The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall
Out on the 23rd September – pre-order now!
When Asta’s nephew is taken by slavers, she pledges to her brother that she will find him, or die trying. Her search takes her from the fading islands of the Scattering, a nation in thrall to a powerful enemy, to the port city of Abonnae. There she finds a people dominated by a sinister cult, thirsty for blood to feed their hungry god.
Haunted by the spirit of her brother, forced into an uncertain alliance with a pair of assassins, Asta faces a deadly choice – save the people of two nations, or save her brother’s only son.
Disclaimer: Jo’s another Grimmie author, and I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. That said, I’ve previously reviewed her other books, and I’ll be telling you if I don’t like it!
I did like it, but it’s not a nice story; it’s gritty and hard and tough. No-one in The Summer Goddess ever catches much of a break – there’s so much going on in the world that as soon as one crisis is starting to resolve, something else turns up, and then there’s this god, and a mad sect, and slavers, and she’s still got problems from previously, and she needs to find Rhodan…
The story didn’t go where I expected it to from the first half, which was nice; it’s not a particularly surprising twist, but rather one of those life-takes-you-on-strange-paths moves as Asta goes from The Scattering to Abonnae. The search for her nephew always stays at Asta’s core, but the other problems pile on it, and we end up as torn as Asta is; trying to solve as many as possible, without knowing who to trust or where to turn. The plot never really follows the big decisions, which I also like – it’s the small decisions, the little moments of conversation and of trust, that are the ones that make the larger calls. I like the lack of epicness and drama, and I loved that it’s a story about one person that gets caught up in a wider tangle.
There’s other stories lurking amongst the one that we follow, and I love that the wider world is always referenced. I felt that the other stories could easily have been followed – not that I wanted them to be, but it’s nice when you get hints that the wider world is out there, and that the other characters have lives of their own. They all have their own motivations, which lends a nice depth. The other bonus is that The Summer Goddess is set in the same universe as The Art of Forgetting; it’s actually the same family if you’ve previously read The Art of Forgetting and want to know more! But you don’t need the history, and don’t have to have read them – the story is easy to get. I loved the detail, too. The worldbuilding is wonderful as always, and I love the strangeness – no spoilers, but the temple and the God…urgh!
Overall? Like I said, it’s not a nice story. There are sweet moments, and happy moments – but Asta’s struggling, making decisions that she doesn’t know will solve anything, and just trying to get back something that’s important to her and her brother. It’s tense, and exciting, and dramatic – but it’s the small moments that catch at your heart, and it’s the small decisions that make all the difference. Read it to be swept along and wanting to know what happens next; it’ll tug at your heart and pull you into the world.