CBR III Review 19: Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips

Gods Behaving Badly is a breezy, humourous novel by Marie Phillips. It depicts the lives of several of the Greek gods, living in squalor and obscurity in London. They are struggling to survive, for the most part, with ever diminishing powers and left only to fight amongst themselves for entertainment.

The gods hold jobs like dog walker, telephone sex operator and bar owner, all related in some way to their traditional realms of power and influence. However, the gods have lost all their power and are generally desperately unhappy. They still regard mortals as insignificant playthings, and when cleaner Alice is used as part of  prank played on insufferable Apollo, no one takes it very seriously. However, Alice and her friend Neil inadvertently complicate the lives of the gods so much as to be actually noticed, and it sets off a chain of events that challenges the beliefs of the entire world. This book is written to be light and amusing, and it certainly succeeds for the most part. I found the section describing the transfer of people to the underworld and their existence there sad, particularly the obvious but distressing inclusion of babies.

The cover design is quite striking, with a traditional depiction of Greek gods on with modern elements added in to the background. The characters are not given much backstory, and I think a reader would have to have a basic knowledge of Greek mythology to make the story really meaningful. This is kind of an awful comparison, but Gods Behaving Badly feels like the cliché chick-lit version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, in a way.  It was entertaining enough to inspire me to pick up the book on Greek mythology that has been sitting on my shelf since finishing Anansi Boys, but is best described as an amusing book suitable for easy summer reading.

CBR III Review 18: A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin

Martin’s fourth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Feast for Crows, is both frustrating and exciting. It is frustrating as it only includes certain characters, as the story of other key characters were kept separate for the subsequent A Dance with Dragons that was recently published. It is also frustrating because the novel introduces several new characters with POV chapters, some of whom were introduced in earlier books, but some of whom are brand new and whose identities remain hidden. Those characters also seemed to introduce new storylines into what is already a complicated series, and it feels like it is a bit late in the series to get truly invested in new characters and plots, when there are only a few books remaining in the series.

The exciting part of the book is that it is, for many of the chapters, a book about people in transition. Arya and Sansa are given chapters in this book, but the titles are given as their new identities, and are about their efforts to transform themselves. Jaime and Cersei keep their own names, but they are also in transition, albeit with varying degrees of success.  Cersei’s chapters felt little weaker than normal to me – I understand that the sense of insanity and isolation pervading those chapters serve to reflect what is happening in King’s Landing, but her actions did not seem to have as obvious repercussions for the rest of the  kingdom, as was made more clear in previous books.

More than half the book was devoted to female characters, including those mentioned above, as well as Brienne of Tarth, Arianne Martell, and Theon’s sister Asha. As the battles were far fewer in A Feast for Crows, that makes sense, and their machinations were much more subtle. I think it is interesting that those women who try to alter events by gaining control of a throne are thwarted – Cersei, Arianne, Asha; while those who are biding their time by learning and watching seem to fare better. Even hot headed Jaime, having had his heart broken, is using strategy rather than brute force to serve his purposes. Petyr Baelish has only a few scenes in the book, but he seems to exemplify how to best play the game of thrones – subtly, and with an eye on the long game.

So, A Feast for Crows was not my favourite of the series, with too many new storylines introduced, too many cliffhangers, and feeling a bit unsatisfying overall. However, it was still fairly enjoyable and has made me very eager to read the next in the series.