Title: Gods and Warriors
Author: Michelle Paver
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade/Young Adult, Historical
Publisher: Puffin / Dial
Publication date: August 28 / September 4 2012
Hardcover: 283 pages
An action-packed new series set in the mysterious, dangerous Bronze Age.
Young Hylas–goatherd, Outsider, thief–is hunted by powerful warriors who want him dead and have kidnapped his sister. Hylas is forced to flee his home, but not before a mysterious stranger gives him a bronze dagger. While on the run, Hylas must use his skill and wits to survive a shipwreck and a great white shark attack, befriend a dolphin, and help Pirra, the runaway daughter of a High Priestess. Together with Pirra, the dolphin, and the valuable bronze sword, Hylas fights to discover why he’s being hunted and find his sister before the warriors find them.
Stand alone or series: First in a new series
How did we get this book: We both picked up ARCs at BEA
Gods and Warriors is set in the Bronze Age of Ancient Greece, when Mycenae and Crete were kind of ruling that part of the world. Young Hylas is our protagonist, an orphaned goatherd and an Outsider (i.e. not part of a village) whose sister disappears when they are both attacked by strange warriors bent on killing all Outsiders. On the run for his life and desperate to find his little sister and an explanation for the Outsider killings, Hylas befriends a dolphin and Pirra, the runaway daughter of a High Priestess.
The story opens at the thick of action as Hylas is running for his life from the warriors trying to kill him. This basically sets Gods and Warriors’s mood for this plot-driven story which has plenty of action, escapades, near-deaths and a cliff-hanger per chapter.
I wanted to read it for its setting – Bronze Age, pre-Greek Gods – and was mostly pleased with the exploration of the different ways of life around the Greek Islands at that time including ways that people worshiped and lived.
Unfortunately, although the setting might be new and fresh, the same cannot be said about the meat and bones of the story. It is all very, very familiar: the Orphan boy who is Special (so special he is also the only blond person around) because a prophecy says so; and the feisty young girl who is trying to escape a marriage she doesn’t want (why must the female character’s arc always be about marriage?). It also doesn’t help that there is a lot of head-hopping, including Hylas’ best friend Telemon – possibly the best character of them all as he is caught between his best friend and his father – and…the dolphin, Spirit. I am not a huge fan of sentient animals and the chapters from the dolphin’s perspective were the absolute worst for me – but your mileage may vary, of course.
Gods and Warriors read very samey to me. Although I breezed through the book and in spite of its action-packed storyline… it was boring and unremarkable read in the end. I think I will stick to Paver’s adult books from now on.
I think I simply have to reiterate this part of Ana’s review above to summat my experience with Gods and Warriors:
[...]the Orphan boy who is Special (so special he is also the only blond person around) because a prophecy says so; and the feisty young girl who is trying to escape a marriage she doesn’t want (why must the female character’s arc always be about marriage?)
Umm, yes. I have to admit that from a historical perspective, there is nothing particularly appealing to me about the Bronze Age – but the synopsis for this novel, with its early Gods and beliefs, sounded fantastic. Plus, I loved Michelle Paver’s adult horror novel so very much, I was eager to get my hands on any of her new work (even if a middle grade novel set in Bronze Age Greece is a far cry from a haunting at the turn of the 20th century in the arctic circle). Unfortunately, beyond having a unique and memorable setting, Gods and Warriors is a bland, cliched read.
On the character side, we are introduced to four protagonists: Hylas (the “Outsider”), Pirra (the High Priestess’s daughter), Telemon (son of the Chieftain), and Spirit (the dolphin). We spend time in each of these characters’ heads, viewing the story from these different perspectives, though most of the action involves Hylas, Pirra and Spirit the Dolphin (FYI, I’m referring to Spirit as “Spirit the Dolphin” henceforth). Hylas OF COURSE is the Super Special Outsider and is in fact so special that he has blonde hair in a sea of brunettes (hello, Ayla-syndrome). Pirra OF COURSE is our beautiful spoiled poor little rich girl that is spunky enough to run away from a forced marriage (which is her entire motivation for the book – there’s nothing wrong with that other than how overwrought this trope is in historical YA/MG). These two are our true main protagonists of the story, and spend much of the novel bickering with each other (of course), even as they band together to survive.
I have to agree with Ana that talking/congnizant animal books are not really my bag – Spirit the Dolphin is no exception. That said, I should mention that I do appreciate Michelle Paver’s humor and twisted perspective of the humans and human world from a dolphin point of view. I also have to agree that of all the characters, Telemon is the most interesting and has the most complex motivations of the group – torn between wanting to be a good friend and a good son, his perspective is a nice contrast (if sadly under-used) to Hylas, Pirra and Spirit the Dolphin’s points of view in Gods and Warriors.
In terms of overall plotting and storytelling, there isn’t too much to say. The writing is competent, though painfully simple and direct. The central conflict for the story and the driving motivations for each of the characters – Hylas to find his sister Issi, Pirra to escape a forced marriage, Spirit the Dolphin to find his Dolphin pack and help the special boy with whom he has a Connection, Telemon to be a good friend/good son – are all believable, if two-dimensional.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with Gods and Warriors is the novel’s bland writing and lukewarm characters. While there isn’t anything that makes this a bad book, there’s nothing really here to recommend it, either.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: From one exchange between Hylas and Pirra:
“If we follow the animals, they might lead us to a spring.”
“What animals? They’re all dead!”
“No, some managed to get away. Look at the tracks.”
“What’s a track?” she snapped. Thirst was making her irritable.
“Oh, surely you know about tracks? They’re footprints, they tell you things.” Impatiently, he pointed out what he said was a hare’s trail, then a row of sinuous lines made by a snake; he said the gaps in between were where it had gathered its coils.
“So it’s like writing,” she said. “Well if you’d told me that to start with, I’d have understood.”
“Oh surely you know about writing?” she mimicked. “It’s marks that mean things.” With a stick of charcoal, she scratched lines on a pebble. “There. That’s for you, it says goat.”
“What d’ you mean it ‘says’? It can’t talk, it’s a pebble.”
Ana: 5 – Meh, it was ok.
Thea: 5 – Meh indeed.
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