Book Review: The Goddess of Nothing at All by Cat Rector
Before I dive into this review, a moment of appreciation for that gorgeous cover art. Seriously, how amazing is that?
Okay, now onto the review. This is an excellent debut novel by a clearly talented writer that explores some heavy and deeply emotional themes in a thoughtful way. None of the characters in this story are heroes, though there are a few you'll be rooting for more than others. Instead, these are all very deeply flawed people, and it's often their darkest side that comes out when they're pushed to their breaking point. And boy, does this story push its characters (and the reader) to their breaking point. What starts off as a sweet and heartfelt story about two people falling in love despite the forces trying to tear them apart quickly becomes a gut-wrenching tale of loss, heartbreak, and brutality that completely wrecks the characters involved. And possibly the reader in the process. There were several times where some terrible thing would happen and I would think, "Surely things can only get better from here." But no, it turns out that in fact, they can get much, much worse. Reading the trigger warnings at the beginning of the book is very much advised.
If you're already familiar with Norse mythology, you can probably piece together where the story is headed as you're reading. If, like me, you have very little prior knowledge of that mythology going into this book, the author does an excellent job of weaving everything together in a way that's easy to follow and understand. I did some quick research on Norse mythology after reading this and was impressed with how close the author stayed to those stories while also making it her own and really breathing life into these characters. It's clear that a lot of thought and research has gone into this book.
Sigyn and Loki are our main characters here, and both are portrayed in a way that makes them very easy to connect to early on. Sigyn is struggling to earn a title from her father Odin when we first meet her, and though she seems to be doing everything right, he's constantly pushing her to the outside and refuses to give her what she seeks. Loki has been similarly ostracized by the other gods and goddesses, and he and Sigyn form a bond that we see evolve and change over the course of the story, sometimes for the better, and sometimes not so much. That relationship is really at the core of this book, and it's so well-written in all of it's nuances and challenges. The loving, happy moments will tug at your heartstrings, only to make the later betrayals and conflicts all the more devastating. Which is exactly the kind of emotional impact we want in our stories, right?
I also want to note that I really appreciated the pacing of this book. We're covering a huge span of time here (we're dealing with immortal beings after all), and the author does a good job of skipping over months and even years when necessary without making you feel like you've missed anything important. The end of the book is a perfect culmination of everything that has come before, with the main conflict centering around the fulfillment of a certain prophecy you can probably guess is coming if you're familiar with Norse mythology. By the end, I was left wondering if that prophecy was always going to come true no matter what, or if Odin, Loki, and the rest fulfilled that prophecy purely because of their fear of it and all the choices they made trying to escape that fate. How different might things have been if they'd made different, better choices? If they hadn't been so cruel?
Despite the tragic nature of this story and the brutality of the trials our characters endure, I still really enjoyed this book. If you like Norse mythology, I'd highly recommend this one, and even if you're not familiar with Norse mythology and just want a story that will make you feel things, this is worth picking up.