A copy of this book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
I really enjoyed this book! It was a super fun read, and full of surprises. Charis (means 'Grace' in Greek) is a young girl who is incredibly curious. Charis is of mixed race; I can't even remember the last time I read a middle grade novel with a main character who was mixed race. Being of mixed race myself, it felt kinda satisfying :)
I loved how the myth of Pandora's Jar was incorporated in this story. The main gods involved were Hermes, Hades, Athena, and Nike. It was refreshing to see some of the gods who aren't usually included. For instance, Nike was a main character -- and I really liked how her backstory was explained. She was a fierce warrior goddess, but also full of love and tenderness. Her bonding with Charis felt natural. The gods and goddesses helped Charis, they didn't drop a huge responsibility on her and then leave her to save the world. I liked that because it was realistic. Charis's bravery was as striking as if she would have had superpowers. Aside from a unique birthmark, she doesn't have magic powers, but she's a very special girl.
The voices of Gabe (Charis' best friend) and Charis were very authentic. They used slang and it felt natural, which I know can be difficult to do sometimes. I felt like I was reading about a real family. I can't tell you how much I've been reading lately where the family dynamic is totally bogus. It feels fake. And I'm not saying it because there were two parents, or being of the racial element (although that does help). It's because Charis and her brother Presley actually love each other. Shocking! He's nice to her, caring, and she looks up to him. My brother and I were and are the same way. It always bothers me because it seems the majority of books show siblings who hate and continually antagonizing each other.
Another thing that impressed me was the way the villains were portrayed. Hades (yes, he's the bad guy) was different. He wasn't completely evil. Yes, he wanted to get rid of mankind and increase his kingdom. But, why did he feel guilty about it? It's because he was multi-faceted. He was not totally evil, nor was he good. Basically, he was acting out of selfishness but he had a conscience that was present. The same goes for the Erineyes sisters. They were acting out their belief that Charis was evil, which is what they were told by Hades. However, even Alecto questioned Hades order when she met Charis. This was a good approach; versus just picking hades and saying "ok he's the evil bad guy because he's Hades," you know?
My only criticism is I felt the myth was explained a little too much. Since it's embedded in the play Charis' school is doing, it was explained there and to Charis by the gods. I'm not sure if this is necessary for kids who read this because of the complexity of the myth? But, for me at least, I didn't need that. One thorough explanation would've been sufficient. Also, the first part of the book was a little slow as far as pacing.
I was half expecting Charis to find the jar, open it and release hope in the world. The end, happily ever after. What I got instead, was a big fat surprise. I loved the ending in that it was totally unexpected and I think it takes a lot of guts to end a MG novel this way. I'm definitely going to be reading the next book.
I recommend this book for lovers of mythology and a unique take on the Pandora myth.