cover image Set Fire to the Gods

Set Fire to the Gods

Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-289156-3

In this Greco-Roman-inspired duology opener from Raasch (the Stream Raiders series) and Simmons (the Vale Hall series), disputes between the six gods are settled gladiator-style by their human offspring. Only those who have inherited their progenitor’s magic can serve as that deity’s champion. After earth god Geoxus, the ruler of “the western country of Deimos,” declares war on fire god Ignitus, the ruler of Kula, their descendants—Madoc Aurelius, 18, an olive-skinned Deiman laborer, and Ash Nikau, 18, a brown-skinned Kulan dancer, respectively—volunteer for the arena. Madoc, hoping to earn enough money in combat to buy his adopted sister’s freedom from indentured servitude, doesn’t reveal that his abilities don’t stem from Geoxus, which would render him ineligible. Ash intends to avenge her mother, Char, who was killed by a Deiman gladiator—and to depose Ignitus, whom she blames for Char’s death and Kula’s poverty. When Ash discovers Madoc’s secret, she endeavors to win him to her cause, potentially at the risk of his own. Ample action and earnest romance fail to fully compensate for murky mythology and heavy-handed plotting. Although vividly rendered, characters feel underdeveloped, undermining the tale’s emotional heft. Ages 13–up. [em]Agents: (for Raasch) Mackenzie Brady Watson, Stuart Krichevsky Agency; (for Simmons) Joanna MacKenzie, Nelson Literary Agency. (Aug.) [/em]