The Cronus Chronicles #3: The Immortal Fire

By Anne Ursu [LibraryThing]

Charlotte and Zee have had enough Greek god-based weirdness in the past few months to last a lifetime, but they know they’ve got more coming, especially when their mortal enemy Philonecron gets his hands on Poseidon’s trident, and gets it in his head to take over the universe. Now Philonecron’s wreaking havoc, Zeus is seriously considering eliminating humans entirely, and Charlotte and Zee have to sort through a secret society, an ancient weapon, and a prophesied “secret son” before they can even think about hurdling the final obstacle: Mount Olympus itself.

I posted about the first two books in this trilogy, The Shadow Thieves and The Siren Song, waaaay back in the early days of this blog, and waited quite a long time for this one to finally see print. I won’t really go into detail about the basic plot/prose/character stuff, because I already said it in the earlier review, and all of it still stands: the prose and pacing are uneven and the villain isn’t great, but the take on the gods is often laugh-out-loud funny, and Charlotte and Zee, the protagonists, are completely lovable.

What Ursu added with this book was a lot more soul-searching, and attempts at some sort of deeper theme. Unfortunately, there’s kind of way too much of it. Charlotte and Zee spend an awful lot of time harping repeatedly on concepts that never bothered them before (Charlotte feels guilty about worrying her parents, Zee feels passive and guilty about endangering Charlotte), and while it’s certainly likely that these feelings would come up after the events of the first two books, the fact that they never thought about them before and are now completely preoccupied with them, going on for pages and pages about the same thing over and over again, is frustrating for the reader.

Ursu also seems to be, as I said above, looking to pull out a moral or three, but it’s more just sort of grabbing at any moral in reach than a clear progression. There’s a lot of discussion of ends and means, and whether the sacrifice of one person is an acceptable price to pay for the salvation of humanity. Ursu’s conclusion is very clear: no, if you’re sacrificing someone else; yes, if you’re sacrificing yourself. While that’s certainly a common conclusion and not one that I necessarily think is wrong, I kind of wish the other side had gotten the chance to weigh in more. Maybe it’s because I was reading the TVTropes pages for The Spock and The McCoy right before I read that part of the book, but I think the idea that the needs of the many sometimes outweigh the needs of the few is a fair position to take, and I wish it had been considered instead of instantly rejected. (Again, I’m not taking a position myself, I just think it’s a debate that deserves equal arguments from The Spock and The McCoy before The Kirk makes a decision. Also, I’m sorry for linking you to TVTropes, and I’ll meet you back here to finish the review after you spend three hours there.)

There’s also a lot of talk about the difference between justice and revenge. Fine, great, awesome, no problem. Except, well. It’s pretty spoilery, but show

And there’s the question of knowledge, and free will. Our heroes are seeking the fire of the gods, which Prometheus originally gave to mankind; if they use it, all of humanity will be aware of the gods. The Prometheans, a secret society dedicated to protecting the world from the gods, are also dedicated to keeping the gods a secret, which they figure is the same thing. Charlotte asks why humans don’t have a right to know, and never gets an answer. Then…okay, sorry, another spoiler: show

These are all interesting questions. I have no problem with any of them, or all of them, being present in the book, but I do have a problem with the way they were handled, and the fact that they sort of rambled all over the place, crashing into each other willy-nilly. I really felt like the book could have used some serious streamlining in the editing process.

All that aside, I did enjoy it. Like I said, parts of it were very funny, and I adore Charlotte and Zee. The actual adventure parts of the plot were exciting; I didn’t want to put the book down, which is always a plus. And the very real love Charlotte and Zee have for each other hit me right where it counts, so points for that. (I have a weakness for cousins who live in the same house and are best friends, especially if they are a boy and a girl. It is a very strange, specific weakness, I know.)

The Immortal Fire certainly had its problems, but it was a fun book, and so it gets three and a half cupcakes. Not bad!

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