“The Orphanage of Gods” by Helena Coggan


Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I’ve read a lot of commentary about this book in the blogging community, so I was looking forward to reading it. It seems like this book is really dividing opinions with some readers loving it and others hating it. I have a strange tendency in life to like things that other people don’t, so I was curious to see how what side of the debate I would fall on with this book.   

The premise sounded great, after a rebellion against the Gods, their children must struggle to survive, isolated and cut off from society at large. I know what you’re thinking – “isn’t that the plot of Strange the Dreamer?” Well, it is nothing like Strange the Dreamer so don’t go into it thinking it will be or you will be disappointed (or pleasantly surprised if you are some kind of weirdo that didn’t like StD).  

The novel follows three different points of view, that of Hero, a half-human, half-god who has healing powers, Raven a young shapeshifter and Kestrel, a human friend of Hero’s. I’m guessing the author has a thing for birds? I can dig it, I do too. The different points of view were well-written and felt distinct from one another. I didn’t quite feel I got a grasp of who the characters were though, particularly Hero, and I wasn’t as interested in her characterisation as much as the other two. If you are more motivated by characters rather than plot this book may be a difficult read for you. I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters very well and thus didn’t care so much about what ultimately happened to them. Joshua in particular is an utter git and it’s been a while since I have disliked a character as much as I disliked him. Why he has two girls fawning over him I couldn’t understand. 

The novel starts quite slowly (if I’m being completely frank the first quarter or so is plain boring) but picks up around the 25% mark. There is also very little joy to be found in this story which I found quite hard going at times. It’s all very bleak, not surprising given it looks at themes around the brutality of war and the corrupting influence of power and there are some genuinely shocking and unsettling moments in the novel. 

The book has quite an otherworldly atmosphere to it which makes sense given the chaotic events experienced by the characters. Some of the narrative can also be quite confusing which could be interpreted by some as poor plotting, and by others as a representation of the breakneck events being experienced by the characters. I also struggled to visualise the various settings in the novel and again, one could say this makes sense given the context, but it felt an area that was somewhat lacking to me.   

In conclusion, I don’t know about this one, I really don’t know. It’s a well-written book and the author is clearly very talented. It’s more sophisticated and grown up than other YA novels and has a more subtle voice than other books of this genre. That said, the target audience felt unclear to me, I wasn’t sure who this book would particularly appeal to and I struggled with the characterisation and some aspects of the plot. It’s certainly an unusual book, it’s very different and I can see why reviews for it are so polarised.

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