December 29, 2020

Book Review: Lore

Lore, the upcoming standalone fantasy from Alexandra Bracken, was one of my most anticipated 2021 books. And friends, I’m so happy to report that I felt like it lived up to my high hopes! Set in my beloved New York City, Lore centers around an event that happens every seven years called the Agon – a punishment for nine Greek gods where they are forced to walk the earth as mortals and be hunted by descendants of ancient bloodlines who want to seize their power and immortality. Melora “Lore” Perseous thought she had escaped the trauma of her family’s brutal murder at the hands of a rival bloodline years ago. But when this year’s hunt begins, she’s dragged right back into the world she thought she’d left behind by two unexpected individuals: Castor, the childhood friend she believed long dead, and Athena, one of the remaining original gods who offers an alliance in order for Lore to get her revenge before she leaves the Agon behind forever. 

I’m a sucker for stories with elements of Greek mythology. That was the major reason I was drawn to Lore (outside of the fact that I'm a fan of everything else Bracken has penned) initially, and it delivers so well on that front. This is not your traditional retelling where the story follows a specific myth. Instead, this is a story that is inspired heavily by its source material, from the harsh brutality of the Agon (including physical violence, torture, murder, sexual violence, among many things – this review has a list of content warnings you can refer to) to the heavily patriarchal family structures to the immortal magic and divine abilities that each god or goddess is blessed with to the traditional ‘hunt’ structure and weaponry. It felt like a modern-day myth, and that really hit my sweet spot.

I didn’t actually realize that Lore takes place in New York City until I picked it up, a detail that I somehow missed when I read the summary originally. But that’s another thing that I really enjoyed! It was really fun to see the vibe that I associate with the city translated in some way on the page. The way the setting was written really captured all the contradictions of this city - the grit, the no nonsense, the classic, the luxurious, the modern, the natural, just to name a few. While it’s certainly a more polished version of the city I love, it still felt like the same place and I have to commend Bracken for capturing its spirit.

The character work is one of the most impressive things about Lore. Bracken still has a deft hand when it comes to writing an ensemble cast, and I was especially fond of the allies and friends Lore works with along the way (though I could have used a touch more time with them). But her masterpiece is really in how Lore comes alive off the page. Lore is a complex young woman, shaped by her history, her relationships and her present circumstances. She’s quick-witted (seriously, her remarks can be so sassy!), capable and is certainly in no need of anyone to take care of her when she can handle herself well in a fight. In fact, her defiance (and the anger that fuels it) was one of my favorite things about her! But I also loved seeing her broken and vulnerable, her other emotions adding a softness to those sharp corners she often leads with. Lore often has to make some tough choices, and while I don’t think she necessarily handled everything well, I was rooting for her to find her own version of peace and closure.

The other aspect of Lore that I really loved was the actual plot. Readers are given a brief idea of how the Agon began before meeting Lore on page for the first time, and things just escalate (and keep escalating) from there. It’s clear right away that there are very high stakes, and it’s equally obvious that there is more to the story as well (as indicated by the few flashbacks interspersed throughout the book). There were constant goings-on - planning sessions for the next move that needed to be made, following trails of clues, fending off opponents, revelations being dropped or arrived at– and it definitely kept me hooked. It’s definitely a lot to be jam-packed into one book! But it worked really well, in my opinion, and the structure is definitely perfect for a standalone. 

If I were to nitpick at the book, I would say that I wish we’d gotten more time with the secondary cast and I felt like the ending was a little abrupt for my tastes. But really, they happen to be minor complaints in the overall scheme of things and have more to do with personal taste.

In case you hadn’t already guessed, I loved Lore a whole lot! It’s a well-written epic modern-day myth about a young woman whose fate is tied to powerful (and immortal) forces and how she takes that same fate into her own two hands. Alexandra Bracken has once again crafted an impeccable story for her readers and, in particular, it’s a tale that’s exactly my cup of tea. I definitely recommend adding it to your TBR if you haven't already!

Lore will be published on January 5, 2021 by Disney-Hyperion.
I received an ARC from the publisher for review.


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