Persephone Today

I seem to be on a mythology theme this week.  Heading back towards the Greek isles, in a way, after The Red Pyramid I read Abandon by Meg Cabot.

I’ve read a fair bit of Meg Cabot; she’s a good option when I feel like something light, fluffy and bubbly that I can read in a day or so.  Abandon turned out to be a very different Meg Cabot book.

Abandon is a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth.  In case you don’t know it, Hades, the god of the dead and Lord of the Underworld, kidnapped Persephone, who if she isn’t the goddess of flowers (I can’t remember for sure) nevertheless gives that distinct impression.  Depending on the version, Persephone and Hades may or may not fall in love.  Ultimately, Persephone ends up dividing her time between the Underworld with Hades and being with her mother, the goddess of harvest, up on Earth.

Abandon retells this, loosely, in the present day.  The lead character, Pierce, is a teenager who had a near-death experience.  While she was dead, she met the Lord of the Underworld (who conveniently looks like an attractive 19-year-old man).  He isn’t Hades, but he has the same job.  He chooses Pierce to be his consort, but Pierce flees, the EMTs bring her back, and she tries to get on with her life.  Except that she’s convinced he is following her, hoping to bring her back to the Underworld.

The funny thing is, I very much enjoyed this while I was reading it.  Then afterwards I started thinking about all the flaws–well, the one big overarching flaw, really.  So I’m not sure where I come down on this one, except that I do feel sufficiently positive that I’ll probably try the sequel when it comes out.

I really like the concept of this, and the plot, though far-fetched in spots, is reasonably good.  It’s the characters that bring me to that big overarching flaw.

One character thing I do love–I love that the dark, brooding, fearsome and mysterious Lord of the Underworld is named John.  Not a dark, mysterious name–just John.  That’s fun.  And John is actually a decent character.  I like dark, brooding heroes with good hearts, so he at least has potential.  Although the more I think about it, the more I think I’m just assuming he has a good heart in there somewhere because it’s the only way this will work at all, not because there’s actually much evidence for it.

But John is all right.  The real problem, the big problem, is Pierce.  She’s one of those bland, underdeveloped heroines.  Other than an understandable obsession with death since her accident, and a concern for animals and other people, Pierce has almost no personality.

I made a possibly unfortunate comparison, and realized there’s a lot of similarity to Twilight–brooding, handsome, not-human hero falls obsessively in love with ordinary, undistinguished girl for no particularly compelling reason.  Edward thought Bella’s blood smelled good.  And John was totally blown away when Pierce asked how he was.

No, really!  She accidentally spooked his horse, he fell off, and she asked if he was all right.  Granted, he’s a death deity, who mostly deals with people who are dealing with the fact of their own recent demise, so he doesn’t get this sort of thing very often–but it doesn’t make her Mother Teresa!  Nor does it seem a reasonable basis for deciding that this is the person you want to–literally–spend eternity with.

Pierce does demonstrate caring for others at other times, but Cabot must have a poor opinion of humanity if she thinks it’s enough to mark Pierce out as an extraordinarily kind and giving person.  The times when Pierce does go over the top trying to help people, it’s either meddling, or totally stupid and ill-advised.

I think one reason this didn’t strike me much as I was reading is that the book went by so fast, I felt like I was still just starting when I was halfway through.  So it didn’t occur to me how undeveloped a character Pierce is until I got to the end–and she was still undeveloped.  It is part of a proposed series, so maybe she’ll get more depth in the next book…but she had an entire book, she could have gotten deeper here.

I do recommend Abandon–I enjoyed reading it–but don’t expect to find a new favorite character in the heroine.  Despite the similarity in how they met their heroes, Pierce is no Jane Eyre.

Author’s Site: http://www.megcabot.com/

4 thoughts on “Persephone Today

  1. Diane

    It takes a lot to match Charlotte Bronte and her wonderful writing of “Jane Eyre.” I guess Meg Cabot is closer to matching the “Twilight” series, which will certainly bring her income, as people love those books. Maybe she’s taking her time to flesh out her character in the next book in the series.

    1. Good point–maybe she’ll have a big hit! The advantage of a bland heroine is that the reader can insert themselves into the role. That might be even easier with Pierce than with Bella.

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