I downloaded this from BorrowBox on a whim. It keeps coming up in my recommended books, so I decided to give it a go. The story of Hel, Norse Goddess of the Underworld, it had a really strong narrative voice, but not enough plot to support that.
A stunning, operatic, epic drama, like no other. Meet Hel, an ordinary teenager – and goddess of the Underworld. Why is life so unfair? Hel tries to make the best of it, creating gleaming halls in her dark kingdom and welcoming the dead who she is forced to host for eternity. Until eternity itself is threatened.
Francesca’s first and wonderful foray into teen.
Because I downloaded this on a whim, I didn’t really know anything about it when I started listening. I was firstly surprised by how short it is. At only four hours, it’s probably an extended novella rather than a novel, but I think it falls into that hard to classify in between area. Goodreads has it down as 304 pages for the hardcover edition, but I find that hard to believe.
The audiobook narrator for this, Eleanor Tomlinson, is fantastic. Francesca Simon has written a really strong, distinctive, and interesting voice for the main character, Hel, and Tomlinson does a fantastic job of bringing her to life. The first hour of the book was hugely enjoyable, as Hel describes her family, her snake brother, giantess mother, wolf brother, god father, and upbringing. I was excited for a snarky, witty foray into Norse mythology as Hel built her empire and protected eternity.
But I did not get that at all. Those first few chapters are the best part of the book, because you’re getting to know Hel as a person. But once the plot, what little of it there is, actually starts to unfold, I lost interest completely. Hel isn’t compelling enough to carry teh story based on her own reactions and actions, but there’s also not enough going on around her to keep my interest up.
It felt a little like the author wanted to create a really interesting, compelling main character, and spent ages crafting her so that her voice came through really strongly, but then forgot that the book also has to have a narrative thrust, a driving force of plot. It’s sadly lacking here.
So while I liked Hel, I very much did not like the book, and won’t be reading any more of Simon’s offerings. Perhaps others would like the sweeping look at the life (or afterlife) of the goddess of death in Norse mythology, and her interactions with her subjects, fellow gods, and Scottish giantess who guards the bridge from the mortal world. But it was definitely not for me.