Friday, October 7, 2011
Losing Beauty, Johanna Garth
As the title of this blog proclaims, normally I read epic fantasy and science fiction. However this week I am blogging on a tale that is very different from my favorite epic hack-and-slash-fest type of saga. Stay with me - I haven't lost my love of all things Tolkien, just temporarily branched out a bit.
Losing Beauty by Johanna Garth is an urban fantasy in the broadest sense, being a modern take on the Hades - Persephone tale. I am a sucker for mythology of any sort, and Greek mythology offers a lot opportunity for new retellings, as Rick Riordan has shown us in his Percy Jackson Series.
I met Johanna in the course of business since we are both published by Fantasy Island Book Publishing. I was intrigued by the cover of her book, and when I bought the Kindle book I found myself completely absorbed in her tale.
The story begins with Persephone Campbell, a girl with a problem. Persey is a beautiful girl, and everyone loves her. Even as a child, people find themselves telling her their problems: terrible things which no normal person would ever tell anyone, much less a child. Even so, people can't resist telling her their deepest and darkest secrets; a thing which continues into her adulthood. Her ability to draw the deepest secrets from people is strange, and it emerges that she was adopted as a baby and her father was listed as 'unknown'.
Three men love her to the point of obsession. After high school, Persey marries her high-school sweetheart, Aaron Strait out of a sense of duty, more than anything else. She loves her husband, but she realizes that her love for him is not the sort of love that a wife should feel for her husband. Still, she does love him and remains a loyal wife.
Persey goes to work for the same company as Daniel Hartnet, a man with an uncanny ability to read people, that he calls his crap-o-meter. This ability to read motives is every bit as uncanny as is Persey's ability to draw out secrets. He discovers that he can't read Persey, and that really intrigues him. He soon becomes obsessed with her, but like the moderately decent man he is, he respects her commitment to her marriage.
Johanna Garth draws her characters well. Haden is a bad man, selfish and focused only on his own desires but quite seductive and very compelling. Daniel Hartnet is not lily-pure in his motives, but he is a basically good man and also quite seductive. Aaron is a simple, high-school jock-made-good; a man who is solely driven by his desire to protect and provide for her; and she is completely aware of that. Aaron becomes very successful, and on the surface everything looks perfect.
What she does not realize is that she is the one true love of Haden, also known as Hades, God of the Underworld. He has followed her progress since her earliest childhood, grooming her to be his wife in various different guises. He has even posed as the coach in her highschool. There is no length that he won't go to to have her. When she marries Aaron, Hayden puts a terrible plan into action, using all of his resources as Lord of the Underworld; and soon she finds herself tied to the last person she wants to be tied to. That is where the adventure really begins.
Persey is a nice girl, but her secret ability is hard for her to bear; and she feels that she is responsible for a tragic event that is the sole responsibility of Haden. He, of course, uses her insecurity to bind her to him even more tightly.
Johanna Garth has written an urban fantasy that is sophisticated, and romantic. It is a wonderful adventure that takes Persey from rural america to New York to Asia, and has many twists and turns that are quite unexpected. The ending was quite unexpected!
While this book was a real dip into uncharted literary waters for me, I freely admit that I had a great time reading this story and highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good romantic urban fantasy. I am now a fan! I will definitely be reading anything Johanna Garth writes!