I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology and fiction about it (loved the Percy Jackson series) so I was quite excited to dive into this book, the first novel in a trilogy by Astrid Arditi.
The blurb is as follows:
A hero’s tournament. A defiant contender. Does one girl have the courage to take on Mount Olympus?
Hope’s world doesn’t have room for heroes. She barely has time for schoolwork, swim team, and taking care of her ailing mother. But when she’s invited to a mysterious tournament, the all-powerful hosts won’t take no for an answer.
Transported to Mount Olympus, Hope comes face to face with her new trainers—the pantheon of Greek gods. While other contenders train hard to gain a fighting edge, Hope searches for a way out. Instead, she finds a gorgeous shadow god who may just convince her to stay…
As each round unfolds, the ultimate prize draws closer—the granting of her heart’s deepest desire. If she survives the final challenge, her mother’s cure would be within reach…but only if Hope can ignore the tournament’s dark purpose.
Olympian Challenger is the first book in a bold YA urban fantasy trilogy. If you like Greek mythology, forbidden romance, and feats of courage, then you’ll love Astrid Arditi’s heroic coming-of-age tale.
What Starts It All Off
Hope Diaz receives a strange invitation with only the words: You are cordially invited . . . but nothing else. Later on that day, all of a sudden, she is able to read the entire invitation, which reads:
You’re cordially invited. . .
To embark on a singular journey.
If your heart is true,
And your soul heroic,
Dare to face your fears,
And your most precious wish will be granted.
If these words you can read,
Don’t breath them to a soul,
The punishment would be severe
That confidant may disappear.
You have until midnight.
As it turns out, the invitation was delivered to high school seniors everywhere around New York City but only a few were able to read the entire wording. Later that night, Hope sees a young boy on top of a bridge. A moment later, she hears a splash and realizes that the boy has jumped in. She immediately plunges into the water in an attempt to rescue the boy. Unable to find him and now out of air, she resurfaces only to be swept up by an enormous wave.
When she wakes up, she at Mount Olympus where she, along with the other kids who ended up there with are, area whisked off where they end up meeting The 12 Olympian Gods: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Dionysus along with several demi-gods, heroes and mythical creatures.
Descended from the Gods
The kids then all learn that they are descendants of the Gods, though they are not told which one (or ones) — that will be revealed in time. But they are then told that they were brought to Mount Olympus in order to compete against each other – that each of the contenders must face several trials and quests with the winner becoming the new Olympian Champion of the Gods.
Hope Is Not Amused
It was never Hope’s intention to enter into any otherworldly competition — she only jumped into the water to save the boy. Now all she wants to do is to return home and take care of her mother, who has dementia. Hope is determined to escape her plight.
Her first several days are filled with training along with the other 24 contenders. Still, Hope manages to sneak away and makes several attempts at escaping Mount Olympus. Unfortunately, she learns that all of the exits are sealed and that the only way she can return back home is to win the challenge. In other words, she’s stuck.
An Alliance With A Shadow God
So she ends up forming an alliance with a handsome shadow God who manages to convince her to stay. She slowly learns that there’s more at stake in winning this competition than simply a heroic title. She also discovers that not all is as it seems and that the Gods have an ulterior motive for the trials.
She also begins to suspect that these old gods may have neither the challengers nor humanity’s best interests at heart and that there may indeed be a more sinister reason behind the challenge.
Regardless, she finds renewed motivation to take the trials seriously, and she gets swept up in the quests, striving with everything she has to win all the while keeping in mind the huge reward at the end: the winner’s most precious wish will be granted.
With this wish, Hope will be able to cure her mother.
This was a fast-paced story with plenty of action, suspense, and emotion. I loved the nail-biting quests that the contenders had to undertake. The main heroine is strong, selfless, brave and kind and though she made friends as well as enemies, she always focused on what was the right thing to do, regardless of her personal desires. I really grew to love this character as the story progressed.
The rest of the characters were also vivid, diverse and well-rounded, adding a realness to them and to the story. As such, the story was filled with interesting character interactions adding to the excitement and suspense of the novel.
This story made me think of Percy Jackson getting sucked into The Hunger Games especially once the quests became more and more dangerous. The story was fun and thrilling, with just a touch of romance thrown in (which I’m guessing will be more fleshed out in the upcoming sequels).
The plot itself was interesting and I enjoyed the storyline. Being a fan of Greek Mythology, I loved reading about this pantheon of Gods, hearing their stories and seeing their strengths and weaknesses and felt that this novel took a unique and interesting approach to this mythology. The world building was amazing and made the reader feel as though we were right there on Mount Olympus along with all of the gods, heroes and challengers.
Astrid Arditi’s writing is easy to read and flows well so it makes for fast reading, which worked well for this fast-paced type of story.
My only niggle with this book is that the story ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger (don’t worry — we do find out who wins the championship) which I’m never a fan of. If it wasn’t for the cliffhanger, this would have been a 5-star book for me. Regardless, this book held my interest enough so that I would definitely recommend it and will be picking up the sequel as soon as it’s released. Recommended!
Note that the version I read was an Advance Reader Copy kindly provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The novel is not yet out — it will be released on July 31, 2018, so if this sounds like something you’ll enjoy, make sure to add it to your calendar!