Gwenda Bond – The Woken Gods

gwendabond-thewokengodsFive years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke around the world.

This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school.

Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., home to the embassies of divine pantheons and the mysterious Society of the Sun. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way back from school, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn’t what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne “Oz” Spencer, an intriguing Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous relic. The Society needs it, and they don’t care that she knows nothing about her father’s secrets.

Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz–whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn’t? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it.

After her successful debut with Blackwood last year, Gwenda Bond is back with a new book in a new setting. Having really enjoyed Blackwood, I was very much looking forward to The Woken Gods, with its multitudes of pantheons and a secretive society, whose mission is to keep humanity save from the not-that-benevolent gods using the relics they’ve hunted and gathered over the years. It sounded like it would be a blast. And it was. I was completed sucked in by Kyra and Oz’s tale and I had a great time with this book. 

The book is written in the present tense, which is always a bit of an adjustment, but I must be getting used to this narrative form, because I settled in far quicker than I usually do. We get several points of view, mostly Kyra and Oz’s but also those of their close friends, Justin, Bree, and Tam. Kyra’s point of view is told in the first person, but the others are in the third. I’ve discovered reading this book that I have far less of a problem with the present tense if it is first person than if it is third. Especially the first time we shift from Kyra’s first person to Oz’s third when we go from the first to the second chapter I was really jarred out of the story and I couldn’t figure out why until I realised it was the third person present. Still after that second chapter I didn’t really notice it, but if you really hate present tense narratives, be warned.

Our leading lady, Kyra, is a resourceful protagonist, who I very quickly came to like quite a bit. Somewhat rebellious to gain her somewhat absent single father, she forms a tight unit with her best friends Bree and Tam, though lately things have been a bit strained between the three of them, because Kyra and Tam took their friendship further and then broke up, leaving the balance between the three a little out of true. Kyra is your prototype ‘still waters, run deep’-hero, as no matter how close she is to her friends neither of them knows Kyra’s biggest secret—her mum is a seer on Oracle Circle. Similarly, Kyra doesn’t know her father isn’t exactly the librarian he claims to be. I like how Kyra deals with the emotional upheaval the spilling of these secrets causes, she acknowledges it, but consciously compartmentalises it so she can do what she has to do. It’s still there in the background, but it doesn’t cripple her ability to act. Oz is a great foil for Kyra. Where she’s mistrustful of the Society, he is the Society’s golden boy and believes in their mission. He’s also a lovely bloke, with a suitably tragic past and a fun sense of humour. The sparks between him and Kyra fly thick and fast, though this isn’t a case of insta-love soul connection. Like Kyra’s, his world is turned upside-down by the things that are revealed during the story and I loved the way he handled himself and the situation.

Kyra and Oz are supported by their best friends. Bree is a kick-ass friend. Even if Kyra kept secrets and regardless of the fact that she might have more than friendly feelings for Tam, even before he and Kyra got together, Bree has Kyra’s back no matter what. She decides it makes more sense to help Kyra and yell at her later than lose her altogether out of spite and I loved her for that. Tam is a more ambiguous character. At the start I didn’t really like him, Bond makes him out to be a bit of a thoughtless dick, especially where Bree is concerned, but during the book he gets better and while not my favourite of the three sidekick characters, I did come to admire his loyalty. Justin, Oz’s best friend was adorable. Not in a cutesy fashion, but I loved his studiousness and that his first instinct is to open a book and research to solve difficult situations. He rather reminded me of one of my favourite TV characters, Dr Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds. But Justin is another friend that has his heart in the right place and who is loyal to Oz to a fault.

The other characters in the story are fantastic as well. I really liked the main adversary in the book, because even if his actions are insanely bad and ill-judged, I could understand his motivations, however misguided. The various gods and divine and demonic creatures we encounter were great and there were a lot of gods from pantheons I hadn’t seen used before. I especially loved Anzu, a giant lion-eagle who is charged to be Kyra’s protector. But protector or no, Kyra isn’t sure he won’t eat her half of the time and it is only gradually that they learn to trust each other and communicate. Still, by the end of the book I wanted an Anzu of my own!

The plot of the book is a mix between mystery-solving and action and really quite fun. I loved the world Bond created with the various pantheons and the political and diplomatic solutions she came up with to make it work. And of course I loved the fact that the Society’s main headquarters were at the Library of Congress. The pace of the novel was great, with enough space between action to breathe, but never so much room that the narrative began to drag. The writing was as assured as ever, managing to convey some pretty dark scenes and emotions with a light touch, so they never overwhelm the momentum of the narrative.

The Woken Gods is a fabulous sophomore effort for Bond and my one major beef with the book is its ending. It’s a great ending, don’t mistake me, but there are still many strands left untied and there is at least one god that needs to be brought down a peg or two. Plus I want more Kyra and Oz. Unfortunately, while the author has indicated she has more left to tell, so far there are no plans to write it yet. It all depends on the reception of The Woken Gods. So go and buy it, read it and recommend it to all your friends! If you like a great supernatural tale with some original divine and demonic beings and great action, The Woken Gods is a great read. So go and buy it, read it and recommend it to all your friends, because I need to know what happens next!

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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  • Agreed, on pretty much all counts. I’m constantly impressed by Bond’s writing, especially the teenage banter, which I find rather realistic and very witty. Definitely looking forward to what she does next.