by Katee Robert
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Book 1 in the Dark Olympus series
He was supposed to be a myth.
But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell...he was, quite simply, mine.
*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that's as sinful as it is sweet.*
Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that's ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city's dark facade.
With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil's bargain with a man she once believed a myth...a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.
Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he's spent years craving, it's all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he'll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close...
Urban Greek Mythology Retelling
Neon Gods by Katee Robert is the first book in her Dark Olympus series, and centers around Persephone and Hades. Penelope wants nothing more than to leave Olympus when she gets her trust fund, and leave a normal life, away from the backstabbing politics. The choice is taken from her, however, when she is arranged by her mother Dimitri to marry Zeus. Knowing that marrying Zeus would be a death sentence (as it was for the past three Hera's), Penelope flees, and finds herself across the wards, and in the forbidden undercity. She never expects that Hades, a man and role long thought gone, would be the one to save her. And when she approaches Hades with a plan to hopefully make her undesirable to Zeus, and gives Hade's the opportunity for some well deserved revenge against Zeus, she is pleasantly surprised that Hades agrees to her plan - however reluctantly. The moments of acting out their attraction to one another in public quickly lead to moments of passion behind closed doors, but with the day of Persephone's birthday, and the end of their obligation to one another looming, can either of them admit to what they really want - each other?
Neon Gods has been on my TBR for a while now, but I had held back, because I was waiting for my Bookish Box edition. I think it was about a week before delivery when I caved and bought the kindle version.
I have some conflicting thoughts.
I really enjoyed it. I did. It is probably one of the most unique Hades and Persephone ... hell, most unique Greek mythology retelling I have ever read. It was just missing a little ... something. I think it comes down to the world-building. I absolutely loved that "the Twelve" was political and business positions, where a person adopts the gods or goddesses name, and lives out their lives in that position. The Gods and Goddesses are gone (I believe permanently), but the humans filling in their positions in the twelve keep Olympus running smoothly.
Olympus itself is when I get confused. It is surrounded by wards. There is even a ward between the Upper City (Zeus and most of the twelve), and the Lower City (representing Hades and the Underworld). It keeps Olympus secluded from the rest of the world. But the humans have no magic, and the gods are apparently gone. What is up with the wards? How does that work?
Before I get into the rest of the book, I want to just state an element that I LOVED about this world Katee Robert built - no one is heterosexual. So it seems anyway. Everyone is very fluid, and talks about past partners - opposite and same gender - and there is no shock value. It's normal. She even has someone who is asexual. I gotta say, I love this. It's refreshing, and fun. The normal-ness of gender and sexual fluidness, and there being no hate or shock over it is the ideal world. If you are hetero - great. If you are LGTBQIA2S+ - great. And while it is stated that the people of Olympus act very prudish, and believe women should remain virgins until marriage, from the sounds of it, behind closed doors its very different. And since we are in the POV's of the main characters, it feels very normal.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the book. You know I love a Hades and Persephone retelling, and I did really like this one. Hades is your typically misunderstood cinnamon roll, mysterious, handsome and charming. Persephone is sweet and loyal ... but also intelligent and feisty. There is a hint of tension throughout the book between them due to the looming deadline of their time together, but Hades and Persephone make their time on the pages of the book count. It doesn't take long for a plan to be in place to protect Persephone, and give Hades a bit of revenge against Zeus, and that is where the story has a bit of a twist. A little extra "umph" in all the Hades and Persephone retellings out there. I don't want to spoil it if you haven't read it, but let's just say that Hades likes to be boss, and that throne on the cover isn't there for dramatics. And Persephone isn't some innocent virgin, but an experienced woman who gets to live her secret fantasies without shame. Consensual, intimate (in more ways that physical), and liberating. Truly great character writing, and general world building (except for those wards, lol)
This is much longer than I intended. haha.
While there were some aspects of the book that had me scratching my head, Katee Robert's truly unique spin on modern Greek Mythology was refreshing. While they have the names of Hades and Persephone, they felt like their own people. Her addition of a very open, sexually fluid world was an added bonus, giving us all a taste of an ideal world, where no one is shamed for loving who they love, and exploring different types of relationship in future books. I definitely will be continuing the series.
Persephone: “You’re friends with Hermes and Dionysus.”
Hades: “I’m not friends with anyone. They just show up periodically like stray cats I can’t get rid of.” Hades: “If you bleed all over my floors trying to escape, I’ll be forced to track you down and haul you back here to clean them.”
I blink. It’s so close to what I was thinking that it’s almost eerie.
Persephone: “You are the strangest man I’ve ever met.”
Now it’s his turn to give me a wary look.
Persephone: “Exactly. What? What kind of threat is that? You’re worried about your floors?”
Hades: “They’re nice floors.” Hades: “You keep clothes at my house.”
Hermes: “Duh. No one wants to wear the aftermath of their drunken adventures home.”
She motions behind her without looking.
Hermes: “I put on coffee.”
Thank the gods for small favors.
Hades: “Coffee and ice cream is one way to deal with a hangover.”
She makes a face.
Hermes: “My head hurts.”
Hades: “Imagine that,” The first time she showed up was a mere month after she earned the title of Hermes, some five or six years ago now. She startled me in my office and almost ended up with a bullet in her head as a result. Somehow, that interaction translated into her deciding that we’re great friends. It took me a year to figure out that it didn’t matter what I thought of the so-called friendship. Then Dionysus started appearing with her about six months after that, and I gave up fighting their presence. Hermes snorts.
Hermes: “You look like death.”
Dionysus: “You’re to blame. Who drinks wine after whiskey? Villains, that’s who.”
He contemplates the coffeepot for a long moment and finally pours himself a mug.
Dionysus: “Just shoot me in the head and put me out of my misery.”
Hades: “Don’t tempt me,”
Hermes: “Yes, yes, you’re very broody and terrifying.” Persephone: “Zeus is notorious for not wanting what he considers tarnished goods.”
I take a deep breath.
Persephone: “So…tarnish me.” Persephone: “Silly me for thinking that you’re among the percentage of the human population that doesn’t worship at the altar of the hymen.” Persephone: “Better?”
Hades has the same look on his face that my mother gets before she starts threatening to throw people out windows. I don’t think she’s ever actually thrown anything in a fit of anger, but the threat was good when we were children. He shakes his head slowly.
Hades: “Hardly. You’re still here.”
I hold his gaze.
Persephone: “I still don’t understand the problem. Last night you were all throat-grabbing and snarling Mine, and today you’re acting like you can’t wait to kick me to the curb. Am I just not your type?”
It’s possible, though it seems a strange thing to trip him up if he really wants vengeance. I have access to a mirror. I know what I look like. Traditional beauty and all that, and that was before my mother insisted we sink a truly absurd amount of money into hair and skin care and wardrobe, though I drew the line at a nose job.
Persephone: “Unless you’re more into the helpless damsel in distress? I suppose I could play the role for you if that’ll get the job done.” Persephone: “You don’t need to take care of me.”
Hades: “Yes, you’re doing a stand-up job of it yourself.”
He sounds so put out by the whole situation that it immediately cheers me up. My peevish desire to irk him rises again, and I don’t bother to resist it. Instead, I lay my head on his shoulder and tug his beard.
Persephone: “Maybe I just want to be carried about by a big, strong man who’s determined to save me.”
Hades arches a single eyebrow, managing to convey skepticism and mocking at the same time.
Hades: “Is that so?”
Persephone: “Oh, yes.”
I flutter my eyelashes at him.
Persephone: “I’m very helpless, you see. What would I do without Prince Charming in dented black armor showing up to save me from myself?”
Hades: “I’m no Prince Charming.” Hades: “I’m going to make you come, little Persephone. And then I’m taking you upstairs and changing the bandages on your feet. If you’re very good and manage to restrain from complaining, I’ll let you orgasm a second time.” If I give an inch, Persephone will run a mile with it. I may not know her well, but I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt. This woman is no blushing princess in a tower. She’s a goddamn shark, and she’ll attempt to top from the bottom if given half a chance. Persephone: “Do you know, I’m just hedonistic enough to be orgasm-motivated. I suppose I can promise to be on my best behavior tomorrow if you make it worth my while tonight.”
He laughs. The sound is a little ragged, almost rusty, but as Hades laughs, he turns to lean against the door. At least he’s not leaving yet. He slides his hands into his pockets, a move that should be completely mundane but has me fighting not to clench my thighs together. Finally, he says,
Hades: “You’re making promises you have no intention of following through on.”
I give him innocent eyes.
Persephone: “I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Hades: “You, little Persephone, are a brat.”
He gives another rusty chuckle. Hades: “The game can be played many ways. In a single scene, most things are negotiated beforehand. This situation is infinitely more complicated. So I’ll ask you again—what do you want? Perfection obviously chafes. Do you want me to force obedience? Allow you your freedom and punish you when you step out of line?”
His dark eyes are an inferno just waiting to burn me up.
Hades: “What will get you off the hardest, Persephone?”
My breath stalls in my chest.
Persephone: “I want to misbehave.”
I don’t mean to say it. I truly don’t. But Hades offering me whatever I need? It’s more intoxicating than any alcohol I’ve tasted. He’s offering a strange sort of partnership, one I didn’t realize I desired. He might dominate. I might submit. But the power balance is startlingly equal. I didn’t know it could be like this.
Hades: “There you are.” Persephone plucks her nipples and skates her hands down her stomach. I’m already shaking my head.
Hades: “You heard what I said.”
She props her hands on her hips.
Persephone: “You want me.”
Persephone: “Then take me.”
Yeah, it’s official. I like her. I bite back a grin.
Hades: “I will. When I’m ready.” Hades: “Do you know what they see?”
He doesn’t move, just pins me to him.
Hades: “They see a monster about to devour a pretty princess. They see me taking one of their own and dragging her down into the dark with me. I’m ruining you before their very eyes.”
Persephone: “Good. Ruin me, Hades. I want you to.” Persephone: “See something you like?”
Hades: “A mouthy brat.” Hades: “Eros.”
He grins, teeth white and straight.
Eros: “Thank you for the show.”
His gaze slides to Persephone.
Eros: “You’ve pissed off a lot of people in the upper city.”
She shifts in my lap. I wait for her to blush, to stammer, to do something to signal her regret for letting things go so far in front of others. She’s never done anything like we just did; having sex in front of an audience is a big fucking deal to a sheltered princess like Persephone. I start to verbally step in to save her. She surprises me yet again. Her voice goes sickly sweet and coated in poison.
Persephone: “Funny, but a lot of people in the upper city have pissed me off.”
His grin doesn’t falter, though his blue eyes are cold.
Eros: “Zeus is furious, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep him happy.”
Persephone: “I have no interest in keeping Zeus happy.”
She gives her sunshine smile.
Persephone: “Do be a dear and give Aphrodite my regards. She’s been managing Zeus this long. I’m sure she’s more than capable of managing him a bit longer.”
That kills Eros’s smile. He looks down at her like he’s never seen her before. I can understand the sentiment. He whistles softly.
Eros: “Looks like someone underestimated Demeter’s perfect daughter.”
Persephone’s voice gains a hard edge.
Persephone: “Be sure and tell them that, too, when you deliver your report for tonight.” Persephone: “You want Zeus to pay, but not at the expense of your people. And they are your people. I’ve watched how you are with Georgie, and again with Juliette and Matthew. It’s like that with everyone, isn’t it? They would all walk through fire for you, and you protect them with your big, broody presence.”
Hades: “I don’t brood.”
Persephone: “You are the very definition of brooding.” I back her toward the door to my bedroom.
Hades: “I have things to do today.”
Persephone: “Do you?”
Persephone laces her arms behind my neck and beams at me, totally unrepentant.
Persephone: “I guess you should do them.”
I catch the backs of her thighs and lift her to topple back onto the bed.
Hades: “In a little bit.” Persephone: “You haven’t taken me back to your sex dungeon.”
Hades: “It’s not a sex dungeon.”
Persephone: “Hades, it’s the very definition of a sex dungeon.”
Persephone: “They shouldn’t have been left like that.”
I’m aware of Gayle moving back to the computer with the woman who must be her mother, giving us space and at least the illusion of privacy.
Gayle" “It happens a lot, especially if they aren’t purebred. They’re essentially worthless to breeders and just more mouths to feed. It’s crappy.”
Hades echoes. The puppy nuzzles his chest and settles into his arms with a sigh. He strokes its head with a single finger like he’s afraid of hurting it.
Hades: “It’s a terrible thing not to be wanted.”
My heart gives a painful twist. I speak before giving myself a chance to think.
Persephone: “You should adopt one. She’s right about that big, empty house, and no one loves like a dog. He or she will win you over before you know it.”
He contemplates the puppy, still petting it methodically.
Hades: “It’s not a good idea.”
Hades: “It’s easier not to care.” Hades: “If we were different people in different circumstances, I would get down on my knees and beg you to stay at the end of the winter. I would move heaven and earth and the Underworld itself to keep you with me.”
She blinks those big hazel eyes at me and licks her lips.
She sounds so hesitant, I simultaneously want to gather her into my arms and don’t want to move in case she never finishes that sentence. She doesn’t leave me hanging long.
Persephone: “If we were different people, you wouldn’t have to beg. I’d plant my roots right here in this house, and it would take a catastrophic event to make me walk away.” Persephone: “Don’t be cruel,”
Hades: “I am cruel.”
He slams into me again, sealing ,,,us together as closely as two people can be, and kisses me roughly. He lifts his head enough to say,
Hades: “You’ve ruined me, Persephone. Forgive the fuck out of me if I want to return the favor.”