Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Underworld by Meg Cabot

Underworld (2012)
Meg Cabot
Grade: B-
Genre: YA paranormal
Sex scenes: classic Meg Cabot fade-to-black
Source: library
Abandon series: (1) Abandon, (2) Underworld 

Pierce Oliviera is stuck in the Underworld and there’s no going back. At least she won’t be bored, with her boyfriend John Hayden for company. He might be King of the Underworld (and thus she’s his Queen Consort) but someone’s got to do it, right? Besides, Pierce has got bigger things to worry about, like the Furies that are after her and want to see her dead …

Pierce’s transition into her new life hasn’t been as smooth as she’d hoped. Her departure from Earth was captured by CCTV and to the world (along with some help from Pierce’s over-exaggerating, Fury-possessed Grandmother), it looks as if she were kidnapped. With a £1million reward on her head (really, was that all her dad could afford?) and so many loose ends to tie up back on Earth, Pierce must be very careful during her return visit not to draw too much attention to herself. And whatever she does, it must be fast. Terrible consequences are suffered in the Underworld when the balance is upset and its residents must not spend too long in the land of the living.

Pierce’s cousin Alex is in grave trouble and she doesn’t know whether the video she’s seen of him in said trouble has already happened or is an indication of what is to come. Either way, she needs to get back to either try and clean up the collateral damage or try and prevent the events from taking place in the first place … add to the mix that Alex is a bit of a loner and will no doubt have trouble believing Pierce in the first place, and she’s got a mess on her hands that needs to be dealt with before the Furies find her and the Underworld takes action to right the equilibrium … time is ticking fast …

I’m still loving the Greek mythology element and its constant undercurrent through the whole book. Meg Cabot is still great for a fluffy YA story when I need it (I picked up the final Princess Diaries the other day for a re-read and loved it) but the sense of history and myth entwined through the whole novel gives it a different dimension from her other books that I love. Again, why didn’t I take Classics when I had the chance?

I moaned a bit about being confused in Abandon but now that I know the story a bit better and we’re simply carrying on from where we left off, Underworld was a much easier read. That said, it’s been a good six months from when I finished Abandon and so it took a few chapters to get properly involved in the story again but once I had, it was just good to be back with good ol’ Meg Cabot again. She has a way of writing that’s authentic without being patronising and when you’re writing teen fiction, that’s exactly what’s needed. I’ve read too many YA novels where the author just can’t get that tone right, but there’s a reason that Ms Cabot has been so incredibly successful at what she does: she can channel her inner teenager like a teenager really would.

There’s some internal confusion and mystery about the true meaning of the Persephone-and-the-pomegranates myth and while I was confused alongside Pierce, I loved it. Legend has it that Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds whilst in the Underworld, so was condemned to spend half of the year with Hades. Pierce knows of the myth yet eats anyway, knowing that she’s bound to spend the rest of her days in the Underworld even if she chooses to starve herself. That’s not nearly the full story and it’s an intriguing puzzle as we follow Pierce’s journey in figuring it out.

I complained in my review of Abandon that we didn’t know nearly enough about John for me to start liking him properly. Yes, Pierce and John have the rest of eternity to get to know each other, but us readers don’t have quite the same amount of time on our hands. In Underworld, my questions were answered. Not only do we find out about his horrible family that he mentioned before, but we also get the sordid details of why John has ended up King of the Underworld and how all this is related to why Isla Huesos celebrates Coffin Night every year – it’s a story to remember and now that we’ve got all this background, everything starts falling into place. John becomes much more congenial to both Pierce and the reader for sharing his secrets and we’ve just got ourselves a much rounder character.

John’s companions in the Underworld are fantastic. You’ve got Henry, Mr Liu, Frank and Mr Graves and I love them all. I liken them in my head to the equivalents of the talking furniture in Beauty and the Beast. The hero relies on them to make the place the place it is and without them, it wouldn’t be able to function. They all have their different roles to play and while they may have mixed feelings towards Pierce and the consequences of what John has done in bringing her to the Underworld, they all understand their duty in helping to keep her safe. Secondary characters rock.

Meg Cabot is no stranger to writing about the supernatural (The Mediator, Missing) and the Abandon series has shown that she hasn't lost her knack. I may not have been convinced by Abandon, but Underworld has won me over and with John as your consort, a girl could seriously consider never leaving. There's enough mythology to keep me enthused and it's one of the things that I love most about the series. You can count me back for Awaken.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction

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