“The Woken Gods” Gwenda Bond

Kyra is a teenager living in Washington, D.C. – but this is a Washington after the gods have woken and are walking the Earth among us. After her father disappears she & her friends band together to try & find him. What Kyra finds is that she’s not just a normal girl, and the reasons for her father’s disappearance have implications for the whole world.

I picked this up from the library after I read a review of this on Tor.com, and it mentioned that instead of the “normal” pantheons of gods that you often find in fiction like Greek or Norse gods this book had Egyptian gods (amongst others). So I thought I’d give it a go, despite it being Young Adult. I think one reason I have problems with this book is that I’m not the target audience any more – I suspect at age 13 I’d’ve liked it a lot more. It feels very “young”.

There wasn’t really much Egyptian mythology. Sekhmet has been executed shortly after the gods woke by the Society as a show of power over the gods – and that’s a shame coz I’m fond of Sekhmet. But I guess if you (i.e. the Society) want to make a point about how living gods can be killed then killing off a personification of rage & war makes that point well. The on-screen Egyptian god is Set, along with a Sumerian god (Enki), the Voodoo god(?) Legba and a selection of other trickster gods (Coyote, Loki, Hermes all get walk-on parts). Sadly Bond refers to Set as jackal headed*, which then made me wonder how well researched any of the gods I didn’t know about were.

*According to the books on Egyptian gods that we have, it isn’t known what the Set animal actually represents and it’s thought to be completely mythological … wikipedia on the other hand says the Set animal is a jackal in one of the articles. Did all of the mythology come from wikipedia? I don’t know enough about the rest to know.

The world-building in general was a bit on the insubstantial side. It didn’t feel like the world existed outside of where the author was looking. Too much of the world seemed to be carrying on as if it was business as usual as if when the gods woke everyone just kind of shrugged and got on with life. But then when “cool facts” were needed we had differences – like horse drawn carriages coz tech is affected (how?) & no-one flies anywhere coz interference by a god when you’re on a plane is more likely to be fatal. The government has apparently been replaced by the Society – in the US? in the world? I don’t know. Most of the time the fact that there’s a country outside Washington D.C. isn’t obvious, let alone a world outside the US. And apparently (and plot-importantly) this all happened only 5 years ago, but it feels far too settled for that. It could be that Kyra is just uber-sheltered (a distinct possibility) but it would’ve been nice if the reader was made more aware of that even if Kyra herself didn’t notice.

There’s a phrase I’ve seen used in reviews of various books elseweb – “Too much boyfriend, too little X”. And that sums up most of my impression of the book – in this case X is Egyptian mythology, or maybe just mythology in general. I could’ve done with less of Kyra’s drooling over the love interest’s muscular chest, and more attention paid to the world the story was in. Overall a disappointing read that could’ve been cool.