Jordanna Max Brodsky’s Winter of the Gods (2017) is the second installment in her OLYMPUS BOUND trilogy and a direct follow-up to 2016’s The Immortals, continuing to follow Selene DiSilva (formerly known as the Greek goddess Artemis, whose epithets include The Huntress and Mistress of Animals) and her mortal boyfriend, Theodore Schultz. Though Selene and Theo were able to determine the cause of the strange murders in The Immortals — and stopped the cult behind it all — a new threat has arisen, once which will be impossible to stop without divine assistance.
Winter of the Gods begins at Christmastime, and Selene’s not exactly feeling full of holiday spirit, to put it lightly: she loathes the holiday, especially the very concept of Christmas trees, and her relationship with Theo has hit a point of serious contention for them both. He wants to move things to what he sees as the logical physical conclusion, while she fears what will happen to her powers and attributes if she discards her identity as The Chaste One. After only a few months of rising arguments over the subject, they need a serious distraction, or else something major will have to change between the two of them.
A serious distraction does arrive when an old man is ritualistically killed and displayed on Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull statue. Captain Hansen and Detective Freeman, the police officers who had been working to solve The Immortals’s string of murders, call in Theo and Selene for advice, and it’s immediately obvious that this is far more than the work of a lone nut, and that the old man is not the nameless vagrant he appears to be. The group at work here has access to unconventional weaponry and knowledge, the likes of which are too much for even Selene’s remarkable speed, strength, and healing ability. She and Theo have to reach out to their individual support networks for assistance. In her case, that means calling in favors from Dash Mercer (Hermes), Paul Solson (Apollo), and a few other unexpected allies. Theo enlists the help of Minh Lo, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History, and Ruth Willever, a research scientist who he met through his late fiancée, Helen. Their areas of expertise put current events in a historical perspective, while Dash, Paul, and other Athanatoi bring some much-needed firepower. But whether it will be enough to save them all from oblivion is anyone’s guess.
Interspersed throughout this mad dash for answers are brief interludes featuring another old man, alternately tortured and tended by a woman known only as the Hyaena. How these two are connected to the main story, and their true names, is carefully teased out over the course of Winter of the Gods. The man’s identity is a little easier to guess from the small clues dropped here and there, but the woman’s was a genuine surprise; the revelation was almost shocking enough to make me stop and read the entire novel over again, just to see what hints I had missed. The sinister group at the heart of the Wall Street crime scene isn’t content with just one murder, and their true purpose is almost admirable in its complexity and devotion to their cause. (Almost.)
As with The Immortals, Brodsky’s devotion to history and mythology are evident on every page of Winter of the Gods, incorporating real locations and events from New York City’s past into the backgrounds of the characters who have called that area home for many, many years. Significant divine articles — Aphrodite’s mirror, Morpheus’ crown of poppies, Eros’ bow, and Hephaestus’s golden net, among others — make appearances at crucial points. The Athanatoi who still exist and flourish are given impressively inventive ways to bring their ancient artifacts into the modern world, too. It’s obvious that Brodsky has given a lot of time and effort into this world and its challenges for her millennia-old characters.
Selene is still my favorite, of course. Her struggles to adapt to the modern world, to navigate the unfamiliar territories of romantic partnership and basic friendship, and to maintain her sense of godhood while determining whether that means being someone who can stand to look at herself, are all convincingly and thoroughly examined. Her shifting relationships with Theo, Dash, Paul, and the others cause credible crises of conscience for her. Though she’s thousands of years old, in many ways she’s still very immature and unsure of herself, and the OLYMPUS BOUND series seems to be structured as a coming-of-age arc for her in a very pleasing way.
Theo has important roles to play in all of this: makarites (“Blessed One”), classics scholar, supportive partner, human foil. He performs admirably, for the most part, but much of his behavior is motivated by jealousy and insecurity once he is put in the company of Selene’s male immortal kin. (To which I say, maybe don’t date a goddess if you can’t muster a sufficient amount of self-confidence, but that’s just me.) The green-eyed monster doesn’t suit Theo, not when compared to his behavior in the previous book, and his resentment begins as understandable but quickly becomes tiresome the longer he clings to it.
Mortal whinging aside, Winter of the Gods is a treat for any world mythology enthusiast, and contains a cracking good mystery. I can’t wait to see what trials Brodsky has in store for Selene, and I’m sure whatever happens in the next book will be truly epic.