Alex Bell – Lex Trent Versus the Gods

Cheats never prosper. At least that’s what everyone else would have you believe. But Lex Trent knows better. Lex knows that, with a bit of luck, the quickest route to success is to lie, swindle and cheat all the way to the top.

Unfortunately Lex has taken his scams a step too far… Rather than see his neck in a noose, he’s forced to go on the run in a world of irritable Gods, fearsome magicians and strange beasts.

But luck is on his side, just.

The Gods’ favourite pastime is The Games… and Lex has just become one of the human playing pieces. With fame, glory and untold wealth at stake, Lex isn’t going to lose (especially as that so often involves dying) – in fact, he fully intends to beat the Gods at their own game.

I first heard about Lex Trent Versus the Gods from The Speculative Scotsman. Niall posted an interview with the author Alex Bell and a review of the book on his blog and I was immediately sold. You might wonder why it took me so long to finally get to the book then, as book two, Lex Trent: Fighting with Fire was released earlier this month? Ah, well, it’s the old ‘Have you seen the size of my wish list?’ argument, that and the fact that I get easily distracted by all the other shiny new books everyone blogs about. But when I got to spend my December loot on books, I knew that I wanted to get Lex Trent Versus the Gods, especially as the next book was so close. I’m sorry I waited so long. I could have discovered the awfully awesome Lex Trent over a year ago!

So why is Lex Trent awfully awesome? Because as protagonists go, Lex is really not the nicest of people; he’s smug, selfish, unprincipled and as arrogant as they come. But he’s also smart, cocky and criminally funny. It would be easy to take Lex’s personality too far and make him impossible to like, but Ms Bell manages to keep him just on this side of likeable. In fact, when we find out some of his history, some of his less likeable traits and actions become a little more understandable, even if it doesn’t excuse them. Much of this is related to his grandfather’s suffering of the Soulless Wake. I found the concept of the Soulless Wake very interesting, as it’s a parallel to the real world Alzheimer’s disease. As my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s in her final years, it’s something that has touched me in real life and as such I found Lex and Lucius’ experience of it all the more poignant. The way Ms Bell dribbles out Lex’s back story, especially with regards to his grandfather, is really well done, serving to illuminate some of Lex’s past actions and making him very human.

Lex is supported by a mixed cast of characters, some of whom are more fleshed out than others. My favourites were Lucius and Mr Schmidt. Lucius, because he isn’t quite the milk sop he’s made out to be and Mr Schmidt, because in my head he looked and sounded like John Cleese. I don’t know why, but it worked for me! I had more of a problem with Lady Luck though. I know luck is proverbially flighty, but even taking that into account, she made me roll my eyes on more than one occasion and she was easily my least favourite prominent supporting character.

A strong point, in my opinion, was the mythology of the story. I love the almost Grecian involvedness of the Gods of Lex’s world, the strange relationship between enchanters and crones, the position of kings and the concept of the Games. The combination of Gods and Games might conjure up visions of Olympic games and proper athletes, but the Games of this world are more akin to running the gauntlet than running the mile. In fact, the part of the book dealing with the first round of the games felt much like an old-fashioned sword and sorcery quest. The games are at once tests of bravery and cleverness and I loved every moment of them. I can’t wait to see what tasks Lex might have to accomplish in any future games he participates in.

Lex Trent Versus the Gods is a mad romp of a tale, both hilarious and deeply touching in places. I love that Lex is an almost unrepentant scoundrel who doesn’t really plan on mending his ways, but who also has regrets and knows it. The book is a YA title, but will captivate adults as well. The second book about Lex came out last month and I know this time I won’t wait a year before getting my hands on a copy and devouring it!