'Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.'- Angela Carter

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Review: Judith Post - 'Empty Altars'


Judith Post - 'Empty Altars'


Synopsis

When the runes of the goddess, Diana, summon her to duty, she finds herself in a Norse meadow, battling hellhounds that are surprised to find her there. But the hellhounds aren’t the only Norse unhappy to see her. The gods, Tyr and Donar, tell her to return home. Her runes beg to differ, and the 24 bones are always right. She’s pretty sure, Norse gods can be far too stubborn and belligerent for their own good. 

When Diana joins forces with Freya—goddess of love, beauty, and seidr magic—and Gudrun—the village seer, she discovers that her runes are more devious than she’d ever imagined. They have a path in store for her, too, one she dislikes even more than Tyr and Donar abhor her meddling. She has to find a traitor in the gods’ meadow and battle the evil witch, Heid. That, she’s willing to try. But she’s also to join with Tyr to defend sacred portals. Working with the Norse sky god will be the bigger challenge, for she’s never been so tempted by a male in the centuries of her maiden life.

Can they win in the face of evil? And just how much can Diana resist?

My Review: 3.75/5*

The book begins with the goddess of magic, Diana, entering the Norse meadow and engaging in a very quick and efficient battle with the hellhounds. The tale progresses from here as we watch Diana’s discovery of the war in which she so vitally plays a role – they cannot win without her. Throughout the book we as the reader are privy to the friendships developed between Diana and various other characters; Freya the goddess of love, Tyr the god of the sky and Inga the once banished town member who has discovered her hidden talent of being that of a seer. 

From the very first chapter I found myself very unsure of the path in which this novel was going to take. The figure of Diana was unlikeable from the very beginning, I have no reason for my dislike of her. Usually she is the type of character which I love – a strong, passionate, no messing around female figure. There was just something about her I couldn’t get along with. Post’s attempt at blending urban into mythology made the book an interesting read, but I found it incredibly frustrating whenever Diana was given dialogue. Fine, she had to stand out with her ‘modern chit chat’ but she just seemed so unnecessarily full of attitude. My one main problem was that every one of the battles that we encounter within the novel is incredibly anti-climactic. Little boy runs across a field, tries to kill someone, gets killed. A load of giants turn up trying to kill people, they’re killed. I don’t know. Even the main battle right at the very end of the novel was incredibly bland. Bang, bang, bang, Diana shoots them all down with her arrows (I will admit, my inner archer was very happy to see the use of archery within the novel) and her spells. Freya becomes all dragon mistress and destroys them. There were no major casualties except for one (not going to spoil it with the who) but even that was massively skimmed over. It all just seemed far too predictable and far too ‘happy ever after’. It was as if no matter what Heid did she had absolutely no chance anyway because Diana just KNEW when something was wrong. It did my head in, she could have at least got a bruise for Zeus sake! 

Despite this, the world created by Post kept me turning the page to read what was going to happen next. I thought that she was incredibly inventive with the world in which she created. Her addition of the traitor was brilliant – it helped redeem the novel somewhat. I rated it a 3.75/5* as, despite my hate of the character of Diana and the bland relationship between her and Tyr, I did like the other characters. Post injected them with the right amount of morals and bravery for this story. I loved reading of the development of the character of Inga – a small, mousey girl who was once banished from the village due to her being soiled by Griswold. She develops into a strong, passionate woman who holds an important role in the village she was once banished from. Despite her aversion to violence and her squeaky innocence in these matters, she is a character I loved to see develop in ways which did not include violence.

Overall, I did enjoy the book and would recommend that people read it. It’s a light read, easily done in a day or two and Post succeeds in creating an inventive otherworld for us as readers to visit.

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