he leads and shows it. He is a wonderful Stern Brunch Daddy, and is absolutely gone for Persephone from the jump (like a good romance MC). I find, sadly, that a lot of Katee Robert's characters across her books lack specificity - they always come across as general outlines to me, but I don't feel like I have a solid grasp of them as people. They instead feel like really solid archetypes/outlines which serve to delve into the fantasy.

Relatedly, fairy tale/mythology retellings are my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, and I was so excited for this, and...it fell so flat. The world-building was barely there, and I just didn't have a good grasp of what the rules of this place were. I kept waiting for the story to ground (i.e. to really get a sense of the setting), but it never did. I almost wish Katee had put this in a completely original setting rather than try to invoke Greek mythology without any real teeth behind the interpretation or something truly refreshing to say about the myth of Hades & Persephone. (Edited 10/20/21 to add: Jess in our Bad Bitch Book Club meeting today for this book gave me the word I'd be looking for: this particular invocation of these characters as part of Greek mythology feels lazy.)

One thing I do love about the Katee Robert books I've read so far is that in each book I've read where she's portraying a D/s dynamic, she explores a slightly different aspect of that dynamic. In this one, though Hades is generally more dominant, Persephone does a lot of topping from the bottom (and a little bit of bratting). And like so many of Katee's books, I didn't know how into it I'd be until she showed me. Delicious. Also loved Persephone holding her own amidst the shitty circumstances she kept finding herself in, and Hades watching her soften as she was finally somewhere she felt safe and cared for.

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