Lore by Alexandra Bracken
Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.
The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
Lore means to leave the Agon, and its cyclical bloodshed, far behind.
After all, the Agon claimed the lives of her family along with the glorious future she dreamed of. Every cycle of killing gods simply begets new killers, and she refuses to be a part of it any longer. If all goes well, she’ll keep her head down, and the other ancient families will be none the wiser that she was ever in the same city during the hunt.
Except nothing goes well. One of the last original gods seeks out Lore’s help, and her missing childhood friend reappears only to bring a staggering amount of danger in his wake. Safety is a thing of the past, and somehow, Lore must shape her alliances into something functional if she means to survive the Agon once more.
Even if survival means returning to the very life she fled, and all the values she’s come to hate.
I majored in classics and I devour Alexandra Bracken books, so none of you should be surprised that I read Lore.
And I snapped it up, too. Yes, my read dates will show it took me a week, but that’s because my life kind of blew up after reading a single chapter and I had to set it down for a hot second. After that? Smooth sailing through almost 500 pages of some of the things Alexandra Bracken does best!
You want a reluctant hero diving back into the fray? Lore fits the bill to a T. And if you want a love interest who is more soft boy than bad boy? We’ve got that too! Add in heaps of snark, a concept that shows humanity at its best and worst simultaneously, and a hint of the fantastic in some form.
Yeah, you know you’re reading a Bracken book. It leaps off the page, each chapter coming at you fast, and you don’t want the ride to end. I loved every moment of it, and sank deep into the story. Immersion was anything but a problem.
Plus, I really appreciate the creative approach to the gods’ involvement with humanity, and the different levels of respect and reciprocity involved. Every interaction is layered with different meaning once you consider the powers in play, and I’m absolutely enamored with the vicious turnabout that is humans hunting gods for their power. It sits in stark contrast to the usual Greek mythology where gods toy with humans, only to face minimal consequences, if any.
However, Lore was missing something that could have really added a final layer to the story.
In retrospect, this may be a small complaint. After all, the story is told from Lore’s POV, and she is a champion at isolating herself from anything involving the Agon. It’s no surprise she walls herself off from most of the other characters when she can, since that’s the only reason she’s survived this long.
And yet I can’t help but think of Alexandra Bracken’s other books, where her supporting characters feel so much more…developed. It’s not that the supporting cast of Lore is weak by any means. But with the heavy focus on Lore as the main character, I feel like we really missed out on some of most important things about characters like Miles, Castor, Van, and Iro. They play major roles in shaping the story, and yet I sometimes felt as if they weren’t fully there. Or as if they weren’t given the space to be more complex.
Some simplicity can be nice, given the dubious, tricky nature of the Agon, but I don’t think this was the best way to use it.
Almost any fan of Greek myth is probably going to want to pick this one up.
Barring any serious conflicts with the content warnings (see below, this book is particularly heavy on some brutal aspects, namely the violence, gore, and the graphic nature of Lore’s family’s deaths), I think readers who know their Greek myths, even just the more common ones, will delight in this. It’s a fresh spin on stories many of us know in some form or another, and the way it blends Greece with New York City is sharp and full of heart.
Honestly, you might be able to hand Lore to your nearest PJO fan and score a home run with them. This book is what a standalone, older-audience-oriented PJO might look like. A little darker, a little more cruel, but overall a gripping, intense journey!
And for those of you who love your Homer, yes, there’s at least one mention of that sweet, sweet, wine dark sea.
CW: violence, gore, graphic injury child death, loss of a loved one, gambling, sexual assault, child abuse, pedophilia, suicide