Goddess of the Spring, by P.C. Cast

>> Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ok, starting with the book posts... now! And if they turn out to be shorter than usual, my apologies: I've read some of these a while ago.

First up, Goddess of the Spring, my first book by P.C. Cast, an author I've heard very good things about. Oh, no, sorry, I did read something by her, now that I think of it... didn't she have a story in the Bewitched, Bothered and BeVampyred antho? Still, those were so tiny that they really didn't count, and this was my first real experience with her.

I've got a few of her Goddess books in the TBR, and I decided to start with this one for the simple reason that I've always loved the myth it's based on.

BTW, what spectacular covers she has! Just take a look at her page. Love, love, love those colours and designs!

Lina's trendy bakery in Tulsa is proving to be less than lucrative, and she must come up with a plan. When she stumbles upon an Italian Goddess cookbook, Lina can't help but think she's found the answer to her problem even if it means invoking a goddess to save her business.

Soon enough, Lina finds herself face-to-face with Demeter, who has a plan of her own. She proposes that Lina exchange souls with Persephone, the Goddess of Spring, who will breathe new life into the bakery. In return, Lina must set order to the Underworld.

Before all this, Lina's problems mostly involved sourdough and second dates. Now that she embodies the enchanting Persephone, Lina has weightier things on her mind, like the formidable task of bringing Spring to a world of spirits. But when the handsome,brooding Hades kindles a spark in her heart, Lina wonders if this Lord of the Underworld might be the man of her dreams.
Well, I didn't love the book quite as much as its cover, but the good stuff outweighed the bad, and I loved Cast's descriptions of the Underworld so much that I'm giving this a B.

Lina Santoro is in a tight spot. Her bakery, Pani del Goddess (that name! Crappy Italian) is in trouble with the IRS thanks to her imbecile accountant, and she's trying to find a way out. Her half-formed plan of diversifying into catering leads her to pick up some old Italian cookbooks, and when she tries out one of the yummy-sounding recipes, which comes complete with a spell, she accidentally calls on Demeter... who answers.

Demeter has a problem, too. The spirits calling on her from the Underworld are driving her crazy, and she knows they need the touch of a goddess. But she doesn't really want to send the obvious candidate, her daughter Persephone, there (for reasons that never became 100% clear to me). So when Lina calls on her, basically saying that she needs a favour and would be more than happy to return it with one of her own, Demeter takes her up on her offer.

The deal is that Lina will go down to the Underworld for six months, in Persephone's body, and pretend to be the young goddess while she ministers to the Dead. Meanwhile, Persephone will take Lina's place and Demeter promises that all her financial worries will be over by the time the 6 months are up.

While Lina isn't immediately convinced, it does sound like a good offer. The job she has to do seems pretty straightforward, plus, she is assured by Demeter that though Hades, the God of the Underworld, is a dour, uninteresting man, he will not bother her.

So off she heads into the Underworld, where she finds a world of a beauty she hadn't imagined and a man who, far from being the bore Demeter describes, actually reminds her of sexy, dangerous Batman! ;-)

As for Batman, err, sorry, Hades, he's quite surprised to find Persephone so different from what he'd expected. Goddesses, in his experience, and especially young goddesses, aren't usually sensible and sensitive and kind-hearted as Persephone seems to be.

As I said above, I just loved the world Cast creates. She's got a way of making it come alive, and the images she put in my mind were beautiful. I wanted more of it, but in a good way, not in an "I want more because I never got a sense of place" way.

The romance was nice. I always enjoy serious heroes who are considered boring by everyone but the heroine, and that was Hades, definitely. He did sometimes get a bit tiresome with his tantrums when he thought Lina meant something she didn't mean, but I liked how Cast ended up dealing with this. There were no silly misunderstandings that dragged on and on, partly because Lina was a mature, sensible woman and she didn't play high-school games, something I very much appreciated.

On the negative side, in the first sections, the constant, never-ending head-hopping almost made the book unreadable. It improved as the book advanced, but in those first pages (maybe the first 100 or so?), it was enought to give me a headache. I mean, I'm NOT a POV nazi, not at all. In fact, I'm of the firm opinion that it when the author does it right, it's a perfectly valid stylistic resource (did I get the terminology right? I'm translating from Spanish here in my mind). But here Cast went overboard, and the way she changed POVs kept flinging me out of the story. In some sections the POV changed with every paragraph, and, in one memorable occasion, within one single paragraph! It's good that this improved, because I'm not confident that I would have been able to finish the book, otherwise, no matter how much I was loving the rest of it.

Anyway, other than this, the book was great fun. Not much plot to it, since it was basically Lina exploring the Underworld and she and Hades exploring a relationship, but this isn't something that I minded. I actually like romances that are wholly character-driven!

A good start for me with P.C. Cast, so I'll definitely be picking up the other books I have by her in the TBR.


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