I've always found Greek mythology fascinating; it definitely consists of one of the most interesting pantheons in the world rivaled only by my interest in ancient Egypt. As a child, I grew up with D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, and it says something that those "dead gods" are still worshiped even today, in the twenty-first century, in our fiction.
Pandora's Box is one of those stories that I demanded be read most. Mostly because it's just so like a fairytale: to punish the humans, the gods release a very roundabout means of delivering their revenge--a beautiful woman with a deadly deus ex machina. The first femme fatale. Naturally, I was super excited when I found out that somebody had written a story about one of my favorite myths.
Pandora's Key is about a Dan Brownesque group of followers who protect the descendent of Pandora, and the box. However, there's an additional bonus to this curse--the descendents are doomed to die early, and painfully. Oh boy! There is also an evil group of people dedicated to collecting and selling the artifacts of the gods for money and power, and they are called the Archivists. They're pretty much like a society of evil Indiana Joneses. Except they walk around in robes, not Stetsons.
Some readers complained that there was too much mythology. I kind of liked that; it was a great way to brush up on the myths this story was building off of, and since the author added some things it was nice to have an idea of where the story was going.
Pandora's Key wasn't perfect though, and aside from the problems that frequently plague us indie writers (typos, info dumping, haphazard pacing), there were some issues about this book that bothered me.
First, let me say that I liked Malledy's character. He's a young member of the Archivists with early-onset Huntington's, a disease that will gradually wreak havoc with his muscle control, eventually even keeping him from swallowing--and, ultimately, breathing. (For another interesting book about early-onset Huntington's, check out the translated magic-realism novel, April Witch.) He thinks that if he can find Pandora's box and descendent, he can force her to heal him. The passages with him were pretty well done and I liked the twist with him at the end--I totally did not see that coming. Well done!
Evangeline's character, by contrast, was not so great. She's very passive and socially inept. A lot of the things other characters said about her didn't jibe with what she said and did. She doesn't think she's pretty, she envies her best friend's good-looks, she's clumsy; I would have liked to see her fleshed out, with interests, hopes, desires. Interests stemming beyond her looks and her love life.
I thought the way that she brought up her absent father when Melia's BF asked about her birthday was super-awkward. Who does that? "How was your day?" "Oh, my days have been pretty bad ever since my parents abandoned me on brothel's front porch when I was only six months old." I understand the need for exposition, of course, but it should come in a natural way that matches the flow of the story as it unfolds.
I didn't like Tristin and Melia, either. Tristin's behavior was sort of accounted for at the end but Melia was a total witch. Also, (view spoiler). I do like the fact that Evangeline didn't believe she was Pandora right away, but it actually went on for too long. That never happens! So I'm actually bizarrely pleased by this.
Let me close by saying that I really liked the idea. PK could use some polish, but the idea is very similar to the Artemis Fowl/Percy Jackson sort of deal, with a precocious kid fulfilling destiny and coming into age, blah blah blah. I'm not quite sure who the target audience is. I think the characters were sixteen, but they acted younger--and yet the medical information, while well-researched--is complicated enough that most readers probably wouldn't understand it without college biology.
So, to quote Simba, from the Lion King, I'll finish by saying that this book was "slimy, yet satisfying."
Thank you, Nancy Richardson Fischer, for providing me with a copy for review. I hope both that my review is useful, and that I didn't offend you by not liking it quite as much as some of your other readers. :)
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. This in no way biased or shaped my reading or opinion of the book.
(reviewed 2 years after purchase)