I am massively overdue on this review of this fantastic novel, Jenny Twist’s opus, and so please accept my apologies for the tardiness of this post.
I had the extreme pleasure of acting as a beta reader for this work, and I loved every part of it. Twist has combined fascinating storytelling and historical research in an original, beautiful mix; she has captured the voice of her adolescent protagonist Athena with deft precision, making the girl-becoming-woman utterly relatable both to adults and young readers, and leads us through her characters’ discoveries and coming-of-age moments with compassion and thoughtfulness of detail.
I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of the novel, in which the crew and passengers of the Atlantis, an interplanetary vessel of advanced technology, must evacuate and land on an unexplored, primitive world when their engine malfunctions. To their surprise, the world is inhabited by beings whose appearance mirrors their own in many ways, though distinctly lacking in complex technology. Twist weaves a tale of future history in The Owl Goddess, blending the myths of Mount Olympus and its inhabitants with speculative science fiction in a manner that would do the writers of Doctor Who or Star Trek proud. And there is more than science in this fiction — Twist also involves more than a little magic, evoking a terrestrial and spiritual voice in the figure of a goddess whose beneficence is not wholly clear.
I think about this story, and I wonder — can you ever really trust a goddess? Athena is taken for granted as greater-than-human by her friend Prometheus and his community, despite her reassurances that she is nothing more than flesh and blood, while the motivations of the Mother spirit who watches over that community are only ever apparent to the entity herself. Goddesses are mysteries to those who encounter them, and so they must be, in order to remain separate and above, but it’s not always of benefit to their worshippers. Athena has her innocence to save her from criticism, fortunately.
The Owl Goddess will lead interested readers to fitting character studies and encourage further reading of Greek myths and fables. I also found myself more drawn to articles on developing technologies after finishing the novel, because the world Athena comes from had turned to lab-grown meat and firm social rules about residences and breeding to deal with overpopulation. These are issues and experiments being carried out right now, and again, Twist has paid attention and done her research.
In conclusion, Jenny Twist’s most recent work, The Owl Goddess, is absolutely stunning in its breadth and scope. I found it a quick read, reminiscent in ways of Clan of the Cave Bear but not nearly as ponderous. I would dearly love to see it illustrated as a graphic novel.