“The Goddess Denied” by Deborah L. Davitt

“The Goddess Denied” is a fabulous continuation of Davitt’s Valkyrie series. I was blown away by the first book, and this second book was equally amazing. Davitt weaves mythology, history, and science to create an alternate world where the gods are real, magic exists and obeys the laws of physics, and Rome never fell. The result is an incredibly rich, detailed, and satisfying story that is equally epic fantasy, alternate history, and hard science fiction. At the same time, the main characters are believable and compelling. For the most part we stay with the characters introduced in the first book, but Sigrun’s sister Sophia moves more into the foreground, as her tragedy becomes the central tension and final denouement of the work.

I am hesitant to make any final judgments about a series that I haven’t finished yet, so I’ll hold off on an in-depth discussion of Davitt’s depiction of female characters. But briefly: the series has a number of wonderful female characters; Sigrun of course, but also Sophia, Minori, Fritti, Reginleif, Erida, Zaya, and so on. That being said, so far there has been an undercurrent of distrust for independent women, and a positioning of the women as slightly subordinate to their men (I was strongly reminded of Battlestar Galactica in this regard, and I think there are a lot of similarities), which may seem strange in such a story, but is definitely present. And I have to note that the only Russian woman is evil, evil, evil! However, the series also seems to be leading to

SPOILER ALERT!!!!
several of the female characters, including Sigrun, becoming deities and standing up against the Olympian gods, who, as the characters so rightly note, are horrible rapists and usurpers, so this could all be reversed in the final volume. In any case, this is a very worthy addition to the fantasy AND sci-fi genres, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys those genres.

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