Release Date: June 28, 2013
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Genre: New Adult - Fantasy
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo
The Greek gods never actually existed. Did they? Sophie Darrow finds she was wrong about that assumption when she's pulled into the spirit realm, complete with an Underworld, on her first day at college. Adrian, the mysterious young man who brought her there, simply wants her to taste a pomegranate.Soon, though she returns to her regular life, her mind begins exploding with dreams and memories of ancient times; of a love between two Greeks named Persephone and Hades. But lethal danger has always surrounded the immortals, and now that she's tainted with the Underworld's magic, that danger is drawing closer to Sophie.
PERSEPHONE'S ORCHARD, book 1 of Molly Ringle's The Chrysomelia Stories, is, you guessed it! An uptake on the Greek mythical tale about Persephone and Hades. Sophie Darrow is Persephone reincarnated, she's a freshman in college and this exciting time in her life is shadowed by Adrian and his claims that she's the Greek Goddess Persephone reborn. To convince Sophie, Adrian Watts aka Hades, fed her some pomegranate juice hoping that it'll jack up Sophie's memory. And jack up it did! The days following Sophie's ingestion of the seemingly harmless juice she starts dreaming of her past lives til she dreamt being Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, and how she fell in love with the God of the Underworld, Hades. But being a part of the legendary Greek Pantheon isn't as fine and dandy as we assume. An extremist group called Thanatos knows their secret and have been hunting and murdering the reincarnated Gods to keep the balance f nature. Now Sophie is on the run and it's now up to her, Adrian and the rest of the immortals to stop Thanatos from annihilating their kind.
PERSEPHONE'S ORCHARD is a fantasy novel filled with MRingle's enchanting version of how the Greek Pantheon came to be, starting with the Goddess Rhea. I'm a myth junkie and take personal offense when I read a bastardized version of the original myths. MRingle loosely based hers to the original story and I liked how she re-imagined the entire thing! The Greek Pantheon has to be one of the most popular pagan Gods, they've captured our imagination because they're as flawed as the rest of us which made their dysfunctions relatable. MRingle made them even more human by having her Gods start as mortals born with superhuman abilities until they're given the gift of immortality. However her version is more subdued than the original, her immortals more reasonable and not easily swayed by impulse and the intensity of their emotions. So in a way, her characters are more likeable but not as entertaining than the original versions.
PERSEPHONE'S ORCHARD is categorized as New Adult but IMO it reads more like YA/Literary Fiction. Inasmuch as the myth and world building are interesting enough to keep me reading, there's not enough emotional tension to get me invested. The action-adventure part is also at a crawl pace, the gaps between the Thanatos' attack was far in between and slow to build. The first time they made their presence felt, they were all bark and not much bite and this went on for a while. When the Thanatos finally showed their hand, it was towards the last third of the story and was softened by more of Sophie's regression sessions. Which is unfortunate as there's nothing more exciting and entertaining than a bunch of right-wing extremists drunk on their own righteousness.
As for the characters, the leads Sophie and Adrian were too chill and even-tempered to provide much excitement. Sophie in particular I find too stoic. Her skepticism about the whole thing was watered down for my taste and she's not as spunky as her counterparts. Adrian didn't appeal much to me either, as the God of the Underworld, he didn't have the characteristics one associates with Hades. I didn't care much for their love story either, though I loved MRingle's version of Persephone and Hades' forbidden love, it didn't carry over Sophie and Adrian's.
Overall I feel neutral about PERSEPHONE'S ORCHARD. Though I love the myth, backstory and world-building, I didn't care much for Sophie and Adrian's storyline. Sophie's dreams/regression/remembering took the attention from present time. At times I wish MRingle just write past to present and add mini-cliffhangers to build the suspense on each of Sophie's lives until the timeline reaches the present. But these are just my opinion, PERSEPHONE'S ORCHARD is a good read but to set your expectations a little bit, this is more like Raven Boys than your usual YA or NA fantasy novel.