The Immortals: Far more than just PERCY JACKSON for adults

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The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky fantasy book reviewsThe Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky

Should you happen to see the words “Percy Jackson” connected with Jordanna Max Brodsky’s debut novel, please do not mistake The Immortals for “kidlit” or YA fare. This is a thoroughly adult affair, with all manner of Greek gods and mortals behaving badly, and its story about the Goddess of the Hunt stalking a murderer through New York City is as bloody and thrilling as one could hope for.

Selene DiSilva lives in Manhattan, sleeping through each day and spending her nights either walking her rescue dog Hippolyta along the Hudson River or protecting women from abusive men. Long ago, Selene was known as Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon, but she and the other Athanatoi (“Those Who Do Not Die,” the Greek immortals of myth and legend) have fled Mount Olympus and seen their godhoods disappear over the last fifteen hundred years. One night, she discovers the mutilated body of Columbia University professor Helen Emerson, who was ritualistically wrapped in a sheet and crowned with laurel leaves. Her dress and appearance clearly evoke the garb of Artemis’ temple maidens, and Selene knows that this was no casual murder. Unable to involve herself with the NYPD’s official investigation due to an outstanding murder charge from the 1970s, Selene must reach out to unexpected allies if she is to bring Helen’s killer to justice.

The NYPD’s chief suspect is Helen’s ex-boyfriend, Theodore Schultz, a Classics professor at Columbia with an impeccable Ancient Greek accent and a particular skill for piecing puzzles together. Theo’s intelligence and insight into the collision of mythology, fact, and fiction make him integral to Selene’s investigation while causing massive headaches for Detective Brandman, who refuses to believe Theo’s theory that an ancient cult has been revived. As more women are found dead and specific items are stolen from New York’s finest museums, Selene’s powers slowly return, and her need for answers intensifies. How are these actions connected to her, who is behind it all, and can she stop them? Should she stop them if she has a chance to reclaim her former glory?

Olympus Bound (Series) by Jordanna Max Brodsky

Series

Selene’s previous identity as Artemis is explored through flashbacks, differentiating who the goddess was from her modern-day self. As a divine personage, she was terrifying and cruel; as an imperceptibly aging, weakened semi-mortal, she has the capacity for empathy and humor, a trait Theo exploits to his fullest potential in moments that even made me laugh aloud. I also enjoyed Selene’s historical connection through her various assumed identities to moments and people in American history, from the original Lenni Lenape inhabiting the island of Manna-hatta, to the Dutch colonists, to Alexander Hamilton and Teddy Roosevelt. Naturally, an entity accustomed to human contact would be drawn to their civilizations, even when that entity is associated with wild spaces.

Brodsky provides excellent representation of immortal and mortal characters throughout The Immortals; figures like Hestia, Ares, and Aphrodite are named, but do not make direct appearances, and I’m hoping that Hera and Athena show up — or are at least mentioned — in subsequent novels. As it stands, the dramatis personae count is quite lengthy, but Brodsky makes good use of each character and incorporates recognizable elements from classical mythology into the modern identities of the Athanatoi. Even their aliases reflect their roots: movie-producer Hermes currently goes by “Dash,” indie musician Apollo calls himself “Paul Solson,” and Selene has previously been known as “Cynthia Forrester” and “Melissa DuBois.”

Theo’s lectures on mythmaking felt a little obvious to me, but Selene calls him out on his internalized biases and wrongful assumptions, and he’s mostly self-aware enough to recognize when he’s being pedantic. Selene frequently has difficulties seeing mortals as more than just expendable chess pieces, and while she venerates the supposed superiority of her fellow divinities, she hangs on to old squabbles and petty jealousies. Brodsky uses flaws to make the characters relatable, like any good tale of the Greek gods should. She also explores the concept that human belief in myths made the gods powerful, and as the need for those myths waned, so too did the gods. It’s a philosophical concept which has the potential to be dry and boring, but Brodsky energizes it by giving readers a goddess nearly losing to a mortal man in a fistfight, a god who thrives on the greed and flurry of daily stock exchanges, and another god weeping beside his beloved mother’s hospital bed.

I never would have guessed that this was Brodsky’s first published novel; events hang together and make sense, the breakneck pacing never falters, and I didn’t find any dangling plot threads. There was a romantic subplot which progressed a little too quickly for my taste, but that has more to do with my individual preferences as a reader than Brodsky’s skill. The ending concludes the events of this novel while setting up future installments in the planned OLYMPUS BOUND trilogy, a clever series title with multiple potential meanings and implications for its characters. The Immortals is an admirable debut, highly recommended for fans of Greek mythology and murder mysteries.

Published on February 16, 2016. Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself. The city sleeps. Selene DiSilva walks her dog along the banks of the Hudson. She is alone — just the way she likes it. She doesn’t believe in friends, and she doesn’t speak to her family. Most of them are simply too dangerous. In the predawn calm, Selene finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns. And so does the memory of a promise she made long ago — when her name was Artemis.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Bradbury, James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, and Philip Pullman.

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7 comments

  1. dr susan /

    Excellent review! I have this one reserved at my library and am excited to read it.

  2. Totally missed this one but sounds like a good pick up Great detailed eview!

    • Thanks, Bill! If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts, particularly on the merging of myth and reality in the text.

  3. This sounds pretty cool! I had a lot of trouble with a book about 10 years ago with some similar ideas, Gods Behaving Badly, but I like the sound of this angle on it.

    • I think coming at it from a “mystery novel” angle really helped because it gave the divine characters something to do other than snog/marry/avoid mortals.

  4. Kevin S. /
    This is a good book but I think you have to REALLY, REALLY like Greek mythology. It's saturated with it to the point where it is too much (IMO).

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