Spencer Colt carries the barcode of the god Apollo, making him one of the most powerful Gladiators in the world. But such power comes with a price – in particular a destiny to face off against Helios, the tyrant of the east coast.
In this future America, the country has been split by devastating war. A war so destructive that the gods themselves acted to end the conflict. Now wars are fought between gladiators – beings enhanced by the gods and demigods – but not everyone plays by the rules and Helios is plotting to expand his empire by any means necessary
While leaves Spencer with a hard destiny to live up to, complete with a father with high expectations but no time for him and woefully inadequate training and a complicate love triangle between himself, Hannah who he’s always loved, Michelle who he’s often fought and Angie who everyone thinks he should be with due to prophecy.
And then there’s Kode – empowered by the mask of Tartarus and caught in numerous, horrendous acts – is he an enemy or an ally?
The further we go, the more the plots and secrets are unveiled – and the greater the stakes become.
For a long time in this book, I’m flailing without really knowing what’s going on. There isn’t enough world building or character background for me to truly grasp what is happening and why. Even after the 70% mark, when there’s a huge amount of information dumped in there, I’m still guessing and extrapolating more than anything. I’m not sure how the barcodes (which appear to be tattoos and they appear to be born with) give them powers or how much power or what power they give. I’m not sure if there’s a difference based on which god you’re imbued with or whether 2 people imbued with the same god have the same powers. I’m not sure of the power difference between gods and demigods since we see 2 demigods who are more feared and powerful than most gods.
I’m not sure about the writer. Not sure of the relevance of the position of the tattoos. I don’t know why Spencer’s tattoos were bound not sure why the arena and gladiator system exists – I have a vague idea, but I’m not sure. I think it was an alternative to war – but then we go and have a war anyway. Not sure where liminal beings come in at all or where they fit, not sure what dropping into Hades even means – and I’m not especially sure as to the technology and their acronyms that are thrown around a lot to my growing confusion.
And it’s the same with the character interactions. We start the book with a huge rift between Spencer and his dad – but I never quite got why that’s there. Or the relation between Spencer and Michelle and Hannah. We also have Spencer being the moodiest, arsiest angst monster we’ve ever seen – and again I’m not sure why this is. Without a good reason why for the surly teenager act, I was left with Spencer feeling pretty unlikeable to say the least.
There are also a huge number of characters that, despite the large amount of character interaction for the beginning of the book, I had real trouble keeping track of – which was especially hard when one was imperilled. The only characters that felt significant to me were Spencer, Michelle and Kode – so when, for example, Kode’s brother showed up or Spencer’s grandfather, I had to stop to double check who this person actually was. The problem is, menace and even death to some of these people were supposed to be a source of tension in the plot (or at least a source of angst for Spencer) and I didn’t know enough about them to care about their fate.