Shadow Falling (Avatars #2)

Title: Shadow Falling

Author: Tui T. Sutherland

The world had mostly ended, and now six avatars of various pantheons of gods (and one Polynesian interloper) are charged with killing each other in a winner-take-all contest. Unfortunately for the gods, the avatars have turned out more human than expected, and although some of them embrace the mission others hold back.

Gus was possessed by the Polynesian god of war Oro and doesn’t have the benefit of a trainer, but Oro knows how to handle himself. Gus is still one of my favorites. He’s not integrated with Oro’s power, since Oro’s personality is not his, and he’s more than a little concerned that his own personality might not survive the experience. And when Oro really gets going, he proves that the one everyone has chalked up as the weakest has enough fight in him to potentially tip the scales . .

Tigre, along with Gus, is one of the more normal (human) of the cast. He’s been flat out told he’s a weak god, and his own pantheon doesn’t expect him to win. I adored his trainer Tlaloc and the “training” sessions they have together. (And it’s also quite funny how everyone else is cursing out weather gods practicing storm-summoning as they’d like just a LITTLE less rain).

Diana continues to struggle between the Diana/Artemis and Venus sides of her personality. I loved how Apollo, who can only speak the truth, is both the most honest and the most subversive of the pantheon, as he’s bending the rules as far as he can to let her know things the other gods all want kept secret. I also loved how Diana came to her own decision about Amon and what she does with him.

I liked Kali’s relationship with Shiva, and how steady and reliable it is compared to the teenage drama happening with Gus and Diana or Tigre and Anna. And how that doesn’t mean they don’t disagree or fight, but there’s an assurance on both sides that they’re in this for eternity. And I liked how Kali, far from being a one-dimensional god who brings fire and destruction, has a softer side the other gods don’t want to admit is there.

This book is incredibly funny. Tlaloc had me laughing every time he shows up. Lines like: “A SLUG IN BED WILL LOSE HIS HEAD! ARISE, PATHETIC ONE! TLALOC HAS RETURNED TO BEAT YOUR POWERS INTO YOU!” followed by “LOOK TO THE SKIES! THEY ARE FULL OF DISGUSTING SUNSHINE! LET US GO FORTH AND TRAIN ANEW TO BRING THE WRATH OF THE CLOUDS DOWN AMONG US!”

Thor’s cheerful incomprehensibility combined with his gigantic stature and strength gets played for more than a few laughs. Or the utter self-absorption of the Greek pantheon in particular, who decide to inhabit an art museum because they like looking at the paintings and sculptures of themselves and making snide remarks about how other members of their pantheon were portrayed. Or the way Kali refuses to let Tigre live down the way he almost became an involuntary organ donor in the first book. Or Quetzie: Kali says she dooooesn’t need any comments from the peanut gallery. Is that me? Am I the peanut gallery? Does that mean I get peanuts?

Overall this is a much stronger book than the first, packed with a lot of action, humor, and drama. Tui T. Sutherland has incredible range as an author—I’ve enjoyed her books for younger readers, but she nails the older ranges as well. I like the different types of humor and the way more than half the book had me laughing out loud, yet underneath there’s a deadly serious game going on that the teenagers are desperate to escape (well, most of them). And I have my own guesses about the unnamed god that comments on the various events and characters; the commentary frequently adds a bit more humor or insight. Do read the first book first, just to get to know the world and the characters. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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