Pegasus #1. Author: Kate O’Hearn.
When Pegasus crashes onto a Manhattan roof during a terrible storm, Emily’s life changes forever. Suddenly allied with a winged horse she’d always thought was mythical, Emily is thrust into the center of a fierce battle between the Roman gods and a terrifying race of multiarmed stone warriors called the Nirads. Emily must team up with a thief named Paelen, the goddess Diana, and a boy named Joel in order to return Pegasus to Olympus and rescue the gods from a certain death.
Along the way, Emily and her companions will fight monsters, run from a government agency that is prepared to dissect Pegasus, and even fly above the Manhattan skyline—all as part of a quest to save Olympus before time runs out.
Flame of Olympus is definitely on the lower end of middle-grade age ranges. It was too simplistic and obvious on all counts to really appeal to me; I saw the plot twist coming within about two sentences of the first lead-in, and all the character development was laid out very explicitly. More, while I do enjoy a good story with Greek/Roman mythology, I didn’t really appreciate all the additions – one of the main characters was an ‘Olympian’ who doesn’t exist! And of course the monsters, one of the two antagonists, are also non-mythological. The other antagonist was the government. Ugh. Now, the government is a perfectly valid antagonist; there’s all sorts of epic dystopian novels that prove this wonderfully. However, there has to be some sort of point to their antagonism. You’re saying this government is bad because it does this and this, or because of these circumstances – there’s some sort of reason to their evilness. I thought we were done with the ‘evil secret agency in sunglasses’ trope, but apparently not.
The agents seem authorized to use crude torture and threats in a way that’s both usually illegal and definitely not the most effective. There’s unrestrained and blatant sadism going on, actually seen and commented on by other agents, but apparently not reported to a higher authority. The kids are at a low-point when they’re brought in, wounded and confused and isolated; kindness and consideration and an (apparently) genuine desire to help them would almost certainly have resulted in all the information the agents wanted. But jump straight to death-threats and violence, and of course they clam up. Now, by the time they’re interacting with the kids, the monsters loose in the streets doubtless count as an emergency; but their tour-de-force starts with [the thief], who’s no emergency at all. Just an anomaly. If you’re going to go so quickly to drugs and violence when encountering alien ambassadors, I shudder to imagine how the next alien encounter is going to go…
Finally, the ending was… okay. Somewhat anticlimactic. I mean, set up a desperate battle with a minimum of usable weapons, the final encounter depending on an innocent girl’s willing death, and we’re all on the edge of our seats… then just wave aside the whole death threat with no explanation, kill all the monsters at one also-unexplained stroke, and (possibly? Unclear?) bring casualties back from the dead. Oh, and there’s some fairly major plot threads left untied that our main characters are quite blase about.
So, overall, the premise was promising, but the writing-style was flat, the characters too blatantly-laid out, the plot fairly simplistic, and the antagonists simply unreasonable.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: Character stabs a monster in the eyes. Monster claws its way up a flying horse’s back before the horse smashes it into a window, causing it to fall off (20 stories down). Pegasus kills a man by kicking his head in. One character is drugged and questioned. Characters have to fight monsters off again, stampeding horses to trample some of them while they make their escape. One character questioning another uses some crude torture: slapping and hitting, squeezing a broken leg to cause pain, some off-screen and unexplained violence.