Review of The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond (Strange Chemistry, September 3, 2013, trade paperback)
This is a story set in a Washington, D.C., where all the pantheons of gods have been awoken and have been prevented from returning from the afterlife if they die, so dead means dead. As a consequence of this strange turn of events there are regular encounters with gods if you are in downtown DC. The trickster gods of the pantheons serve as a court to determine the outcome of problems between the gods and humans. The chaos of the gods’ power interrupts modern electronic communications, so DC is a little technologically backward, which is strange given the many first adopters of technology who live there.
The gods have their powers of myth but can be killed by magical and physical attack, so they fear death because they can’t return to life immediately like they could previously. DC is a weird place because power struggles for jobs, housing, and prestige all have a political bent, so having all the gods added to the mix makes it a very weird place (Your Humble Reviewers used to live in the DC suburbs) with even more strange power struggles.
Kyra is a teen who struggles with a complex family situation: estranged parents who live apart and a dad who is away for work sometimes at odd hours. She is rather rebellious but her dad is so wrapped up in other issues he just tries to ignore it. Her best friend Bree has a TV anchorwoman mom. They have a third friend, a youth named Tam, and the three of them make a sort of strange love triangle, with Kyra the old girlfriend but still friend and Bree wishfully watching and hoping for a chance.
Kyra has an encounter with Legba, a West African trickster god, and things proceed downhill from there. All three teens and their parents are wrapped in a save-the-world-from-disaster scenario which uses the DC landscape and building for things which you will have to read to believe.
This is an exciting urban fantasy adventure which hopefully will get further volumes. The characters are engaging and the setting familiar but with strange twists. One of the most enjoyable young adult contemporary tales set in the US that Your Humble Reviewers have read in a long while.
Review of When the World Was Flat and We Were in Love by Ingrid Jonach (Strange Chemistry, trade paperback, September 3, 2013)
The first comment has to be the wonderfully engaging name, which immediately lets you know it is a romance but has something strange going on, since we know our world is not flat but spherical. It is set in a small town in Nebraska, and the characters are all students at Green Grove Central High School. The story of Lillie and Tom is enjoyable and seems like an ordinary teen romance but Lillie keeps getting memories of them together and in love before they have even been on a date.
When she finally comes to realize the truth about her and Tom’s relationship, it is almost heartbreaking when the older characters try to keep them apart. Tom does some strange things during the course of the book because he is trying to keep from falling for Lillie, but it doesn’t work and he falls in love anyway.
There are the usual bullying activities going on at school and the risk-taking activities of the teens in their off-hours. Things seem like a normal small town until Tom reveals a truth about the universe to Lillie which changes the way she see things forever. This truth pushes the entire book into science fiction and causes you to reflect on Tom’s previous actions in a different way.
For those who like their romance with a great deal of trouble tossed in, like a good contemporary tale with a bit of an SF twist, then this is the novel for you. It has some well-developed characters and supporting cast with some strange and annoying parents thrown in there too. Definitely a small town tale since the teens all seem to drive and some of the scenarios wouldn’t work in a more crowded urban environment.