A Game of Retribution
by Scarlett St. Clare
Published by Bloom Books
Book 2 in the Hades Saga
Hades, God of the Dead, does not take sides or bend the rules.
He makes no exceptions to these values—not for god or mortal, even his lover, Persephone, Goddess of Spring.
Usually, fear prevents retaliation.
But not this time.
When Hera, Goddess of Women, approaches Hades with a plan to overthrow Zeus, he declines to offer help. As punishment, Hera sentences Hades to perform a series of labors. Each feat seems more impossible than the last and draws his attention away from Persephone—whose own tragedy has left her questioning whether she can be Queen of the Underworld.
A Game of Retribution is the second book in Scarlett St. Clare's Hades Saga, and centers around the events of A Touch of Ruin (Hades x Persephone Series), but from Hades point of view. In A Touch of Ruin, you are left wondering where Hades is, especially when Persephone is forced to deal with a trauma she wasn't prepared for. When Hera comes to Hades and asks for help overthrowing Zeus, Hades says no. As punishment, she sentences him a series of daunting labors, holding her much needed approval of a future marriage with Persephone over him, as well as her safety. But when Persephone has to face a painful reality in regards to life and death, and she is angry that Hades won't step in, he is left wondering if there will be a relationship left to fight for.
So, if you remember my review for A Game of Fate (the first book in the Hades saga), you will know that I enjoy the Hades saga much more than the Hades x Persephone saga. It's darker, it focuses more on the gods and goddesses (as Hades doesn't try to hide from who and what he is like Persephone does), and has a bit more substance to it. If you have read my reviews on the Hades x Persephone saga, you will also know that I'm not a huge fan of the first two books. And this book, while I enjoyed it, suffers from the same complaint I had from the other, earlier books: Hades and Persephone are terrible at communication, and it makes for a frustrating read. Hecate's was my fucking hero in this book, telling Hades that he needs to TALK ... to EXPLAIN his reasons behind his decisions with Persephone. Yes. Yes he does. If he talked to her, and if Persephone could get over herself for one minute and talk to him, instead of blaming him for something that isn't his fault, all the frustrating bits of their relationship would have been more palatable.
Aside from that, again, frustrating aspect of their relationship, I did enjoy the book. The trials were wonderfully written, and one in particular had me an emotional mess, and cursing Scarlett St. Clare for making me cry. Another was great because it was action packed. His duties to the underworld, and trying to make sure he is on top of what the other gods and goddesses are up to, were interesting. As for the romance aspect of the book, when they weren't fighting, it was great. Sex was great, if a bit repetitive.
If you love the Hades x Persephone series, I think you will enjoy A Game of Retribution. It fills in a lot of blanks, explains Hades moods and gives insight to what is going on that Persephone isn't aware of - which is a lot. But don't expect it to skim over their inability to communicate. It's here in full force.
Hades: “Do you know how I knew the Fates made you for me?”
She shook her head. He leaned in, allowing his parted mouth to touch her skin.
Hades: “I could taste it on your skin,”
he said, and his lips followed the trail of his fingers—along her jaw, over her cheek.
Hades: “And the only thing I regret is that I have lived so long without you.” Hades: “Where does this path leave Persephone?”
Hades asked, focusing on what was important. If one path led toward madness, he did not trust that the other would not lead to hardship.
Clotho: “Oh, dear king,”
Atropos: “There is no path,”
Lachesis: “That will leave her unbroken,” Hecate: “So what has he done to incur your wrath? Tell people when they will die?”
Hades: “No. He’s offering outcomes—athletics, cards, racing.”
Hades had to admit it was unusual. In the past when he had handled a mortal who’d come into possession of a relic with sight, they’d already traumatized themselves and others by offering insight into death dates, lovers, the potential for children. Everyone wanted to know the future until they didn’t.
Hecate: “What a waste,”
Hecate said, and Hades wondered if she was more upset that there was no particular drama to this case. Then she yawned.
Hacate: “But you know I do not go out in the daylight.”
Hades: “Are you saying you would forgo the chance to punish a false oracle who sacrifices cats for divine favor?”
Hecate cringed noticeably.
Hecate: “How criminal. I’ll be ready in ten minutes.” Hecate: “Charming,”
Hecate said, but it was clear she was not impressed. She stood beside Hades, concealed in her black robes. He glanced at her.
Hades: “You look like Thanatos.”
Hecate: “Better Thanatos than a greasy mortal. Why are you hiding anyway? You’re not one for dramatics outside your relationship.”
Hades glowered. Acacius: “You cannot leave me to him,”
Hades: “Tell me one more time what I can and cannot do,”
Hades said, and as he stepped outside, he found that Hecate had transformed many of Acacius’s men into topiaries.
Hecate: “I think they look better this way. I trimmed them after.”
Hades raised a brow.
Hades: “I’m assuming they did something to deserve this?”
Hecate: “They didn’t like cats.” Hermes: “Boo!”
Hades whirled and punched Hermes in the face. The God of Mischief stumbled back and clamped his hands over his nose.
Hermes: “Motherfucker! Why did you do that?”
Hades: “You scared me,”
Hades said simply, lips curling at the sight of the god’s pain.
Hermes: “I did not,”
Hermes said, dropping his hands. Any evidence of the strike to the face was already healed.
Hermes: “You wanted to punch me.”
Hades: “Don’t give me an excuse,”
Hades said, making his way to the bar, where he poured himself a drink.
Hades: “To what do I owe your visit, and what can I do to prevent it in the future?”
Hermes: “Rude,” Hades: “You sound like Hecate,”
Hermes: “I resent that,”
Hermes: “I can be wise.” Hades was doubtful, and then Hermes leaned across the bar so far, his chest almost touched the counter, and he whispered,
Hermes: “Has anyone ever told you…you need therapy?”
Hermes had, in fact, told him often.
Hades: “Pot, meet kettle,” Hades: “Tell Dionysus I’d be happy to chat about his recent acquisition at a time that is most convenient for him.”
Hermes: “No one talks like that anymore, Hades.”
Hades: “I just did,”
Hermes: “And look how long it took you to get a girlfriend.”
Hades glared. Hades: “Darling, I would burn this world for you.” Hades: “Speak another’s name in this bed again and know you have assigned their soul to Tartarus.” She had moved beyond his desk, which he kept free of clutter, save a vase of white narcissus Ivy insisted on refreshing daily…and a picture of her. He had taken it when she was unaware as she wandered in the gardens outside his palace. He could recall exactly why he’d been drawn to capture the moment too…because she’d looked so perfect among his flowers, and he remembered not understanding how he’d gone so long without her presence among them. There was a brief moment of strained silence, and Hecate cleared her throat.
Hecate: “Let’s go, beasts. The lovers would like time alone. Not in the dining room, please.” Persephone: “Hades, I’m serious. I want to know your greatest weakness, your deepest fear, your most treasured possession.”
How could she not know the answer?
His voice was low and rough.
she said and shook her head.
Persephone: “I cannot be all those things.”
Hades: “You are my weakness, losing you is my greatest fear, and your love is my most treasured possession.” Hades: “Well?”
Hades prompted impatiently.
Hermes: “I just really need you to understand, I’m only the messenger.”
Hades waited, and after a moment, Hermes closed his eyes and lifted his middle finger.
Hades: “That’s it? That’s all he had to say?”
Hermes: “He didn’t even say anything. He just flipped me off.” That night, he’d watched her from his balcony, wandering through the garden. She fit so perfectly among those flowers, like his soul had known to make it for her before she existed. Ariadne lifted the hem of her dress and drew a gun.
Ariadne: “Get out.”
The woman’s eyes widened, and she fled just as Dionysus’s hand clamped down on the weapon, wrenching it from Ariadne’s hands.
Dionysus: “Tsk, tsk, Detective. Don’t you know the rules? No weapons in the club.”
Ariadne: “I see you pick and choose your morals.”
Dionysus: “Like all gods,”
he said, and his eyes traveled down her frame.
Dionysus: “Hiding anything else under that dress?”
Ariadne: “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Hades: “By the gods, I think I’m going to vomit,” Hermes: “Deflect all you want, King of Corpses, but I know you, and you aren’t a talker. What are you planning?”
Hades: “I’m talking to you, aren’t I?”
Hades pointed out.
Hermes: “Hardly, and I’m your best friend.”
It was Hade's turn to raise a brow.
Hermes: “Don’t deny it. Do you ask Hecate for fashion advice?”
Hades: “Don’t make me regret my decision, Hermes.”
Hermes: “Regret? Excuse me. Did you get laid in those gray sweatpants I suggested you wear?”
He rolled his eyes.
Hermes: “Then you can’t regret it!”
Hades: “How do you know that was a yes?”
Hermes said, as if he were about to point out something very obvious.
Hermes: “Because I dressed you for sex.”
Hades: “Get Apollo, Hermes, and once he’s here, go to Persephone.”
Hermes: “On it, best friend,”
Hades released him, and the god fell to the floor. As he rose to his feet again, Hermes pressed his fingers to his neck.
Hermes: “Definitely thought I’d enjoy choking far more. Thanks for ruining a fantasy.” Hermes: “You must bathe,”
Hades asked tightly.
Hermes: “Because…the gold won’t stick.”
Hades: “The gold?”
Hades repeated. Hermes sighed.
Hermes: “Look, this isn’t ideal, but have I ever led you astray?”
Hades: “Yes, Hermes, you have, in fact, led me astray. This is a prime example,”
Hades said, gesturing to the room.
Hermes: “With fashion,”
Hermes countered. Hades glared. He did not want to do this. Hermes crossed the room to a stack of folded towels and threw one at him.
Hermes: “Get wet, Daddy Death,” Not to mention that Hermes had taken entirely too long dusting gold on his skin with the smallest fan brush Hades had ever seen.
Hades: “What are you doing?”
Hades asked, itching to cross his arms over his chest.
Hades gritted out.
Hermes: “To draw attention to your…assets.”
Hades looked down, noting he was almost covered in the gold dust. Hermes, who was bent eye level with his abs, looked up and grinned. Hecate: “What has you so uneasy, my king?”
Hecate asked when she found him outside her home.
Hades: “Could it have something to do with the fact that I have been killing all day?”
Hecate: “Murder does put one on edge,”
Hecate agreed airily.
Hecate: “Would you like some tea?” Hecate: “No one but the Fates can truly threaten your future, Hades.”
Hades: “Perhaps, but Hera can turn her scorn on Persephone. And that would be my fault.”
Hecate: “Is it your fault because you love her?”
Hades: “Isn’t that enough?”
Hecate: “Your greatest battle, Hades, will be recognizing that Persephone too has made the decision to love you. So there is no fault, only choice.” Hades: “There are few truths in this world, but the one you must always remember is that I love you.”
Persephone: “I love you too,”
she whispered and brought his mouth to hers. He rested his head on its back and threw his arms around its middle.
Helios: “Oh, Rosie!”
He moved around to her front and lifted her long face in his hands, touching his nose to hers.
Helios: “I have missed you.”
Watching this exchange made Hades feel very uncomfortable.
Helios: “I’ll take you far from here where you can never be taken away from me again.”
He kissed the cow’s nose—once, twice, and as he went in for the third, Hades appeared.
Hades: “I’m sorry. I just can’t watch this.” Persephone: “She was going to die—”
Hades: “She was choosing to die!”
Hades shouted. She stared back, her eyes glistening.
Hades: “And instead of honoring her wish, you intervened. All because you are afraid of pain.”
Persephone: “I am afraid of pain,”
she yelled back, her voice imbued with a hatred he had never heard before.
Persephone: “Will you mock me for that as you mock all mortals?”
Hades: “There is no comparison. At least mortals are brave enough to face it.” Hecate: “People like Persephone, who have been told half-truths and lies their whole life, need more than words, Hades, and you—you have to realize this isn’t even about love or trust anymore. It’s about you. Your fears. Your insecurities. You cannot continue to live a life and not show her the world you have created, no matter how awful or hard or scary. She deserves to know what it means to love you fully. Do you not wish for that?”
Hades: “I wish for it. But I do not believe she will love all parts of me.”
Hecate: “That is unfair to her. You think her darkness cannot love yours? She was made for you.” Hades: “Why weren’t you wearing anything under that dress?”
he asked, because as fucking hot as he found it, he couldn’t help remembering where she’d been before she was here.
Persephone: “I couldn’t… Didn’t you see it?”
Oh, he’d seen it.
Hades: “I’m going to murder Apollo,”
he muttered. She looked confused.
Hades: “For fun.” Hermes: “A lot of us love you, and you don’t make it easy, especially when you’re like this.”
Hades: “Like what?”
he said, gesturing toward him.
Hades: “I am not broody,”
Hades replied, crossing his arms over his chest.
Hermes: “You are, and sometimes it’s hot, but right now, it’s just pathetic.”
Hades: “Take that back!”
Hermes: “I’ll take it back. But only when you accept that you deserve more than loneliness.” Hades: “I thought you didn’t take sides,"
Dionysus: “Yeah, well, fuck anyone who sides with Hera,” Dionysus said. Hades: “I never said I didn’t want you. I thought I made that clear yesterday.”
Persephone: “So you want to fuck me? That doesn’t mean you want an actual relationship. It doesn’t mean you will trust me again.”
He paused before her, towering over her small frame, and despite the difference in their statures, she held her own, glaring furiously back at him.
Hades: “Let me be perfectly clear,”
he said, leaning close as he spoke.
Hades: “I do want to fuck you. More importantly, I love you—deeply, endlessly. If you walked away from me today, I would love you still. I will love you forever. That’s what Fate is, Persephone. Fuck threads and colors…and fuck your uncertainty.” Hermes: “You called, Daddy Death?” Hermes: “You need my help?”
Hades: “Yes, Hermes,”
Hades had said, frustrated.
Hades: “I need your help.”
Hermes: “With fashion.”
Hades did not consider this fashion. He was asking to be dressed down, and those were clothes he did not own. Still, he knew Hermes would not appreciate that.
he hissed, trying to remain calm.
Hermes: “Hmm. I may be able to pencil you in…though, I am always willing to do favors for my best friends.”
Hades glared, and Hermes raised his brows.
Hades: “Persephone is your best friend. This is for her.”
Hermes: “But Persephone admits she’s my best friend,”
Hades: “Does it mean as much when I say it?”
Hermes: “It’s like saying I love you. I might know it, but it’s good to hear.”
There was a long pause, then Hades mumbled,
Hades: “You’re my best friend.”
Hermes: “What was that? I couldn’t hear you.”
Hades: “You’re my best friend,”
Hermes: “Ah, once more, with feeling.”
Hades glared and said deliberately,
Hades: “You’re my best friend.”
Hermes: “I’ll have something for you by the evening.”