"Goddess", by Laura PowellI suspect few Goddess Pages readers could resist checking out a novel with such a title. When I saw it advertised online I requested a review copy right away, and failed to notice that the book is really aimed at young adults, although that wouldn't have put me off: I loved Philip Pullman's "Northern Lights" trilogy*, which is similar in that it also for young adults and set in an alternative universe.

It took me a while to understand the universe I found myself in. Although recognisably Britain, it feels more like the late 1970s than today or the near future. The big difference, at least the one that interests me, is that a Goddess "cult" has survived, the goddess being Artemis, whose image was supposedly brought to Britain by survivors of the Trojan War (and in our universe the belief that one Brutus, a survivor from Troy, came to Britain and set up a civilisation here, was disseminated in the 13th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth and widely believed until Tudor times).The novel also shows similarities to the Vestal Virgin beliefs of ancient Rome.

Of course, I was disappointed to see that a Goddess religion had, in our altered universe, become little more than a cult, however glamorous, and also that it had become institutionalised and oppressive.

Our heroine, Aura, a foundling, is due to be initiated into the cult as a priestess after a childhood spent within the cult. She meets a young man, Aiden, whose radical ideas force her to question everything she thought she knew. When Aura receives a prophecy from the Goddess, the High Priestess changes it and issues it as her own - to the benefit of the establishment. Aura begins to question everything - and everyone - she has ever known.

I have to say that the novel failed to hold my interest at times, and felt somewhat formulaic. The alternate universe didn't quite ring true for me either.  I would hesitate before giving this to a teenager or young adult to read as it may well give a false impression of real goddess worship today.

* Published as "Golden Compass" in the USA

"Goddess" is published by Bloomsbury and is available on Amazon