by Selena Kitt, paranormal (2009, reissue)
Phaze, $6.00, ISBN 978-1-59426-674-4
Unlike Selena Kitt's previous book Blind Date where she unsuccessfully tried to modernize a Greek legend without resorting to paranormal elements, The Surrender Of Persephone sees her retelling the legend of Hades and Persephone without any attempts made to put it in a contemporary setting. I don't think I need to give a synopsis of this story, do I?
This book sure starts out... er, different. There is a scene of lesbian threesome between teenagers Persephone, Artemis, and Athena, for start. Sephie, as our heroine is called by her friends, is kidnapped by Aidoneous (he doesn't really like Hades that much, but he's fond of being Aidon) into the Underworld where he flogs her before ravishing her. Ooh, I think I'm going to enjoy this. Ms Kitt however doesn't just want to flog some smut, she also wants to tell a story of how Persephone comes to her own as the Queen of the Underworld.
Ms Kitt introduces some elements not often found in other re-tellings of this story, such as Hecate and the Furies making constant appearances in the story. The strongest aspect of this story is the world-building. The Underworld is very well-depicted to the point that the author can actually create a whole series in her setting because that is how much detail Ms Kitt has put into the world-building, with her going deeper into the myth to mine the richness of her setting far more than, say, PC Cast or Alicia Fields ever would. I really like the vivid depiction of the Underworld and its inhabitants and if I remember this book in the future, it's because of the setting.
However, The Surrender Of Persephone lacks an uniform voice when it comes to the author's style. She seems to be going all over the place, unsure of what this story is supposed to be. For one, this story takes place in the distant past. Ms Kitt however uses noticeably contemporary dialogs in her story and Persephone often behaves like a spoiled and immature chick-lit heroine. The setting may be very well-depicted, but I often find myself jarred from my reading when the main characters start to behave like they have accidentally wandered into this story from a chick-lit tale. The author has some pretty steamy - if politically incorrect - scenes of sex that sometimes are of coercive nature, but these scenes don't really fit in very well with the rest of the book.
What happens is that I feel that Ms Kitt fails to create a smooth transition from non-sexual scenes to sex scenes in this book. The book starts off like an erotica with lesbian threesomes and forced bondage, then it morphs into a very sober and asexual travelogue on the Underworld before Aidon gets horny and the story clumsily turns back into erotica for a chapter. The sex scenes and the non-sexual scenes seem to belong to two different stories altogether. The author switches gears from erotica to fantasy and back again from chapter to chapter too quickly and too abruptly, to the point that the story is like a TV show that often comes to a grinding halt for a sexually explicit commercial before resuming transmission.
There seems to be two incomplete stories that somehow get mixed-up and published together here. The thing is, that sexy scenes belong to what seems like a very good erotic take on the whole Persephone and Hades thing while the non-sexy scenes look like they come from a very interesting fantasy tale. Put the two together and I feel like I am getting incomplete portions of those elusive good books mixed-up and delivered to my lap as The Surrender Of Persephone. There are two potentially good books in this literary equivalent to an unfortunate pair of Siamese twins.
Perhaps Ms Kitt should consider writing playful naughty stuff and sober fantasy stuff as completely separate entities, maybe for different publishers or under different pseudonyms, so that she could come up with two good books instead of one cute but unfortunately unfocused and uneven book. However, after all that is said and done, this is a most interesting book worth a look, I believe.
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