Second Olympus by K. A. Stewart
|Book Name:||Second Olympus|
|Author:||K. A. Stewart|
|Publisher(s):||Pirate Ninja Press (US)|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Steampunk|
|Release Date:||April 10, 2015 (US)|
Dozens of authors have tried their hands at variations on Greek gods-themed storylines over the years—so much so that these stories often start to feel a bit stale—which is why I was thrilled with K.A. Stewart’s wholly fresh spin on it in SECOND OLYMPUS.
Let’s look at the plot first. Here’s the jacket blurb.
The war amongst the Greek gods lasted over three decades and when it was ended, the sun was snuffed from the sky, Artemis sat on the throne, and the muses were murdered.
Without the power to create or invent, the human race languished for generations, trapped within the walled city of Elysia, their lives governed by the steady tick of the great world clock and the watchful eye of their increasingly erratic goddess.
But in the lower wards, far from the shining beacon that is Olympus Tower, a crippled boy named Geoff has grown to manhood, unaware of the legacy contained in his own mysterious bloodline. When his loved ones are threatened, the world will finally wake under the power of the muse, and the insane goddess Artemis will remember the very dangerous power of human imagination.
In case you haven’t guessed from the cover, SECOND OLYMPUS has steampunk overtones, and that’s part of what makes it great. I loved the mash up of Greek mythology with air ships and the gas-light street-born grittiness of a WWI-esque era.
As a result of Apollo dying in the war, the world has been left without a sun, so all light comes from Artemis’ tower and the lamps flickering in the streets. Stewart does an excellent job of conveying the consequences of living for centuries within a crowded, walled city with no natural light: deep mining projects that cause the very ground to become unstable, tenement housing built and rebuilt on top of itself year after year, the challenge of growing and cultivating enough food for people.
I quickly found myself steeped in the world. It’s a haunting take on our own industrial revolution and shows a world on the brink without veering into the stereotypes of true dystopian territory.
The book also shines in Stewart’s portrayal of the gods themselves, mainly Artemis (we’ll get back to her in a moment), Persephone, Demeter, Hades and Hephaestus. Yes, these characters are still gods, but they are gods brought to their KNEES in a way that flips our old assumptions of power on their heads and gives even the most powerful very human-seeming flaws, vulnerabilities, and redeeming qualities.
The story is driven largely by two pairs of characters.
On the mortal side, we have Geoff and Lia, who have grown up together in the dirty wards of Elysia and have managed to steal a good bit of happiness from rather terrible circumstances. I loved the normalness and everyday love of their relationship!
Geoff has been crippled from birth by bad knees, not that he ever lets it stop him (he navigates mine tunnels and freehand climbs a rope to an airship), and he’s been gifted with a unique power to influence those around him as a muse. Most often, I’ve seen the muses used as a convenient nudge for a heroic MC. Stewart takes a broader approach that captures the true power of inspiration and imagination inherent in the muses. I really liked that switch.
Geoff is an unassuming and very grounded MC, which is a brilliant contrast to his antagonist in Artemis. He carefully guards his power, understanding full well the level of influence and control he could have over others should he so choose.
On the more-than-mortal side of the board, we have Artemis and Heracles. I loved these two! There is so much dark backstory hinted at here…it’s incredibly compelling. Let’s tackle them one at a time.
Artemis might take the prize for most intriguing and well-crafted crazy villainess of the year. Stewart gives us revealing glimpses of the once great, noble and innocent huntress, while making it painfully clear that by the book’s opening the virgin goddess has fallen to near-total insanity. Artemis is clever, strong…and lives in complete fear (and occasional regret) of what she’s done in the past and of losing what she’s wrought for the future. I alternated between wanting her to die a drawn-out painful death and wanting to see her redeem herself because she’s just so darn fun to read.
Heracles, then, is the perfect foil for Artemis. We learn that the former hero teamed with Artemis for good reason at the war’s beginnings, but over the millennia he’s become aware that he’s now playing bodyguard for the evil side. His reactions and actions in light of that realization drive the heart of the plot. Stewart’s Heracles is neither the plucky hero nor the annoying too-perfect rival—roles all too commonly assigned to him in other tales. Instead, he’s more remorseful, jaded. A man searching for a way to earn redemption while keeping his word, and that makes him altogether FAR more interesting.
One other aspect worth mentioning is Stewart’s clever interpretation of Artemis’ “hunt.” The hunt is another Greek element that’s been done in several ways. For SECOND OLYMPUS, Stewart puts a paranormal twist on the goddess’ ability to create and manipulate the hounds of her hunt, formerly men in their own rights. It’s eerie and telling, and strikes the perfect tone for this epic Greek tale.
Needless to say, I enjoyed this one immensely!