Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Curly and Blondie

The Dig Zoe and Zeus
~The Dig~
Zoe and Zeus
Book 1
By Audrey Hart
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~

Zoe Calder has always been an outsider. Stashed away in boarding schools since her parents died, Zoe buries herself in the study of ancient worlds. Her greatest thrill is spending her summers with her archeologist aunt and uncle on digs around the world. And one day, while investigating a newly unearthed temple in Crete, Zoe discovers a luminous artifact that transports her to ancient Greece.

As Zoe quickly learns, the Olympian Gods are real, living people—humans with mysterious powers… Powers that Zoe quickly realizes she has come to possess, as well. However, when the people of ancient Greece mistake Zoe for an Olympian, the Gods must restore the balance of the ancient world… No matter what.

The rest of the Amazon summary is a bit spoiler-ish, so I left it out. Don't want to give away too much at the beginning right? If you feel the same way, you may not want to read the Prologue either. Don't get me wrong, I liked how it introduced the narrator's (Zoe's) voice, and I thought the action was a great hook to get me reading. But I will admit that it gave away a good portion of the book's plot, erasing the tension in much of Part 2. So I guess if you're unsure of whether or not you want to read it, give the Prologue a read; if you're set on reading it, go ahead and skip to Chapter 1.

Zoe is our main character and narrator for The Dig, and I connected with her fairly early on. She reminded me a lot of myself: reserved, a bit socially awkward, sort of a wallflower, extremely observant. But instead of sitting on the outskirts of high school (or boarding school) culture and wishing she were a part of it, she wishes she could run as far away as possible.

I get it, she's a loner. But I got tired of the flip-flopping between, "woe is me, I'm so awkward, I hate being alone" and "everyone else is so shallow/preppy, I'm glad I'm not like them." I swear, I kept waiting for a Holden Caulfield "phony" to show up somewhere. All her flashbacks and ancient-to-modern comparisons painted the world as having three types of people: Jocks, Preps, and Archaeologists (oh, and her). I'm sorry, but that's an awfully narrow worldview for a seventeen year-old who's actually traveled the world, don't ya think?

The other characters left me begging for more, and not really in a good way. It's pretty bad when I know CeeCee (who appears only in Chapter 1 and flashbacks) more than any of the people she meets in ancient Greece. Creusa felt like more of a plot tool than a real character, or friend for that matter. Just another thing for Zoe to comment on. I will admit that Blondie was nice to read about, but he never threw me any curve balls, so I lost interest after a while.

And the Gods and Goddesses? Chalk them up with a paragraph apiece, and that's pretty much all we get. There was sooo much potential, like say after she finished summing up their personalities in 2 seconds maybe having them prove her wrong? Even in some tiny insignificant way? But no, it was cut and dry as soon as she saw them, and hardly any interaction afterwards. A major letdown.

Two seconds was about all the attention afforded to most of the descriptions, actually. Being an historical fantasy, I was expecting to be immersed in the intricacies of the ancient world—the architecture, the clothing, the customs, possibly the food. Maybe I'm just spoiled by Tamora Pierce. I honestly couldn't tell that we were in ancient Greece aside from Zoe's insistence that that's where we were. No identifiable landscapes, no clothing details (other than maybe a couple togas and a cape), no interesting customs, and frankly the mythical creatures only made me more confused. And the cantina? What?

Romance was extremely thick in this one. For being so judgmental of her classmates' boy-crazy behavior, Zoe jumps into the love pool pretty dang fast. I'm not saying it's completely out of character, especially in a YA book, but it did dominate the story a bit more than I expected/wanted. What is covered is extremely tame, no lusty thoughts or actions here, but it gets pretty gushy towards the end.

And speaking of the end, a little warning: The Dig is the first in a trilogy. Now, being part of a series doesn't automatically mean that the ending is going to be cut off...but in this case it is. Just thought I'd warn you.

And yet, despite all my issues and complaints, this was an enjoyable read. No, really, I liked the book. I put it down maybe twice, and once was only because I was dog tired. Honestly, my biggest problem with it was seeing all of what could have been. The concept was intriguing and I very much liked the voice and style of writing, but then I'm left with all the shortcomings. It was a great book to stir up the imagination, just not the best to dissect and analyze. Still, I'm looking forward to the continuation of the series, I just hope to see more overall. Especially the side characters.

Ultimately, I'd recommend The Dig to younger readers who enjoy romance, fantasy, adventure, and snarky girls. Underwhelming on the historical front, but a quick and easy read nonetheless. Language, romance, and violence are all G-rated, but I think the heavy emphasis on romance and cliques would keep it at minimum at Middle Grade level. The first of what looks to be an entertaining trilogy, The Dig (aka Zoe and Zeus) is a fun romp through a world of fantasy.

Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.