By Katee Robert
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Series or Standalone: Dark Olympus #1
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
Neon Gods has been everywhere on bookstagram recently and I knew I had to give it a try. Plus, it’s a Hades/Persephone retelling so I’m a sucker for that. However, my thoughts on this book are complicated. Did I enjoy the experience of reading it? Yes. Did I enjoy the story? Yes. Did I stay up too late reading it? Yes. But did I like the book overall? Unsure.
Neon Gods is a modern tale on the classic Greek myth of Hades and Persephone. Persephone Dimitriou is a society darling but longs to escape the city of Olympus and its politics. But when her mother Demeter announces her engagement to Zeus, Persephone decides to run. Marriage to Zeus is essentially a death sentence so she flees and heads across the River Styx to the undercity where she makes a deal with Hades – a man she thought was a myth. Hades wants revenge on Zeus for destroying his family, and with Persephone, he sees an opportunity to get it. The two of them engage in a steamy deal that is about to turn Olympus on its head.
Let’s start with the things I like about this book. First, this was a fun, quick read. I enjoyed the spin on classic mythology, and the sexier elements of the book really fit the myth incredibly well. Both Hades and Persephone were more complex characters than I expected – they both had more depth than I initially thought upon meeting them at the beginning of the book. Your expectations of both get a bit turned on the head as you get to know them more. The romance was great and felt like it developed at a good pace despite the actions of the book feeling like it took place over a relatively short period. I also really loved the secondary characters in this book and cannot wait to see more of them in the series.
Now onto some of the things that didn’t necessarily work out perfectly. First off, the world-building was lackluster. While I liked the spin on the Hades/Persephone myth, I still have so many questions about the world this book takes place in. It’s supposed to be a modern city, but I couldn’t tell if there were some magical, mythical elements to the city or not. At times, it definitely felt like some magic-type things were happening, but it also tries hard to feel like it’s taking place in the modern world with no magic? I was a bit confused while reading it. I also don’t fully understand how the Thirteen work or the politics in play. I wish a bit more time had been devoted to that to make it easier to understand and get immersed in the world. And yes, I know this is a romance novel that leans more toward erotica but finding myself questioning the world took me out of the story at times.
The second thing that I found myself a bit disappointed in was how steamy this book was. Now I don’t think this is Robert’s fault at all and more a symptom of it being constantly talked about for being so steamy. For many people, this book will be plenty steamy! But as someone who has read Katee Robert’s work before (pretty much all the books she published with Entangled I’ve read), I know she can deliver on the steamy sex scenes with a variety of kinks thrown in. However, this felt a bit…tame. I was expecting this book to have way more spicer sex scenes than it did. Having a more mainstream publisher could have contributed to this, but I was expecting more from the sex scenes given how people talk about this book.
The final thing that left me with mixed feelings was the ending felt so anti-climatic! Up until the very end, I would have said I liked the plot, but the final confrontation with Zeus was so incredibly lackluster, in my opinion. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but I swear I had to reread the section a few times because I kept thinking, “Is this really how this confrontation ends?” I definitely was expecting a bigger fight and confrontation given the emotions and stakes in play, but it kind of fizzled out at the end.
Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed the reading experience of this book. I stayed up way too late two nights in a row to finish it, so something about it worked for me. But I cannot say that I loved this or buy into all the hype around it. Sure, it’s a fun, quick, steamy retelling of Hades and Persephone, but it fell a bit short in some areas, which left me with mixed feelings. I liked it enough that I’ll be checking out the next book in the series, but I’m also glad I got this out of the library instead of buying it.
I don’t think this book will be for everyone, especially if you’re not into romances that lean more towards erotica. However, if you’re curious about this book, I think you should give it a go, but I highly recommend getting it out of the library, even if it means waiting weeks for the hold to come in.