Humanless, by Teodora Kostova

Publisher: Self Published

Format: Kindle edition

Reviewed by: Melissa

Plot: 18-year-old Ava, a university student in London from a wealthy family, becomes of great interest to ancient and powerful greek gods. Hera, wife of Zeus, discovers in a prophecy that this girl could be her figurative undoing, and sends her son Ares, the god of war, to kill Ava. Only Ares had no intention of completing his mission, especially when he falls in love with her…

Here be some minor spoilers! Just to forewarn y’all.

Review: I’ve loved greek mythology since I was a kid. Two of my favorite tales are of Eros and Psyche and Orpheus and Eurydice. There’s great tragedy in the stories of the greek gods and their interactions with mortals, as well as great love and sacrifice. It was cool to read up on the doings of the gods and how they might fit in to our modern world.

Having said that, I unfortunately had a hard time getting into this one. After the prologue, I was surprised that the two main characters mentioned therein didn’t make their actual appearance for five chapters. A lot of time was devoted to setting up Hera as the villain and perpetrator of the events leading to the main plot. Which is fine, but it was a rather lengthy exercise in introducing Hera and Zeus’ very messed up relationship. Hera goes to ridiculous lengths to keep Zeus from ever meeting one human girl far in the future, and the one big thing she does is a huge development that doesn’t get explored. Considering it has to do with the validity of one of the biggest religions in the world, this was something that either needed to be used in some way or not introduced at all. Having a character fabricate an entire religion over petty jealousy is a ballsy move, and would have been an interesting side plot should that have ever come to light, but it never did. I also felt that choosing Christianity as the basis for Hera’s dastardly plan to make Zeus turn away from humanity was a bit of an inconsistency. Christianity was the big religion that the Romans eventually adopted, but by no means was it the first major religion to introduce monotheism. I wouldn’t nitpick about this if Hera didn’t proclaim it as THE religion to introduce one God, but she did, and I’m pretty positive Judaism predates Christianity and monotheism had been in existence even earlier than that. I know Christianity is easy to use as the bigger influence to turn the world away from Zeus, and it was in its own way, but it wouldn’t have been the only culprit to make the world forget about the greek gods (what about the world populace that follow Islam? Buddhism? Hinduism, and their different set of deities?). It’s an interesting concept, especially knowing it all stemmed from one goddess’ uncontrollable jealousy, but not fully formed or followed through. I did enjoy that Hera was heartless enough to practically sacrifice her son, Ares, to kill the girl.

So, Ava. I have to be honest here; I had a hard time rooting for her. I couldn’t identify with her or her struggles because, well, she doesn’t really have any. She readily admits her very comfortable life has been easy, and that continues to be the case. Reading about rich girls who have everything got tedious after awhile, especially when they throw fits because they can’t get what they want (house hunting). Instead of learning about Ava and her cousin Posy organically, through their actions and experiences, I was told they were this and this and this, and then, their actions didn’t back it up. The decadence of Mount Olympus is just repeated in Ava’s human world; there’s no divergence, only more pretty people with zero strife in their lives, having parties, surrounded by pretty things, and angsting about dating and schoolwork. I wanted to feel like something was at stake here, since Blake had no intention of fulfilling his mission and you know Hera was losing her mind over that, but not once did I actively worry about Ava’s well being.

I do like Blake (aka Ares). I actually enjoyed, a little, how brisk and blunt he was with Ava upon first meeting her. I thought the reason for their meeting was a little contrived (Ava supposedly loves to do research, but for her first essay in her greek mythology class, she doesn’t want to do the research herself and hires Blake to give her the information for an essay on, of course, Hera and Zeus), and Ava grossly overreacts to Blake’s perceived rudeness (he pointed out that she was rich). She also doesn’t pay him. This kind of drove me crazy. The second time they meet, Blake notes that he never received payment for the information session that they both clearly agreed would come at a monetary fee, and she FREAKS OUT, calls him an a-hole, storms off…and doesn’t pay him. Did you think it was going to be free, Ava? That it’s okay to hire someone to help you and not pay them? I have a hard time finding sympathy for a character, who I’m clearly supposed to like, when she does stuff like this. She also takes offense that her cousin and roommate, Posy, begins to kind of date Ava’s greek mythology professor, but for all the wrong reasons. I’m in agreement with Ava on this one, but Ava never states what the actual problem with this is: it’s totally inappropriate for a college professor to date a student at the university they teach at. I don’t care that Posy isn’t in one of his classes; most universities have strict policies against this, and for those two to so blatantly have a relationship of that sort squicked me out. In a brief segue; Ava also sometimes calls him her tutor, which I found odd; a tutor is someone who gives help individually, outside of class as additional assistance. Methinks this might be a British vernacular type deal, and this just an American thing of mine, since tutor means something different to me than how it’s used here.

It also took quite awhile for the actual plot to kick in. Establishing Ava and Blake took pages and pages with a lot of fluff thrown in, details we didn’t necessarily need about Ava’s day-to-day. Blake had a task to do, and couldn’t follow through with it because he fell in love with Ava, but I didn’t feel the urgency or the angst over this. He fell in love with her so unbelievably fast. Their relationship developed at lightning speed, if at all – it was just suddenly there. I like relationships that build throughout the book, but that’s a personal preference – I don’t really enjoy insta-romances. I just can’t figure out where in the two meetings and one date they had that allowed them to learn everything there is to know about one another’s character and fall madly in love. There’s also no indication of how long Blake’s been on earth before he encounters Ava. It would’ve been neat to keep the focus on Blake instead of Ava when we leave Mount Olympus; showing that he gave up the search, wanted to live his own life, but the problem came to him anyway, and he ended up falling in love with her. It would’ve been an easier transition.

The girls also have a roommate named Jason they bring in to help with the expenses for the house they’re renting for school, who is involved in the plot. When he reveals himself to Ava, however, it’s through this long, clunky exposition that didn’t feel like a natural way someone would drop such a huge bomb on the person they’ve been living with. Some of the dialogue, like in this instance, didn’t flow like natural conversation. Jason also would’ve been an interesting character to use more effectively before he became essential to the plot – his role came out of left field, and it was an interesting development for him that I wish would’ve been hinted at sooner.

I did like the dilemma of Ava and Posy near the end. I like that it wasn’t a neatly wrapped up situation, and Blake had to make a decision he knew Ava would hate. I was genuinely sorry for one particular thing that transpired, and for once, felt bad for Ava.

There is a lot to enjoy concerning the retelling of the mythological greek gods, insight to their motives in a few of the famous stories. The romance was too quick and heavy for me, but that’s a personal preference, and I know a lot of people who enjoy it. It’s a light read that makes good use of its mythological characters, although the human characters don’t quite measure up.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 4. Ava was a hard character to like. She was a little too perfect – gorgeous, ridiculously wealthy, an accomplished martial artist, a fabulous dresser, smart, worldly. But she had these peculiarly dramatic reactions to very minor things that don’t warrant such a great swing of emotion; it made her seem incredibly moody, like she’d flip on a dime. She was dramatic, a little spoiled, and didn’t seem to take her studies very seriously. Her love for Blake read like a weird infatuation, which I honestly think stemmed from the fact that he didn’t kowtow to her when they first met and he introduced an unstable (therefore exciting)

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element in her life. Which meant she basically reacted like a teenage girl, but she just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

How much did I like the love interest: 6. Blake was attractive, mysterious, and kind of a jerk. I liked that about him. He used to be a god; he’s *supposed* to be kind of snotty and jerk-ish. I wish he hadn’t gotten so lovesick and possessive, which seems to be a very contagious disease for male love interests these days, but out of the men, I had a soft spot for him (and Jason. I know he’s not a love interest, but I really did like him).

How believable is the plot: 6. I had no trouble believing Hera had it in her to be that insanely jealous – the gods are portrayed as we all picture them to be (vain, self-serving, unforgiving). Ava and Blake were a hard sell, and there was one scene that I could not suspend disbelief for.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 3. I find descriptive phrases and passages more effective when used sparingly, and many of the passages and adjectives brought the term purple prose to mind. It was too much, all the time. There were a number of grammatical errors, a few typos, awkward sentence structure, and repetitive words and phrases. In quite a few sentences the tenses would change. There’s a lot of telling and not showing, particularly concerning character development.

How much did I want to keep reading: 5. Because I did have a difficult time with the style and lackluster feelings toward the main character, I wasn’t as motivated to finish as I would’ve liked to have been.

Final Score: 5/10

****Disclaimer: I got this book for free from the author. I swear I didn’t bribe her in any way, or get paid for my review. And we might not be legit enough to need this disclaimer but after working at a law firm for many years it’s better safe than sorry!****

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