Published Date: November 17th, 2011
Finished Date: December 1st, 2011
Publisher: Mae Day Publishing
My Rating: 3.5/5
First things first: I love the cover. Seriously, I mean, look at it! It has that very soft feel with that white and purple color combination, and the cushions.. And of course the model's absolutely beautiful. That cover is a real winner, I tell you. It was what caught my attention, then came the synopsis mentioning Greek mythology and I knew at that moment that I was a goner; I had to read DESTINED.
**Major spoiler ahead**
Psyche is the most beautiful girl of all Greece, and after having her portrait painted, she shot to stardom. Her beauty caught the attention of Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Aphrodite named Psyche her daughter, and in exchange for wealth and fame, she wanted Psyche to marry her immortal son, Eros (a.k.a. Cupid).
Eros, having been in love with a mortal girl once and brutally ditched, was furious when his mother proposed the idea in front of him and Psyche, who could be the very shadow of the girl he once loved. Psyche was adamant about opposing the idea of getting married so soon, and especially to a self-absorbed jerk like Eros. Since both of them disobeyed her so forthrightly, Aphrodite got mad and secretly commanded Eros to make Psyche fall in love with a hideous man who treated his woman badly. Eros would've done the deed gladly, thinking that beautiful women shouldn't be allowed to roam scot-free breaking men's hearts, but when he found Psyche crying in her garden (read the book to find out why she's crying), that gave him pause. He lowered his arrow of love/cupid arrow but accidentally nicked himself, and that made him fall in love with her with an all-consuming passion. HAH, all that historical Greek drama.
Anyway, since Eros can't let Psyche fall for another, he had to try his hand at meddling with Fate, and to circumvent his mother's orders and make Psyche fall in love with him. Kinda hard since her first impression of him is worse than bad and that she hates him already. But he did, and because of her listening to the advice of a petty, jealous kin, Psyche ruined Eros' plan and they had to go their separate ways. But Psyche can't let him go now, not when she has already lost her heart to him, so she embarks on a crazy adventure to win back Eros' trust, and to win the right to be by his side. Forever.
**End of spoiler zone**
Apart from a few flaws of the book (and they are pretty major), I did like DESTINED. It was a very beautiful narration of the historical fairytale of Cupid and Psyche.
I'll talk about the flaws first before I gush about the good. The biggest and most obvious flaw I spotted was the too-modern way of writing. I mean, you don't call someone a "twit" in Ancient Greece. The word hasn't even been invented in Ancient America! Lol, if there was such a thing. And you don't celebrate birthdays with cheesecakes. I mean, what? It's 2 generations after the epic Trojan War and you're bringing out cheesecakes? That's like 1900 B.C. we're talking about. And the way Psyche acted, she was practically a modern day American teenager. She was EIGHTEEN and she wasn't even married! Heck, her older sister wasn't even married. Girls in those days were eligible when they turn fifteen (or was that Ancient Egypt? But it shouldn't be far off)! The interactions were off and, well, just too modernised. If not for the modern language, I'd have gladly given this book a 4 or 4.5. I really liked it. A lot. But I do understand the dilemma that Harrell had because DESTINED is a YA novel, and to go with that genre, she couldn't use olden English.
Another thing I noticed, though significantly less important, is that Harrell switched between using the Greek gods and goddesses Roman and Greek names. For example, she used the name Aphrodite, which is the Greek counterpart to Venus, but she used the name Ceres, which was the Roman counterpart of Demeter. Really minor, but I saw it, so, just saying.
Thirdly, Helios wasn't the sun god anymore when Apollo was born. The titans were overthrown when the Olympians took over. In some texts, people believed that Apollo and Helios were one and the same, but in others, they believed that they were two separate entities. But even if they were two distinct gods, Apollo took over as sun god, so there couldn't be a Helios and an Apollo together in the book at the same time, and Apollo couldn't not be the sun god if he was in the story, which was what Harrell wrote.
Fourthly, even though the cover is gorgeous, it doesn't match the Ancient Greece setting. It was very misleading.
Anyway, now on to the things I did like. THE CHARACTERS!! I loved Eros and Psyche! Eros more because he was absolutely flawless, Psyche a little lesser because I'm not into pretty princesses. Much. Eros was, of course, drop-dead gorgeous and an impossible charmer, but under all that, he's just a guy suffering from a lost love and a really nice, kind, and loving romantic. Psyche, even though she indulges herself in crying when trouble comes along, she always stands up again, show the shit who's boss, always gets the job done and the problems solved. She's amazing, and she demonstrated great strength on her journey to find Eros after he left her. And when both of them are together, they are just one of the sweetest couples I have ever seen.
The first time I saw that our male protagonist would be Eros, I was thinking "isn't Cupid small, gay and so inconsequential"? And I saw reviewers gushing about him and his swoon-worthiness. I was so cynical about it all, but after I read DESTINED, I realised I was so wrong. Harrell made him sound so cheeky and so, well, sexy! And the way he wielded his arrows weren't gay at all. Trust me on this.
Other than their personalities, most of them had very human feelings. Like, for example, Chara, Psyche's older sister, felt jealousy and resentment towards Psyche when Chara was forced to marry an old king in the neighbouring, powerful country of Mycenae and Psyche got to have a handsome and charming god as her fiance. It made them seem more real and believable... More relatable.
The plot was fantastic. Harrell managed to balance romance, action, suspense, and all the other dynamics really well. I loved how she used the legend of Heracles' (or more commonly known as Hercules) 12 Labours and made a very clever imitation of it. The way Heracles was tricked into doing 12 instead of the original 10 labours because the person who ordered the labours done, who is King Eurystheus of Mycenae, managed to find loopholes. Harrell managed to do that. That, in itself, is a truly amazing feat. Subtle loopholes are difficult to create, and she actually incorporated her version of the 12 Labours (though Psyche's one was only 2) into DESTINED. Amazing, really amazing.
I have always harbored a deep interest in Greek mythology, and I loved how Harrell included some of the other gods and goddess as secondary characters. Hermes and Eros joked about stuff like brothers, Eros making Zeus fall for mortal women, and others. The only thing I was miffed about was that Hera wasn't such a philanthropist as Harrell depicted her to be. In all the history texts, Hera was, simply put, a B(itch). Nicely put, unkind. But well, her being a saint at heart worked in the protagonists' favor so I was actually feeling thankful that Hera was nice.
DESTINED is a beautiful debut novel about love, strength, and familial ties, cleverly using Greek mythology to portray these values. Other than the overly-mordernised language that bugged me a lot, I loved the cover, I loved the story, and I loved the characters... What more can a bibliophile ask for? I'd recommend this to YA Lit and Greek mythology fans.
P.S. I REALLY want a sequel!!!!! Sigh, but Harrell has just replied my tweet saying that she's planning a companion novel featuring a new couple! Well, at least now I still have something to look forward to.:D