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Book Review: Divine By Mistake

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Title: Divine By Mistake (originally published as Goddess By Mistake)

Publisher: Harlequin Teen/Luna

Author: PC Cast

Pages: 304 pp

Price: $5.99 (ebook) / varies (paperback)

Shannon Parker is a thirty-five year-old high school English teacher from Oklahoma. Aside from the craziness that ensues from trying to get hormone-addled teens to pay attention while she tries to pound some Shakespeare into their brains, Shannon's life is really very boring. Until she finds a vase at an estate sale. And suddenly she's not in Oklahoma anymore, she's in Partholon -- a world of myth and magic and centaurs and Goddesses. And one of those Goddesses -- Epona, no less -- has Chosen Shannon. Just in time for her to lead Partholon in a war for survival against the vampiric Fomorians, who are threatening to slaughter and rape their way across the land to the Temple of Epona Herself ....

Cast's Divine By Mistake has been on my To Read list for a while. When I discovered that it was available from the library, I downloaded it immediately. On the one hand, I am sorry that I waited so long to read it. On the other, I doubt I would have appreciated Shannon's sense of humor until I was at least as old as her, anyway.

Shannon (or Rhea or Rhiannon, as the Partholons call her; long story and too spoiler-y) is a terrific character: self-confident and just a bit snarky, but also brave and loving and terrified that she will make the wrong decisions and bring destruction to those she has come to care for deeply. ClanFintan, the High Shaman of the centaurs, is a good match for Shannon: quiet and dignified and strong, with a hidden sense of humor.

The world building is also richly detailed. The people of Partholon may be less technologically advanced than 21st century Earth, but they are hardly primitive. They have bridges and large temple complexes, understand the necessity for quarantine and other procedures during disease outbreak, and best of all -- from Shannon's point of view -- they have toilet paper and indoor plumbing.

Partholon is also a naturally polytheistic society. As Shannon's handmaiden Alanna explains, all of the myths and fairy tales of Earth are pale, sometimes confused reflections of the reality of Partholon. To a native of Earth, Partholon looks like a mash-up of Celtic, Greek, and Roman civilizations. Epona is a Goddess of war and horses. The Muses are Goddesses of the arts and sciences. Each Goddess is served by a Beloved, a mortal woman who takes Her name and serves as Her avatar/high priestess. As such, Shannon is often called "Epona," as are the women who embody Terpsichore, Thalia, Melpomene, and others. Whether or not one honors a particular Goddess, due respect is always paid to Her, Her sacred precincts, and Her Beloved.

It was interesting to watch Shannon's attitude towards Epona and her place as that Goddess' Beloved change over the course of the novel. Initially, she can't wait to get home and thinks the whole thing is just a little bizarre. But as Epona continues to work through her, and even speak to her directly, and Shannon comes to realize just how important a role she can play on Partholon, her attitude changes. She begins speaking to Epona without prompting; even begins to think of Her as a capital-G Goddess. And while Epona is not omnipotent, She obviously loves the people pf Partholon and will use whatever tools are at hand -- including a teacher from a parallel world -- to save them.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Divine By Mistake. The story slowed down a few times (notably when our heroes were putting their plans in place to stop the Fomorians) and some people may find the Fomorians mistreatment of their female prisoners very trigger-y (rape and forced reproduction are the Fomorians' modus operandi). While it can be read as a stand-alone novel, it is also the first volume in the Partholon series. So, yes, if you want to revisit Shannon, her centaur husband, and her beloved Goddess, you have plenty more opportunities to do so.

Recommended to fans of Jolene Dawe, Juli D. Revezzo, Rebecca Chastain, Shannon Mayer, Hailey Edwards, and Ilona Andrews.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.

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