Abandon #3: Awaken
After surviving several attempts on her life, reviving her dead cousin and accepting the sheer impossibility of her situation, Pierce is finally ready to take up her new mantle as queen of the Underworld. It turns out that the ancient Greeks had it right about the afterlife, and the death deity, John, has chosen Pierce to be his consort and partner in ferrying souls to their final destination. AWAKEN concludes Meg Cabot’s trilogy that began with ABANDON and continued with UNDERWORLD. The trilogy reimagines of the myth of Hades and Persephone, if these deities were born human and assumed their roles as teenagers, and it infuses the myth with plenty of action, humor and of course, romance.
"In reimagining the myth of Persephone, Cabot breathes new life into the dark glamor of ruling the Underworld. Her most significant update to the myth is her deliberate inclusion of choice."
The novel opens with Pierce helping John corral the newly departed as they wait for their ferries to the Underworld proper. But the Furies, here evil spirits intent on disposing of John, take control of the boats and send them plowing toward the shore and the waiting souls. Desperate to protect his domain, John teleports himself onto one of the ships and crashes it into the other. The dead are safe, but now they must live as refugees until replacement boats can be obtained. John is less safe, but Pierce is determined to rescue him, even if that means returning to the world of the living to tangle with Thanatos, the Greek personification of death, and restore the balance between life and death that has somehow been set askew.
In reimagining the myth of Persephone, Cabot breathes new life into the dark glamor of ruling the Underworld. Her most significant update to the myth is her deliberate inclusion of choice. Pierce chooses to become John’s queen because she loves him and finds that the benefits of leaving her non-mythological life outweigh the costs, although the costs do weigh heavily upon her. She finds fulfillment with John in the Underworld that she never experienced as a normal teenager. This classic story of escape from normality to assume a privileged place in a magical world will resonate with teens who love fantasy.
Although the romance between Pierce and John is meant to be the emotional centerpiece of the story, it is difficult to buy into John’s urge to overprotect his beloved. Cabot has spoken about her interest in portraying Persephone as though her affection for Hades kept her in the Underworld, rather than duress. It seems that she wants to remove any ambiguity about kidnapping from the myth and tell it as a story about the sacrifices we make for love and the consequences of those sacrifices. For the most part, she accomplishes this. Pierce is in love with John, and she would like nothing better than to rule over the Underworld with him. John seems to trust her, as he entrusts her with the ruling of the Underworld should things go awry with his plan to crash one of the careening ferries into the other. But when the worst comes to pass, Pierce can think of nothing except for saving John. To be fair, John could have prepared her more thoroughly.
Cabot plays John’s overprotective nature as sweet, but his intensity sometimes crosses the line into possessiveness. He flies into a jealous rage when she kisses someone else as part of a plan to vanquish the evil they are both fighting against. He continues to pressure Pierce to marry him, even though she has told him that she is not ready. But since she has agreed to live with him forever in the Underworld, her qualms stem more from modern social expectations of the living than any reservation of commitment. He has a domineering personality and an idealistically masculine body, complete with a hard, flat chest and well-developed biceps, and this hypermasculine boy paired with a very feminine Pierce feels like nothing we haven’t seen before.
The first half of the novel struggles to find a comfortable pace, but the second half falls into a comfortable clip. Pierce spends the first 75 pages on the dock, waiting for the ferries while reintroducing us to the old characters from the first two books, establishing the Furies as villains and jump-starting the emotional stakes by injuring John, perhaps fatally. Pierce soon learns that the secret to saving John may be destroying Thanatos, but she accomplishes this quickly and with relative ease. After the too-slow pacing followed by too-fast pacing, the book finds its rhythm as Pierce turns her attention to figuring out the key to restoring the life/death balance of which the Furies have taken advantage. Pierce’s encounter with her possessed grandmother involves plenty of stylized fighting with a whip, Pierce’s weapon of choice. While the final battle suffers from long stretches of dialogue breaking up the action, the conclusion feels satisfying and complete, but doesn’t discount the possibility of future sequels.
Although the story could have benefited from pacing adjustments and a more original love interest, fans of the series will appreciate the action, humor and romance of its conclusion.
Reviewed by Caroline Osborn on May 23, 2013