Book Review

Goddess of Spring, by P.C. Cast

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Title: Goddess of Spring
Author: P.C. Cast
Publication Info: Berkley Sensation 2004
ISBN: 0-425-19749-2
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Let me get the climax out of the way first – not very satisfying, but really, I can't amble around verbally until I get to the good part. I cried at the ending. Could be hormones, could be that I was really tired and already emotional. But I think it was the writing- I cried at the end. Y'all, it was that good. It made the pregnant Sarah cry.

This might be the hardest review I wrote because I want to squee all over the place about all the factors I liked. Candy and I work so hard to keep this a fair, balanced, and damn snarky site and I might as well hork up a fluffy bunny for this review because my gosh, I loved this book.

Goddess of Spring is second in P.C. Cast's Goddess series, between Goddess of the Sea, and Goddess of Light, and retells a myth you are likely familiar with, illuminating it in a manner that not only subverts the original meaning but recasts a lot of standard Greek mythology into femno-centric themes.

Lina, or Carolina, is the owner of Pani del Goddess, a Tulsa-based bakery. She's quite an atypical heroine, in that she is older (y'all, she's 43!) and she's survived the end of a marriage that left her caught between a lack of confidence — her husband left her for a younger, more fertile woman — and a regrowth of her own capabilities. She's the sole proprietor of a successful bakery using her grandmother's Italian recipes, and is doing marvelously well until her accountant gives her horrid advice that leaves her deep in debt to the IRS. Facing a great blow to her ego and her bank account, she goes searching for food items to use in an expanded luncheon menu to try to earn back the money she needs and finds an old cookbook in a used book store: The Italian Goddess Cookbook.

Part recipe guide and part spellbook, the cookbook offers several options for Lina's luncheon menu, and she decides to try out a recipe at home, since, as a proper Italian woman, she's got plenty of the core ingredients in her home, including good wine. Gotta love a woman who keeps good wine in her home.

The recipe for Pizza Della Romana, or Pizza by the Meter (nice pun there that only becomes obvious in the following chapters) instructs her to light a candle, say some incantations and verses of gratitude to the Goddess Demeter, and leave an offering of dough sprinkled with wine, which Lina chooses to place outside at the base of a tree in her courtyard.

While she completes the recipe, she begins to feel prickles of sensation gathering around her, and as she places the dough at the base of the tree and makes her personal request of the Goddess as per the instructions, a unique flower blooms suddenly, releasing a beautiful aroma that Lina can't help but sample. As she leans in for one last sniff, she suddenly finds herself sucked into the flower, and emerges in a completely different world, facing a woman on a throne, who tells her she is Demeter, and that Lina's request is granted, if Lina will complete a task for Demeter in return.

Lina is stunned, and, much to my admiration, not at all cowed by the Goddess in front of her. She agrees to the request: she will inhabit the body of Persephone, Demeter's daughter, and descend to the Underworld to lend the presence of a Goddess to Hades' realm. In return, Persephone, Goddess of Spring, will inhabit her body, run the bakery and restore it to financial health, paying off her debt to the IRS in full and tripling profits in six months' time.

So Lina descends to the Underworld, where she is greeted as Persephone and treated accordingly. Her presence causes a great deal of attention among the dead, who are more than eager to have a Goddess among them, paying attention to them, and listening to their needs. Then, Lina meets Hades, who is more than confused at the presence of the Goddess of Spring in his realm, and finds herself attracted to him — not at all part of the bargain of her visit to the Underworld.

Lina's interaction with Hades makes up the most marvelous part of the book. Aside from PC Cast's talent with description and her imaginative rendering of what the Realm of the Dead would look like, her creation of Lina as a mature heroine was a brilliant move. Lina is old enough to appreciate the young Goddess's body she finds herself inhabiting, but also woman enough to have to talk herself out of feeling sorry for her aged self, and the body she will ultimately return to. She battles feelings of self-pity regarding body image several times, but rather than growing monotonous and eliciting a “Get OVER it already” response from yours truly, I found myself cheering Lina on, and thinking, “Well, now, that's a clever way to talk yourself out of the my-butt-is-too-big doldrums.”

Further, Lina is also far from being a naive woman who is clueless about men, and is able to see past Hades' inexperience in talking to women, especially Goddesses, and view what must be beneath the surface of his often brusque and distant behavior. She looks at his creations in the Underworld and rightly realizes that a man without passion would never have been able to create such a place, or decorate it in such a thoughtful yet profoundly beautiful manner. Further, she is not at all repulsed by his connection to the dead, as most of the other immortals are, and she respects his attention to his duties as Lord of the Underworld.

And if I can remove my wrist from my forehead for a moment and recover from my maidenly swoon (snort!), let me just say, oh, my stars, that Hades. Tall, dark, handsome, enigmatic, dedicated, passionate, and convinced that he is flawed because he doesn't view intimacy as a disposable item as the other immortals do. He isn't interested in mere dalliances, because he has witnessed the bond between mated human souls, and covets that love and dedication for himself, even as he knows that no other immortal will likely fall in love, much less fall in love with him.

Ultimately, what makes this book so delicious for me is that everyone, even Persephone and Demeter, comes to appreciate the value of their own lives and the lives of others. Moreover, this is one of those stories based on a theme or myth that I'm already familiar with, and I began to dread how Cast would handle the ending of that myth, with Persephone spending six months in the Underworld, thus creating fall and winter as her mother, who is Goddess of Earth and Harvest, mourns her daughter and sends the earth into temporary death, and then returning to her mother's side for six months of spring and summer. I, of course, should have trusted Cast that a happily ever after was easily wrought by twisting the meaning of the established myth into one that focuses more on the female powers of both Lina and Persephone. At no time does Lina fall back into a powerless state, which would be easy since she's a mortal and she's wandering around in a realm of Gods and Goddesses. She comes to realize her own power and talent, and appreciate the talent — and flaws — of the immortals around her.

The only caveat I have to this book, my copy of which bears a shocking complete lack of marked corners where I signal passages that were jarring or otherwise peculiar for use in my later reviews, was the curious use of product and concept placement. On one hand, the Batman movie franchise is well known enough that using it as a method of describing Hades as a dark, tortured hero is familiar and certainly appropriate. But when an author mentions specific actors — if you find that actor repulsive, does it ruin the book for you? In my personal case, no, but I have to wonder, for example, if I prefer Michael Keaton and you prefer Christian Bale, and the author prefers George Clooney, who you hate, can you enjoy the book without picturing Dr. Doug from ER? Personally, it's no problem for me, but I am always curious about the decision to locate a book within reality, though when the book is a complete and total fantasy, grounding it with familiar names and concepts might be a calculated and wise decision on Cast's part.

However, product placement: this is a pet peeve of mine. At one point Persephone mentions a very specific mid-range bottle of wine by vineyard and name, almost like an advertisement. In my experience, unless you're referring to one of the few singularly great bottles of wine, a Chateau Petrus or Yquem, for example, which is like college tuition in a bottle, few people refer to mid-range wines by their names, unless they're ordering from a menu. Plus, and this is certainly particular to me, Cast mentions a specific type of wine that has an absolutely annoying commercial that I hear ALL the time on the radio, so to read about it made me think of that irritating, self-congratulatory monologue about the benefits of this particular wine.

However, I will be frank: that is the only negative thing I have to say about this book. I loved Lina, I loved me some Hades, and I loved the subversion of an established male-centered myth into a happily ever after ending for two women, and the creation of a mortal woman who learns that even if she's not immortal, she and all other women are certainly possessing of the powers of a Goddess. 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    I loved this book, too!  It’s one of my favorites by PC.  So, so delicious.

  2. 2

    I loved this book, too!  It’s one of my favorites by PC.  So, so delicious.

  3. 3
    white raven says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on that book!  This is my favorite of the Greek myths.  To see it written with modern interpretation, and in a romance setting, is wonderful.  I’ll be at the bookstore this weekend, money in hand. 

    As for the comparison to actors?  Unfortunately, this jars me so badly out of the book that I’ll abandon it.  It has the same effect on me as man-boobs has on others.

  4. 4
    white raven says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on that book!  This is my favorite of the Greek myths.  To see it written with modern interpretation, and in a romance setting, is wonderful.  I’ll be at the bookstore this weekend, money in hand. 

    As for the comparison to actors?  Unfortunately, this jars me so badly out of the book that I’ll abandon it.  It has the same effect on me as man-boobs has on others.

  5. 5
    E.D'Trix says:

    I loved, loved, LOVED this book. My fave of her Goddess series so far. I loved it for many of the same reasons you did, Sarah, and I cried at the end as well (with no pregnancy hormones to blame!).

    And mmmmm…Hades.

  6. 6
    E.D'Trix says:

    I loved, loved, LOVED this book. My fave of her Goddess series so far. I loved it for many of the same reasons you did, Sarah, and I cried at the end as well (with no pregnancy hormones to blame!).

    And mmmmm…Hades.

  7. 7
    PC Cast says:

    OHMYGOD(DESS)!  What an ass-kicking review!  And how totally refreshing that you actually “got” the matriarchal slant I gave to the myth(s).  During my research for the book I found it fascinating how much the Persephone/Hades myth had been twisted and changed by male povs.  The most ancient version of the myth had Persephone willingly going to the Underworld because the dead needed a Goddess.  None of this ridiculous rape abduction crap.  So I thought, “Well, hell (hee hee) I’ll fix that!”

    Goddess of Spring was a joy to write.  It was like taking a vacation.  I love creating mature heroines who are sexy and eventual find their HEA – little girl heroines make my ass hurt.

    Sorry the actor and mid-range wine naming bugged.  It was a Lina thing – what was in her head – so I hoped it worked.  It does make me crazy when authors compare heros to actors who make me vomit (uh, Russel Crowe – retch), too.

    I am swooning with pleasure at my Smart Bitch A!!! 

    XXXOOO
    PC

  8. 8
    PC Cast says:

    OHMYGOD(DESS)!  What an ass-kicking review!  And how totally refreshing that you actually “got” the matriarchal slant I gave to the myth(s).  During my research for the book I found it fascinating how much the Persephone/Hades myth had been twisted and changed by male povs.  The most ancient version of the myth had Persephone willingly going to the Underworld because the dead needed a Goddess.  None of this ridiculous rape abduction crap.  So I thought, “Well, hell (hee hee) I’ll fix that!”

    Goddess of Spring was a joy to write.  It was like taking a vacation.  I love creating mature heroines who are sexy and eventual find their HEA – little girl heroines make my ass hurt.

    Sorry the actor and mid-range wine naming bugged.  It was a Lina thing – what was in her head – so I hoped it worked.  It does make me crazy when authors compare heros to actors who make me vomit (uh, Russel Crowe – retch), too.

    I am swooning with pleasure at my Smart Bitch A!!! 

    XXXOOO
    PC

  9. 9
    PC Cast says:

    Oh, p.s. – I snot cried while I was writing the end of this book.  I couldn’t figure out if it was: a) beause it was damn good, or b) because I was shit-faced from all the wine I’d been swilling.  Glad you guys cleared that up for me.

    PC

  10. 10
    PC Cast says:

    Oh, p.s. – I snot cried while I was writing the end of this book.  I couldn’t figure out if it was: a) beause it was damn good, or b) because I was shit-faced from all the wine I’d been swilling.  Glad you guys cleared that up for me.

    PC

  11. 11
    fiveandfour says:

    I’m so glad you reviewed this book.  This sounds like something I’ll adore, but probably wouldn’t have found on my own.  I’m a myth buff, and the Persephone myth has so many elements that are intriguiging, so it’s like holding catnip out in front of a cat to know this story is out there: I’m now a little wild in anticipation of a great, big treat.

  12. 12
    fiveandfour says:

    I’m so glad you reviewed this book.  This sounds like something I’ll adore, but probably wouldn’t have found on my own.  I’m a myth buff, and the Persephone myth has so many elements that are intriguiging, so it’s like holding catnip out in front of a cat to know this story is out there: I’m now a little wild in anticipation of a great, big treat.

  13. 13
    Jennifer says:

    I want this book now!! I *just* went to the bookstore yesterday, but I think I’m going back soon!

  14. 14
    Jennifer says:

    I want this book now!! I *just* went to the bookstore yesterday, but I think I’m going back soon!

  15. 15
    Mel says:

    I’m SOOOOO going to get this book this weekend. Sounds RIGHT up my alley!
    Thanks for the referral! :)

  16. 16
    Mel says:

    I’m SOOOOO going to get this book this weekend. Sounds RIGHT up my alley!
    Thanks for the referral! :)

  17. 17
    Sarah says:

    I am so tickled that so many people are excited about a book I really liked based on my review. So – let me invite y’all who are going to be buying this book to email me your review once you’ve read it, and I’ll append it to this review once I’ve received it (giving you full credit of course!).

    And PC, thanks for writing such an enjoyable, delicious book!

  18. 18
    Sarah says:

    I am so tickled that so many people are excited about a book I really liked based on my review. So – let me invite y’all who are going to be buying this book to email me your review once you’ve read it, and I’ll append it to this review once I’ve received it (giving you full credit of course!).

    And PC, thanks for writing such an enjoyable, delicious book!

  19. 19
    Nicole says:

    I just lloooooooooooooved this book too.  And I have the other two on my shelf, but haven’t gotten to them yet.  I also got Goddess by Mistake in the mail today *squeeee*  Sorry PC, I couldn’t wait til next year, but I know I’ll buy the reworked version too. 

    Oh…and you need to update your “Currently Reading” stuff on the sidebar.

  20. 20
    Nicole says:

    I just lloooooooooooooved this book too.  And I have the other two on my shelf, but haven’t gotten to them yet.  I also got Goddess by Mistake in the mail today *squeeee*  Sorry PC, I couldn’t wait til next year, but I know I’ll buy the reworked version too. 

    Oh…and you need to update your “Currently Reading” stuff on the sidebar.

  21. 21
    Sarah says:

    Nicole-  I was JUST doing that!

  22. 22
    Sarah says:

    Nicole-  I was JUST doing that!

  23. 23
    Nicole says:

    *grin*  much better.  The others were getting rather dull.

  24. 24
    Nicole says:

    *grin*  much better.  The others were getting rather dull.

  25. 25
    Alyssa says:

    Wow, this sounds fascinating. I’ve always had a soft spot for poor Hades. I think he’s always been misunderstood. ;) I’ll have to check this one out . . .

  26. 26
    Alyssa says:

    Wow, this sounds fascinating. I’ve always had a soft spot for poor Hades. I think he’s always been misunderstood. ;) I’ll have to check this one out . . .

  27. 27
    fiveandfour says:

    OK Sarah – I went to the bookstore on my lunch and attempted to get Goddess of the Spring, but alas, they were out of it.  I picked up their last copy of Goddess of Light instead, then came back here to see it on your Currently Reading section. 

    Hmmm, Apollo – this should be good!

  28. 28
    fiveandfour says:

    OK Sarah – I went to the bookstore on my lunch and attempted to get Goddess of the Spring, but alas, they were out of it.  I picked up their last copy of Goddess of Light instead, then came back here to see it on your Currently Reading section. 

    Hmmm, Apollo – this should be good!

  29. 29
    PC Cast says:

    Oh, Jeesh! *squeeee*  Smart Bitches buying, reading, and reviewing my book(s)!  Y’all are making me Giddy!

    Sarah – girl, I owe you a bottle of totally ridiculously expensive Italian wine.  No mid-range booze for you, baby! (You may have it after you birthed that baby on Samhain.)

    PC

  30. 30
    PC Cast says:

    Oh, Jeesh! *squeeee*  Smart Bitches buying, reading, and reviewing my book(s)!  Y’all are making me Giddy!

    Sarah – girl, I owe you a bottle of totally ridiculously expensive Italian wine.  No mid-range booze for you, baby! (You may have it after you birthed that baby on Samhain.)

    PC

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