Series Title: The Arete Series
Author: Rae Else
Date Added: March 5, 2017
Date Started: April 1, 2017
Date Finished: April 28, 2017
Reading Duration: 27 days
Genre: Young Adult (YA), Fantasy – Urban Fantasy, Mythology
Shares Paradigms With: The Mistborn Series, Hunger Games
There are lots of stories about the children of gods. But what about those cursed by the gods, and their descendants…
El, a seventeen-year-old has inherited an ancient and deadly power. She loses control of it, causing a horrific accident, and becomes the prey of a secret organisation known as the Order.
Forced from her family and home, she hides in plain sight amidst the crowds of London, and is thrust into a world that she never knew existed; one full of Arete: beings who possess extraordinary powers like hers.
Arete are beings that can trace their lineage and powers from Ancient Greece. They claim their inheritance does not come from the gods, rather legend says they are descended from cursed beings, such as Medusa.
At the heart of their world is the kerykeion, the symbol that protects them from the humans and the humans from them. El is trapped between two factions, one that has built an empire around the kerykeion and another that is determined to bring it down.
As she is drawn deeper into the conflict, the only way to find the truth is to take matters into her own hands, and the line between friend and foe becomes dangerously blurred.
Descendants is the first book in the Young Adult, Urban Fantasy trilogy: The Arete Series.
I was given an eArc copy by the author, and I’ll do my best to give an honest and fair review.
This first book The Arete Series has a fascinating premise that deviates from the typical “children of the gods” motif. The Arete are descendants of beings cursed by the gods such as Medusa, but it’s more of a Cursed With Awesome situation.
Arete powers are organized along elemental lines. There are fiery drakons, watery sirens, airy typhons, and I can’t remember what the earth Arete are called. However, they also have the power of manipulation, which can work both on other Arete and humans who are often derisively referred to as “andreko.”
El, the main character is a drakon, so she has fire powers, and she also has a controlling gaze. The main action of the story begins when El inadvertently causes one of the patrons at the art house she works in to jump off a bridge. The man survives, but using her powers has the risk of alerting the dreaded Order her grandmother Helene has been hiding her from her entire life. With the catalyst for the story in place, El’s estranged mother Anna returns to take her to a safe house in London. Helene, herself, is a powerful Arete, but she put out her eyes, thereby nullifying her powers, so that she could hide from the Order.
El is told next to nothing by either her mother or the friends Anna leaves her with. The seventeen year old is given an injection to hide her from the Order, because certain Arete blood will do that. Eventually, though, she gets frustrated with all the secrets and concealment and winds up running after a handsome Arete guy who it was spying on her for the Order. At this point, it become unclear who the real bad guys are: the Order or the rebels, and El is more confused and angry at the information being withheld from her, as she decides to go along with the handsome Arete to see for herself.
The Order wants El to compete in Elysium where Arete vie against each other, though I’m not entirely sure of the reason. It has a Hunger Games vibe to it, though there’s less at stake. After a series of events El is trained for the arena by Dan, one of Anna’s rebel friends, learning to control her fire powers, and this is what reminded me of Mistborn, though again, there was far less at stake.
As mentioned above, the premise of this story is very intriguing, but I had some issues with the execution. El doesn’t have much of a personality or the personality she had when she was working at the art house vanished once she was swept up into the world of the Arete. While I understand that fighting for your life diminishes the chances for leisure, she came off as very blank slate like. Before, she had a best friend Ingrid, but when *spoiler* she has the rebels erase her memory, she barely mourns for this lifetime relationship lost. *end spoiler*
Then there’s her relationship with Anna, her estranged mother. There is an overabundance of telling over showing in this novel, and I think that was a major factor in weakening some of the character development. We’d see what El was thinking and feeling instead of at least being shown the latter. In regards to Anna, the conflict both in interaction and emotion would’ve come across far better if it had been shown rather than as retrospectives on El’s part, because when *spoiler* Anna is murdered by Louisa, it fails to have as strong of the impact that seeing one’s mother killed should. Later El constantly comes back to it, but the emotion is too straightforward. It would be much more complicated, because El barely knew her , so her thinking about Anna’s style/fashion didn’t really resonate, since she’d only just found that out. The teenager would have much more complicated feelings probably involving regret for how she never really knew these things, and the scenes where she was looking at pictures of Dan and realizing the depth of his relationship with Anna could’ve been expanded to overlap with this. *end spoiler*
I know this is YA, but it really bugs me how they always have to have a romantic arc in them, usually a love triangle ( I also know this is probably due to editor/publisher demands for the genre).. The relationship between El and *spoiler* Dan *end spoiler* seemed far to abrupt. He goes from almost hating her to her having feelings and then him sneaking in to give her a kiss after one of her matches. It seemed wildly irresponsible for someone trying to topple a dictatorship, though there is an explanation given afterwards. Later, there’s another Arete man who’s a possible love interest, and this just seems like the common YA love triangle trope.
It was difficult to keep all of the different types of Arete straight, since many if not all of them had two types of power. As fore mentioned, El as a drakon could control fire, but she could also manipulate people with her gaze. I wasn’t sure if this was a drakon ability or an Arete one. Earth manipulators would make those they stared at feel heavy, and typhons (airy Arete) would make them feel light. Then there were the graeae who were the Triad or head of the order. It was graeae blood that was used to mask El’s power from the Order, and empousa (another type of vampire-like Arete) blood could heal nearly any wound. I’m not entirely sure about the details of many of these, because there was a lot of information. A glossary would’ve been useful, though there was one in The Mistborn Series, and I still had major issues with that. Glossaries are good for reference, but the different types should be differentiated enough in the text to stand out. It’s hard to keep track of that many, and their names are appropriate and indicative of their function, but when you have more than one type of power, it gets a bit complicated..
The main antagonist is utterly reprehensible. You don’t love to hate her; you just hate her and seriously want El to burn that smug, assured look off her face. She’s utterly in control and has El right where she wants her through the entirety of the novel, but at the end, she becomes sympathetic, and this creates that common confusion of having a villain you want to and still could hate, but also feel sorry for in understanding their actions/motivations. This was excellently done on Ms. Else’s part in conjunction with making another character culpable.
Descendants was a fair introduction to a new YA trilogy. It has an interesting premise and deviation from a cliched trope, but it still sticks with some that it could have shaken up like the love triangle, and often devastating events could’ve had more of an impact in showing rather than telling.