Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Against All Gods by Maz Evans

– Short Review –

Against All Gods is the finale of what has been a rollercoaster of a series by Maz Evans. A series of books which I would be as bold as to say are one of the best middle grade series out there. Against All Gods has everything you want, laughter, action, new characters mingling with series favourites, a gigantic battle between good and the not so good, tying up of loose ends and a dramatic conclusion which is a delightfully touching capstone to the whole series.

Maz Evans – It’s been wonderful journeying with you and the cast of characters you have produced….thank you for the memories!

STORGY Typewriters 5/5

Books that you may also like – Who Let The Gods Out? series (Maz Evans), Tin (Pádraig Kenny), Beetle Boy series (M.G. Leonard).

Films that share a similar theme you may also like Jason and the Argonauts, The Odyssey, Clash of the Titans (original) and Disney’s Hercules.

– Long Review –

Well, straight off the bat you should know that I am a huge fan of this series and of Maz Evans as an author. The Who Let The Gods Out? series has been such a fabulous journey, which has continued to expand, develop and get that much better with each passing book, it’s been like running a marathon, but instead of growing tired and exhausted with each passing mile (book), it’s grown in its scope, power and story telling brilliance. Evans has created a series of books which have the longevity of Dahl in my humble opinion, these books will be inspiring children for generations to come.

The magic of these books is Evans’ brilliant ability to weave in Greek Mythology, making these books such an enjoyable read – because lets face it, Greek Mythology is full or rogues and scoundrels, unspeakable acts and entertaining eternal punishments – so what is there not to like for kids and especially reluctant readers. So, the series whilst being a spectacular fictional saga, also works as a great way to get children interested in Greek Mythology. It awoke the child in me and reminded me of all the Greek Myths that I learnt about when I was little and when my Mum and Dad used to take us on holiday to various Greek islands – where their vast history is celebrated and at the forefront of their culture. I’ve also lost count of the amount of times I’ve disappeared down a rabbit warren looking up the various characters Evans introduces – and it’s also given me plenty of time to chat with my daughter about the themes and stories that Maz Evans has strung together masterfully.

As a school resource the Who Let The Gods Out? series is something that should be made available in every classroom across the country – not only does it make learning about history fun, it’s also a resource for engaging young people around topical issues such as young carers, family bereavements and those with parents in prison – showing young people positive role models and also helping to break the stigma associated with these issues which are all too commonplace in the classroom (believe it or not!) – allowing these themes to be discussed rather than hidden from teachers, parents, peers and friends…is a little piece of magic and a legacy Maz should be championed for!

Against All Gods has Elliot making a deal with Thanatos for his mothers freedom from the underworld, but in return he needs to hand over the collection of chaos stones which he’s collected over the previous books. It’s a desperate situation, one which Elliot has battled with, but all he wants, more than anything is to have his mother back. So, Elliot collects the last stone from the Phlegethon river, and then hands all of them over to his tormenter Thanatos, who duly stands up to his end of the bargain and releases Elliot’s mum…but you guessed it, there are certain things Thanatos has not told Elliot about their bargain.

So, not only has Elliot had to hand over the Chaos stones to Thanatos, whilst he’s been trapped in the underworld in Tartarus – Patricia Porshley-Plum has been moving forwards with her plans to sell Elliot’s home and get rich in the process. Meaning that when Elliot gets back to earth with his mother he’ll be homeless and there appears to be nothing he nor the Gods can do about it.

Whilst reading Against All Gods I was aware that at some point there was going to be a huge battle, a battle that would determine the fate of the world, and my word, does Maz  Evans deliver. Producing a climactic event that lives long in the memory. I was expecting crashing swords, splintering shields, thunderbolts and mythical brilliance – Maz deftly delivers this and so much more. Evans style is so unique and her humour is a common tool used to perfection throughout the series, her take on the battle of good verses evil lives up to her comedic brilliance. It was laced with sarcasm, jokes going off all over the place (some that parents will get too) like hand-grenades, I was laughing my socks off with each page and with all the unique and hilarious way Evans was able to counter the horrid beasts, Titans and other evil that came the Gods way. Also a particular favourite character of mine in this series was Ares (God of War) – who is the best Sean Connery-esq God you will ever see put to paper, and had me laughing my head off on many occasions, especially in the climactic battle!

One scene in particular that broke my heart into pieces was the scene when Elliot has to take his mother from the underworld. One of the stipulations Thanatos makes is that he is not allowed to look back or his mother will disappear. It’s such a touching scene, one packed with power, love and loss – Evans weaves it majestically, after Beyond the Odyssey I thought enough time had passed that I may have forgiven her for what she put me though, but with this…I don’t think I can!

SPOILER

It’s coming up…

– TURN BACK NOW –

YOU CAN’T UNSEE THIS……….

But that my friends is the sign of a fabulous writer, Evans made me feel everything, even when I didn’t want to, having to mourn the death of Elliot’s mother for a second time broke me, it was such a poignant moment, full of love and hope – a real masterclass from Evans – as they say in writing ‘you need to learn to kill your darlings‘ and however painful it is, Evans did it, and in doing so, treated this delicate scene with such grace and compassion which really showcased her writing chops!

It’s OK Maz I’ll forgive you……soon!

So, if you are a fan of the series, I’d highly recommend you jump on the finale…it’s awesome. If you haven’t read any of these yet, what are you doing, toddle off and pick them up, or pop down to your local bookshop, you’ll be able to pick up the whole fantastic series. Also if you are a teacher, you need these books in your classroom.

Maz thank you for the memories.

Thank you for the memories my daughters will have of reading this series and thank you on behalf of all the children out there who have discovered Greek mythology through your words.

Thank you on behalf of all the young carers out there who have been moved by your words and been given one hell of a role model in Elliot, you have loosed the stigma around the issue of young carers, made it something that can be discussed openly within the safety of the classroom.

This series is special and I know it will leave a lasting legacy in children’s fiction for generations to come…the Gods are smiling down on you Maz, but be careful Hypnos is still out there!

We can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

It has been one hell of a ride!

Epic BOSH!

Against All Gods is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.

Chicken-House-books-logo

Maz Evans

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Maz Evans writing career began in journalism as a TV critic and feature writer. She has written for many national titles and is a regular pundit on The Jeremy Vine Show. After working as a creative writing lecturer, she founded Story Stew, an anarchic creative writing programme that has visited primary schools and literary festivals around the UK, including Hay and Imagine. Maz lives in Dorset with her husband and four children.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

You can read our review of Who Let The Gods Out? here.

You can read our review of Simply The Quest here.

You can read our review of Beyond the Odyssey here.

You can also read our interview with Maz Evans here.

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