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Book Review: Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez

# Genre: Comic Fantasy
# Hardcover: 320 pages
# Publisher: Orbit
# Publication Date: March 26, 2010
# ISBN-10: 0316041270
# ISBN-13: 978-0316041270
# Author Website: A. Lee Martinez

Divine Misfortune is the latest from comedic contemporary fantasist A. Lee Martinez. Drawing on the recent interest among the reading populace at the mixing of ancient pantheons of gods with contemporary society a la The Lightning Thief Martinez presents adult readers with their own, more humorous, version.

Teri and Phil seem to have a nice life. They have good jobs and do fine. But when Phil gets passed over for promotion because his promoted coworker had the blessing of a personal god where he had none, he decides he needs one of his very own. Teri takes a little convincing, but they eventually settle on Luka, the Raccoon-headed god of luck. But maybe Lucky isn’t so much, and besides, he wants to crash on their couch.

Meanwhile single, upbeat bookshop employee Bonnie is merely nice to a strange lady at the bus stop, and soon finds herself under the auspices of the heartbroken goddess of love, Syph. Misery loves company, they say, and Bonnie’s new goddess sure wants company.

Unbeknownst to them, a malevolent god, almost a force really, wants all of them to suffer horribly. It is up to the couple, Bonnie, and their gods to see them through a harrowing time that could be their deaths. A harrowing time that may be the god’s fault in the first place.

Of such themes are great novels made. So too really funny ones, narratives that romp in and satirize contemporary American culture while being thoroughly entertaining. Divine Misfortune is so funny as to bring tears to the eyes. Teri, Phil, and Bonnie’s normalcy is juxtaposed with the ridiculous notion of ancient gods living in modern times. It is Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, with less focus on dark comedy and more on silliness and laugh-out-loud situations.

Teri, Phil, and Bonnie are characters we easily identify and empathize with. When normally upbeat Bonnie finds herself shackled with an unhappy goddess, we feel for her as she tries to maintain a positive attitude in the face of overwhelming depression. We feel for Teri and Phil’s desire to get ahead, and especially for Phil’s dismay at being passed over for others less qualified. And we both laugh and through a pinch of salt over our shoulders when Teri and Phil find that Luck is a fickle god, one as likely to harm as to help. And of course, Luka’s antics provide ample fodder for more laughter as this beach bum of a god throws wild parties, introduces Teri and Phil to a strange crowd, and generally causes mayhem.

Martinez has a comfortable, affable style of writing. There is no fluff or unnecessary build-up. From page one, the reader is on the move, expected to be as much a part of the story as reading it. His mixing and matching of pantheons will please any reader who grew up on mythology. The tale is speedy reading, easily devoured in a sitting or two. The reader, once cracking the book, won’t want to leave the story till its very end.

A. Lee Martinez is the American Terry Pratchett. While Martinez deals in more contemporary settings, he is every bit as witty and funny as Pratchett, and one hopes his career is just as long and successful.