Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bi/pansexual bigender MC, genderfluid love interest
Published on: 1st October 2021
Perhaps you know the myths.
Furious, benevolent Gods.
A tree that binds nine realms.
A hammer stronger than any weapon.
And someday, the end of everything.
But few have heard of me.
Looking back, it’s easy to know what choices I might have made differently. At least it feels that way. I might have given up on my title. Told my father he was useless, king of Gods or no, and left Asgard. Made a life somewhere else.
Maybe I would never have let Loki cross my path. Never have fallen in love.
But there’s no going back.
We were happy once.
And the price for that happiness was the end of everything.
I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
~Thor does not rock a dress
~All the queerness please, yes good excellent
~Zeus better watch out, Odin’s coming for the Worst Dad and King God crown
This turned out to be an incredibly difficult book for me to judge objectively. I didn’t think it would be – it never crossed my mind that it might be. I don’t know the author (though I did interact with her briefly in the process of requesting an ARC) or anything. It was just a book I was hoping would be good.
But it turns out I have much stronger opinions and beliefs about the Norse myths than I thought I did, and although this retelling sticks pretty close to those myths in some ways, it deviates from them in others in ways I just couldn’t stomach.
There are still people in the world who worship the Norse gods, and witches who work with them. I’m not one of them, but I am an eclectic neopagan, and I run in those circles. I know several people who work with/are dedicated to Odin, and I guess over the years I’ve absorbed what I’ve heard and read and been told.
Rector’s depiction of Odin is a very ugly contrast to the god who is still worshipped.
But of course, that shouldn’t matter. This is a retelling of ancient stories; it was always going to be different from the ‘canon’. Rector even warns in an Author’s Note that none of the characters pass through her story untarnished; everyone comes out flawed at best and fairly awful at worst. This is fiction, not religion. It’s not fair to judge it as anything other than fiction, to give it a low score for being what it told the reader it would be and doing what it said it was going to do.
If I try and look at it more like the way I view the Thor movies… Then putting aside my discomfort with some of the characterisations as much as I can, I still have to say that I didn’t enjoy reading The Goddess of Nothing At All. It’s light on description and moves too fast, too much of the plot felt unrealistically contrived, and I didn’t feel any chemistry between Sigyn and Loki – the relationship which is supposed to be the catalyst for the entire plot. It didn’t help that they got together so quickly – I wouldn’t call it insta-love, but I couldn’t buy into it, either.
I couldn’t work out the worldbuilding – couldn’t work out the difference between the gods and the people who live alongside them in the same realm. They’re referred to as human, but are they mortals? What’s the difference between mortals and the gods? Usually I want my non-human characters to feel non-human, but I was okay with the Norse gods not feeling alien – like the Greek gods, maybe even more so, the Norse gods have always been very human. But I got no sense of the gods having their own culture, viewing the world in a unique way, nothing.
And why is Odin the one deciding what everyone’s a god of? I understood and believed in Sigyn’s frustration in not being given her title after so long, but why is that something her father is supposed to pronounce rather than something she’s supposed to discover for herself? And everyone is Odin’s child suddenly – honestly, he gave me very strong Zeus vibes, having kids left-right-and-centre and generally being a dick.
At one point – this is what I mean about the plot feeling contrived – Odin declares Sigyn must find her title within the next two weeks or else. Why??? She’s already spent 50 years trying, how does he think she’s going to manage it in 14 days? It’s such a stupid thing, illogical and mean, and such a cliche. It doesn’t make sense, either – why would gods, who are immortal, ever think in terms of a week or two? That must be a blink of the eye to them.
And even if I think of the other characters as characters, not gods who mean everything to people I know – even then: just about everyone is horrible just about all of the time, and that’s just not the kind of story I find fun to read. They’re bitter and petty and rude and cruel and prejudiced – it’s unrelenting. It’s miserable. It’s certainly not interesting. Even when the story dangles a mysterious prophecy at the reader – a prophecy concerning Sigyn, and Loki, and their role in (presumably) Ragnarok – I just didn’t care. Sigyn and Loki themselves are perfectly decent (even if Loki is still, well, Loki) but I didn’t find them compelling, wasn’t interested in them or what they were going to get up to next.
I sat down and thought hard about why I had problems with this retelling, but just read and loved Blackheart Knights, another retelling. And that actually made me much more confident in my opinion, because yes, I have more feelings about the Norse gods and myths than I do the King Arthur mythos (which is what Blackheart Knights was retelling), but if I put the two books side by side? There’s no question in my mind that Blackheart Knights is just a better book, regardless of the retelling aspect. If Rector had given the characters new names the way Laure Eve (author of Blackheart Knights) did, if The Goddess of Nothing At All had distanced itself from its ‘canon’ the way Blackheart Knights did, thereby dodging my unhappiness with the portrayal of Odin… I still wouldn’t consider it a good book. Not an appallingly bad one, either, but not up to my (admittedly extremely freaking picky) standards.
Of course, I didn’t finish reading it: maybe it improves drastically in the second half. I can’t be sure that it doesn’t. I just know that the thought of slogging through it to find out felt exhausting, and not worth the effort.