Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Goddess Girls #5 Athena the Wise by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Athena has been going to Olympus Academy for a while now and she's finally adjusted to being a Goddess Girl rather than a human girl. But now a new student has come to Olympus Academy, a human hero by the name of Heracles, and he's having much the same problems that she had when she first started, plus some of his own. One is his very strange dress, as he's wearing the skin of an entire Lion draped around his body, its head serving as a helmet, and he carries a huge club with him wherever he goes.

Zeus, Athena's father and Headmaster of the School, assigns Athena to show Heracles around, and also to help him with a list of twelve tasks assigned to him by his mortal cousin, Eurystheus, after an Oracle commanded him to. But because Eurystheus hates Heracles with a passion, he assigns labors that are flat-out impossible or designed to get Heracles killed. Athena follows Heracles and helps him with the second labor, that of the Learnean Hydra. Afterwards, Heracles eventually shows her the scroll with the labors on it.

Back on earth, Heracles was the smartest kid in his school, and he wasn't being challenged, so he tried to get transferred. The Oracle told him that he could transfer to Mount Olympus Academy if he completed twelve challenges he called Labors. So Heracles agreed before being told that Eurystheus would be the one deciding on what the Labors would be. Athena decides that she will help him with the labors, but the next labor is to bring one of Artemis's deer to Eurystheus, and Athena knows that will be extremely challenging. Obviously, he can't just grab the deer as they are Artemis's pets and she loves them very much. But when Athena helps Heracles by getting one of the deer to follow her and Hercules, Artemis is very unhappy that neither of them asked her permission first, and is quite put out with both of them. But she gets over it.

The next job is to take on the Erymanthean Boar, but he turns out to be quite a civilized beast and gladly accompanies them back to meet Eurystheus, who is so frightened, he hides in a huge vase. After that, they stop to clean the stables of King Augeus, and Heracles gets an idea when Athena says they would need a flood to clean them out. He floods the stables from two rivers and washes all the poop away.

On their way back they stop in a small town, where Athena finally meets Pandora, the wonderful human weaver. But the girl insults Athena even after she is aware that Athena is mortal, and they decide to have a weaving contest, with the one decided the winner to apologize on the next Thursday. Heracles is angry at Pandora for insulting Athena and thinks Athena should just punish her, while Athena is more inclined to be merciful.

But as Heracles sails for Crete to wrestle the Cretan Bull, Athena must decide how to deal with Arachne at her contest in the town of Hypaepa. It takes Athena a while to decide what she is going to weave, and in the meantime, Zeus gets a little testy that she isn't there to help Heracles. But he tells Athena to stick to him like glue once Heracles makes it back to school. But when Athena punishes Arachne for her tapestry making fun of Athena's mother and father, Athena has to help Heracles with his last two Labors. By why did Zeus set him those labors, and what does it have to do with the new Temple being built to him? And may Athena finally find Romance with a mortal hero?

Well, this is slightly better than the other books in the series, but the series still makes me cringe at how it perverts the original Greek myths into something more like "Greek Myths lite" and then makes the Goddesses out to be all about romance, which is definitely not the way that most of the Goddesses are, especially Athena, are. That they reduce adult goddesses, strong, powerful women, to teenagers who seem to be mostly interested in beauty and boys just... well, it really makes me cringe.

I get that they are trying to appeal to young teen or pre-teen girls, but there is a difference between appealing to those girls and completely gutting the characters of the myths that you are trying to make appealing. I loved the Greek Myths in the third and fourth grade. I consumed them like candy. But I was reading the original, actual Greek Myths, not these watered down versions. I read both the good parts, and the bad parts (like Niobe's Children), and the parts that would seem purely insane- like how all the Greek Gods and Goddesses are married to their own brothers and sisters (or having sex with the same).

I continue to read the series, hoping it will get better, but while some things do, others never do and continue to turn me off the whole idea of this series. It's a curious mix of cute and cringe-inducing that keeps me coming back, hoping something will change for the better, and continually being disappointed. Still not recommended, sadly.

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