Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lex Trent Versus the Gods by Alex Bell

February 2010, Headline
344 pages, Paperback
Review Copy

YA, Fantasy

Cushions: 3
Daggers: 1
Paperclip: 0.5
Smiles: 5
Tissues: 2
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥+

Summary from Headline

Law student Lex Trent’s world is inhabited by fearsome magicians, ageing crones and a menagerie of Gods and Goddesses. And while Lex is seemingly dedicated to his legal studies he’s always enjoyed a challenge – which is why he leads a double life as the notorious cat burglar ‘The Shadowman’ who has been (luckily) evading capture for years. But Lex’s luck is about to run out because the Goddess of Fortune has selected him to be her player in the highly dangerous Games. Losing is not an option for Lex (particularly as it so often involves dying) but can he really win each of the perilous rounds? Given that the reward for doing so is money, fame and glory – all things that Lex is quite keen on – he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure he will... and he’s certainly got good experience of cheating.

I could tell from the first page that this would be a humourous read. After all, if the gods do something because they want peace and quiet, who knows what other decisions hey will make to keep up with their whims. The lives of mortals and immortals alike aren't safe. The humour makes the prologue fun to read and I easily absorbed the necessary background information. The last sentence of prologue made me glad that my mouth was not full of water. I laughed so hard that I made sure not to drink while reading the book.

I can honestly say I've never met a character like Lex. Even when it is blindingly obvious that he is the culprit, he makes the effort to mislead people. Although what Lex does is wrong, he isn't what I would term an evil person. He doesn't kill people. I don't think he hurts people physically on purpose, at least not some of the time. He hurts quite a lot of people emotionally, something he doesn't get his head around until nearer the end of the book. Sure, he isn't a character of good morals who can be a role model to the world, but that is what makes him appealing as a hero. Lex enjoys being on the run. There's a lot of him I can't relate to, yet I still find him fascinating.

I like the way the accents are written when Lex takes on a different persona. He is certainly a jack of all trades. Captain of a ship is not, however, one of his professions, as the wrecked port of Gandylow will testify.

After being let out on bail I expected Lex to hunt down fortune and figure out why she isn't helping him. He does do this, but not in the way I thought. I thought the search would take longer, and it would involve him having to travelling the forbidden ladders. He does travel on the ladders, but for a completely different reason.

The problem Lex had was that he thought Fortune would behave a certain way. She didn't share the same view of what she should be doing with him. No wonder Lex landed up in trouble. At least Fortune doesn't ignore him completely.

I started to dislike Lex a little after his mistreatment of the cat. Yes, it was a smart move. I've been hysterical when I've seen cats fall in a bath (the sight of them sopping wet and they don't suffer more than embarrassment), but someone who would even think of using such a threat is horrid.

Considering how widely used the term lady luck is, it's not surprising that she has made it as a star character in a book. The goddess Fortune is fickle, landing Lex in serious trouble every now and then. However, is it really trouble, or does she plan the mishaps for her own goals?

Gods might live in a different half of the world but they still dabbled in human affairs. They had churches that needed active participants, they appeared every now and then for the Games. Competitive gods play dirty, they like to cheat and use every means of winning possible. The mortals don't really stand much of a chance. Unless they are called Lex Trent.

The Games are really important. From an explanation why winners only have a passing fame, it is no surprise that the games get spiced up by the gods. Or that Lex gets tangled up in it. He is determined to win but having Mr Schmidt as his partner isn't what he had in mind. So he keeps quiet about being a combatant with Mr Schmidt until right before the entry to the games. Bound to Mr Schmidt in a certain way, Lex does all he can to enhance the dislike between the two of them. Mr Schmidt isn't entirely innocent. He gives as good as he gets.

Lex and Schmidt make a funny couple. Schmidt causes Lex a lot of grief, but on occassion he proves to be useful. He is devious and teaches Lex that people are never all they appear to be. That there is always some secret they don't share with most people.

Although most secrets aren't as shocking as the one Schmidt hides.

When it comes to the other opponents in the Games, there was a sizeable twist there. The revelations from that twist have me liking Lex a little less, and thinking hat any misfortune which strikes him is well deserved. I did give him the benefit of the doubt that the whole story behind his shady background wasn't told straight away. As more was revealed, i withdrew that benefit of doubt. That was until near the end of the book, where I took back my thoughts on him.

The third competitor is pretty unremarkable until they do something in front of Lex and Schmidt which had me reaching for a tissue.

For all the humour, I didn't expect there to be a serous side to the story. How Alzheimer's and dementia is portrayed gave me a lump in my throat. It made Lex think twice about life. It shaped who he was, and who he would become. It wasn't something that he could escape from, no matter how hard he tried. I liked how drinking is portrayed as something that dulls the senses, and therefore isn't cool. At last a character who doesn't drink!

Enchanted boats are cool, no bobbing up and down for the enchanters, or thieves who steal the enchanted boat. I feel I would actually like sailing if I could travel on one of these. .I like how ancient mythical creatures are involved in the game - medusa and minotaur.

Also in the book: strong crones, rabid rabbit, giant bats (the animal variety), flying hippos, ferret, rhinos, fake magic sticks, fairy godmothers, griffins.

It's at the end when Lex is faced with an awful situation that the full truth about his grandfather comes out and I felt so sorry for Lex. I understood why he acted how he did. It wasn't necessarily the best course of action, but he couldn't help how he felt. I needed a tissue. You really can completely read someone wrong. Lex hid his pain under the guuse of arrogance and confidence.

Schmidt was hiding two secrets that makes me want to reread the book straight away. One had me staring at the book for several seconds thinking 'wow'. I didn't see that one coming.

Alex has incorporated her knowledge and experience of law deftly into the story.She can be found on her site here.

For an entertaining read that touches on serious issues, check out Tamsyn Murray's My So-Called Afterlife.

For a thrilling but less light-hearted read try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Sarah said...

Fab review Jessica! I've added your link to mine :o)

Yunaleska said...

Thanks Sarah!