Divine Misfortune (A. Lee Martinez 2010)

Divine Misfortune

I picked up this book at random. I found the concept very intriguing, not all that different from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. The premise of the novel is that the modern day world is inhabited by gods who live openly amongst mortals, with many mortals worshipping  a particular deity in exchange for gifts and favours. The plot of the novel revolves around married couple Teri and Phil, who decide to get their own god but end up with Luka, a raccoon god of prosperity who wishes to crash at their place in exchange for his favour. Luka moves in, dragging his enemies along with him, putting Teri and Phil in more danger than they anticipated.

Like I mentioned, gods in the modern world is not a new concept, and every time I read this book I can’t help but compare it to American Gods. Regardless I felt the idea of having the gods operate openly with government regulation very intriguing, which is why I decided to give it a shot in the end. As I read it I found myself interested in this modern world setting but sometimes I felt as though the details weren’t fleshed out enough in places. Since I knew the book was a comedy I didn’t expect a whole lot of realistic world building, instead I expected more of a parody like setting. This is kind of what I got, and there wasn’t a whole lot wrong with it. My issues with the novel aren’t so much with the setting, but with how the plot utilised it.

To put a long story short, the setting of the book barely mattered after around the mid point. It played an important part in the beginning when Luka first arrived, and played an important part in several of the book’s subplots. This is also the part which put the focus on Tris and Phil’s side the story, which to me was the most intriguing part of the book’s plot. After a certain point, Luka’s problems seemed to take over, to the point where they seemed to overshadow all the other characters and their various subplot. He came in and hijacked Phil and Tris’ lives, then in the middle basically hijacks their role as protagonist. In fact towards the end I found myself forgetting that Phil and Tris were actually important characters, it was that bad.

To me some of the characters were rather boring. Luka was decent and complex, but for most of the novel he came across as a bit of a dick and despite the author’s attempts to give him character development I felt like he hadn’t changed that much. Luka’s ex girlfriend, the goddess Slyph is an even worse example of a character who didn’t change. She remained a stalker, although it is implied that since Luka is in a comitted relationship with a mortal, she might eventually get over her tendencies. This was disappointment to me and as a result her character arc felt like a bit of an anti-climax since I was clearly expecting her to move on somehow by the end of the novel. Also, the villain Gorgoz was a bit too buffoonish for my tastes. While I wasn’t expecting a normal serious villain, I felt like his comedy characteristics were exaggerated to the point where he didn’t live up to the in story hype. As a whole, most of the character arcs in this story have room for improvement.

Overall, I felt like the novel had a good beginning but began to lose its impact towards the end. It went from clever and witty plot about modern gods to a half assed character drama where most of the characters happen to be gods. The book had a good concept going for it, and up until near the middle there was hopes that it would live up to that promise. In reality, it just fell flat on its face. Divine Misfortune suffers from a weak climax, and I can’t get a strong grasp of what the book wants its overall theme to be. It’s intriguing but to be honest American God handles the whole god thing better and I’m sure many of the other American God knockoffs do as well for that matter. It’s by no means bad, but I wouldn’t put it anywhere close to good either.

SCORE: 3/5




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