Hello Humans! Today I’m reviewing another one of my end of 2018 reads, Helena Coggan’s The Orphanage of Gods. As with most of my end of year reads, I had pretty much no idea what to expect when I picked this book up and what I ended up reading was certainly something new. This is a YA science fiction and fantasy novel that is being heralded (at least by one reviewer) as ‘this year’s Divergent’. High praise indeed (if you liked Divergent), but could The Orphanage of Gods live up to the hype?
Twenty years ago, the humans came for their gods.
In the bloody revolution, gods were all but wiped out. Ever since, the children they left behind have been imprisoned in an orphanage, watched day and night by the ruthless Guard. Any who show signs of divine power vanish from their beds in the night, all knowledge of their existence denied.
No one has ever escaped the orphanage.
Seventeen-year-old Hero is finally free – but at a terrible price. Her sister has been captured by the Guard and is being held in a prison in the northern sea. Hero desperately wants to get her back, and to escape the murderous Guardsmen hunting her down. But not all the gods are dead, and the ones waiting for Hero in the north have their own plans for her – ones that will change the world forever . . .
As she advances further and further into the unknown, Hero will need to decide: how far is she willing to go to do what needs to be done?
I ended up quite enjoying reading this book, I wasn’t sure at the beginning if I would or not, I found the opening quite slow and it’s quite hard to gauge the characters’ motivations at first (they are revealed in a bit more detail later on in the book) but the synopsis promised quite a few of the things that I loved in YA when I read it as a teenager so I powered through to see whether they would come through.
For the most part, they did. This book does feel, in some ways, like an amalgamation of various YA tropes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it certainly doesn’t feel like a rehashing of anything else, but there is a level of familiarity in some of the ideas that I think many readers will enjoy.
At first, certainly for the opening chapters, this book gave me major Maximum Ride vibes, I mean the early years before they got a bit weird and preachy. You have these characters with special powers on the run from an institution that wants to kill them. The more fantastical element in this story is that the characters are not science experiments but the children of Gods. Not named Gods, this isn’t a Percy Jackson rip-off, but unnamed entities known as Gods most, if not all, of whom have been killed off or exiled before the book begins. I loved this idea, and it was a nice way of having ‘superpowered’ young adults without it feeling like it was just for the sake of plot convenience. There is also an element of Red Queen in there, with the children of Gods being identifiable from the colour of their blood. I’m not going to go so far as to accuse this book of copying ideas from other books, but you see what I mean about that familiarity of ideas? Some readers may not enjoy such familiarity, I personally found it good fun.
I wasn’t such a fan of the characters in this story, they did grow on me as the story went on, and later in the book, more characters are introduced who I related to a little bit more. I did like the exploration of a toxic relationship and the dangerous idea of protecting someone at all costs, but it did also mean that I couldn’t quite comprehend or get on board with the fact that Hero was staying with and even protecting quite a toxic character for a good chunk of the book. As I say, the characters grow on you as the book goes on but you have to get yourself through those early chunks before the plot really starts going.
I did enjoy the plot once it got started, it is worth sticking through the opening chapters because once the ball starts rolling it rolls fast. I will say that this felt darker and possibly a bit gorier than books like Divergent, and it gets there quicker than you would expect. This is what I would describe as an older YA book (but obviously that depends on the reader). I liked that this book wasn’t afraid to ask big ethical questions and then to have it’s characters not give the obvious answers. These characters make poor choices but it always makes sense that they do (I’m still talking about the latter half of the book of course).
There is also a queer romance in this book but I can’t go into too much detail otherwise I will end up spoiling it for you, but it is there and it isn’t terrible.
I think this is a really good addition to the ‘supernatural young adults against an oppressive regime’ genre. Perhaps I’ve been looking in the wrong places but I feel like this genre has fallen out of favour with publishers of late, I’m excited for there to be more publishing in this area and I’m also inspired to re-read some of my old favourites.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Is this on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!