Olympian Challenger by Astrid Arditi
Published by Astrid Arditi on July 3rd 2018
Series: Olympian Challenger #1
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Greek Mythology, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Length: 350 pages Source: NetGalley
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A hero’s tournament. A defiant contender. Does one girl have the courage to take on Mount Olympus?
Hope’s world doesn’t have room for heroes. She barely has time for schoolwork, swim team, and taking care of her ailing mother. But when she’s invited to a mysterious tournament, the all-powerful hosts won’t take no for an answer.
Transported to Mount Olympus, Hope comes face to face with her new trainers—the pantheon of Greek gods. While other contenders train hard to gain a fighting edge, Hope searches for a way out. Instead, she finds a gorgeous shadow god who may just convince her to stay…
As each round unfolds, the ultimate prize draws closer—the granting of her heart’s deepest desire. If she survives the final challenge, her mother’s cure would be within reach…but only if Hope can ignore the tournament’s dark purpose.
Olympian Challenger is the first book in a bold YA urban fantasy trilogy. If you like Greek mythology, forbidden romance, and feats of courage, then you’ll love Astrid Arditi’s heroic coming-of-age tale.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Astrid Arditi in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Covers like Olympian Challenger draw me in. It’s a guilty pleasure – I see a brunette on a cover in a pretty dress and magical lightning and think to myself – yes, I would like to be her. And I request a galley. Sometimes it works out, usually is doesn’t Olympian Challenger is somewhere in the middle.
It’s the story of a girl with a mother who is suffering what appears to be early onset dementia. Her mother has good days sometimes, but the bad days are quickly beginning to outweigh them. Then, a strange phenomenon occurs: every teen in NYC gets a mysterious invitation. Most people can’t read it, but Hope Diaz can. She dives into a lake to rescue someone, then ends up on Mount Olympus. Ugh, bad timing. She needs to get back to her mother and now she has to compete to be a hero of Olympus. No thanks!
The story goes on through a series of challenges, and Hope struggles between not caring about them and learning that it would be better for her to win… but then still not wanting to win. In many points, this story felt reminiscent of Percy Jackson – from the parallels with the Greek Gods and divine lineage to the desperate need to protect their mothers. Fans of Percy Jackson may like this book… or they may get annoyed by the obvious similarities.
Where Astrid Arditi impressed me most was in her research. She knows her Greek mythology very well. Not just the gods, but also minor deities, heroes, myths, and contributing players. She did not create a single figure on Olympus – they’re all from mythology, and they are true to form. You can clearly see Astrid’s passion in the topic and how important it was to her in writing this book to fact-check and share the stories of so many different figures. In that way, this book was really neat and I would have been head over heels for it as a twelve-year-old seeking out more information on Greek mythology.
Unfortunately, where Olympian Challenger falls short is in its storytelling. There is a lot going on and the motivations for both the contenders and the gods are fairly weak. There is no motivation at all for the heroes training the contenders. We get the barest glimpse of characterization even in our main trio (aha, another similarity to Percy Jackson!). I think that Astrid wanted to tell so many micro-stories with the heroes that she sacrificed the depth of the characters and world-building outside the mythology… and really rushed the writing. And that’s such a bummer because at it’s core, this novel has so much potential.
Aside from the cheesy moments, I genuinely enjoyed this one. I just wish it had been a bit better, you know? I wish I was able to connect better with the characters and that, as a reader, I had more time in each of the challenges. There’s a lot of potential here for an amazing story, and it falls short.