BOOK REVIEW: Who Let The Gods Out by Maz Evans

Who Let the Gods Out’ is Maz Evans debut in Children’s fiction and was published by Chicken House in February 2017. There is a sequel to this called ‘Simply The Quest’ coming out later this year and rumblings of a third and fourth book in the series coming in 2018 – but more about that later. What we are here to talk about is the completely enchanting tale of Elliot Hooper in ‘Who Let The Gods Out’ and his supporting cast of God’s, Daemons and immortals.

SNORDLESNOT! Bless you…

Maz Evans has created here one of the finest books for little minds that I have read in a long while. Whilst having laugh’s a plenty for wee nippers there are also some fabulous laughs for grown up’s too, jokes that would go right over a child’s head – but that’s what I loved about the book. I read ‘Who Let the Gods Out’ originally by myself to discover why Waterstones had picked it as their children’s book of the month. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. However, the true magic of the book is when it is read with little people. I re-read the book but this time with my eldest daughter (she is almost seven) and we had a ball.

‘‘And Charon, you are as full of poop as King Augeas’s stables,’ Virgo scoffed.

‘I don’t know what happened,’ said Charon. ‘But I’d bet my eleventh toe it was something dodgy. Back in the day, I used to ferry the souls of the dead to the Underworld – mortals and immortals. Made a tidy living – the dead used to be buried with a coin in their mouth to pay my fare. No one does that any more. I blame contactless.’’

There were many side-splitting moments, belly laughs, shocked gasps and boos a plenty especially with the two characters Mr. Boil and Thanatos it was like being at a pantomime when they kept turning up. Yet, what I loved most about the book and about sharing it with my daughter was seeing her thirst to know more about the Greek Gods, about Greek Mythology and with that we’ve enjoyed conversations a plenty over the dinner table – and jokes about me having Diogenes (dodgy knees). This is where I feel the book works on many levels, it’s a fabulous loveable tale whilst also being a great source of educating young minds in a fun engaging none boring way.

At the heart of the story is a young boy (Elliot) who whilst being at school and having to deal with all the issues, problems and the practicalities of that; we also learn early on that Elliot is the sole carer for his mother, who is mentally unwell and unable to look after herself let alone Elliot. His teachers are on his case and to make matters worse he must also grow up fast, dealing with his family’s finances, doing the food shop, ensuring his mum has things to keep her occupied or she’ll be out wandering the farm. It’s then that his already demanding life is strained to snapping point with the arrival of a loan letter saying that they have failed to keep up with the re-payments and he has only days to find the £20,000 and to save his house and farm from being repossessed. Enter the Gods!

‘’Mortals,’ she read by the light of her own starglow.  ‘Category: Human. Realm: Earth. Powers: Various; sometimes too many, sometimes not enough. Mortals are the result of a failed experiment by the Olympians to create a perfect race. After several unsuccessful attempts to improve on the prototype, mortals were kept as entertaining pets for the Gods, but soon bred out of control. Mortals are very complex and all major studies have proved inconclusive as to their use. But it has been observed that most respond well to food and discount coupons…Hmmm. Interesting.’’

I feel that Evans has constructed a story that will be able to connect with a wide range of young people and be a catalyst to tackle some prevalent issues of the here and now; those being mental health, Pay-Day-Loans and young carers.

I have worked in a school for the last five years and within the community a good many more and the issues that Elliott faces in ‘Who Let the Gods Out’ is not an isolated tale it is widespread. It is estimated that there are 700,000 young carers in the UK; with 68% of young carers being bullied in school. For me that is 700,000 little Elliott’s with their own stories. Choosing to use this difficult and not talked about dynamic for her lead protagonist I believe Evans has created such an honest, tangible and believable character in Elliott that he is endeared to your heart from the outset. If you are a young carer or would like to know more please click on our link here for more information.

Maz Evans is also the first ever ambassador for Spurgeons, a charity that supports families affected by social disadvantage which last year reached over 37,00 children and 64,000 parents or carers through its vital services (read more here) – but now let us carry on.

‘That night, when Elliot Was tucking his mum into bed, his brain felt like a beehive. Mum, the farm, the Earth Stone, Patricia Porshley-Plum, school…all his worries buzzed around his head, deafening his clarity with their drone.

He felt a soft hand on his cheek.

‘Penny for your thoughts?’ smiled Mum.

‘I’m fine,’ Elliot sighed.

‘You sure?’ she sang, pulling back the quilt and patting the space next to her invitingly.

Elliot hesitated. Every now and again, Mum had these moments – moments where she seemed just like her old self. The first time it happened, he had let himself hope that she was cured, that her illness had simply gone away, that he had his mum back. Elliot had experienced many new emotions over the past year – grief, fear, rage. But when Mum wandered off that very same night, he learnt that hope could be the cruellest of them all.’

What I love about books and writing in general is if it can transport me into the world the author is painting and in this case ‘Who Let the Gods Out’ it did, it is a masterpiece painted in wonderful boldness by a true artist. What I especially adore about books is if they connect with me on a personal level…and you guessed it Evans had me from the get go. When reading I couldn’t help but reminisce about my childhood, as a wee chap I was blessed with many a summer holiday to the Greek Islands and in turn this peaked my interest in Greek Mythology. That and having a father who loved to watch the ‘Sinbad’ films ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ when other children my age were watching the Smurfs, The Pink Panther or the Raccoons. Most Saturdays I was either watching said films or reenacting them, wandering around out flat with a mirror in hand stalking my father who would be hiding somewhere with a hat of socks on his head pretending to be Medusa. ‘Who Let the Gods Out’ had such a profound reaction with me that I can’t champion the book enough, it’s fantastic for little people and awakens the inner child in adults too.

I could talk about this book for hours, but do not worry I will not. It is more important to me that you go away and read this book than for me to give you a blow-by-blow account. However, I will say one thing, chapter 11 ‘A Trip Down Memory Flame’ was brilliant. Thanatos visits a prison in the underworld that holds many Daemons that were banished here since his incarceration; such as a daemon of lies, trust, rumor, misery, famine, hope, disdain, stupidity, pain, old age, escape, forgetfulness, battle cry and truth. Maz Evans does a magnificent job of knitting these characters and their individual voices into a flowing conversation that is both witty and breathtakingly ingenious.

When thinking about ‘Who Let the Gods Out’ it’s hard not to think of great classics such as ‘The Hobbit’, ‘American Gods’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’and I believe that this book deserves to be mentioned in the above company. With fully formed believable characters that literally jump out of the page, a protagonist you really care about, a story that is as dazzling as it is engaging; dealing with real life issues and an author who masterfully brings the story to its fabulous cliff hanger conclusion; it’s a book that needs to be read to be believed. I can honestly say there was nothing about the book I did not like.

Maz Evans has and is creating a series of books that are accessible for both young and older minds alike, a book that in my humble opinion is best read and shared with little minds and in doing so it unlocks the real magic contained within its pages.

I firmly believe that we are witnessing the birth of a huge children’s fiction series, with cinematic possibilities!

Also for the keen eyed reader, keep your eyes out for an exploding Pegasus.

maz

Maz Evans

Maz’s writing career began in journalism as a TV critic and feature writer. She has written for many national titles and is a regular pundit on The Jeremy Vine Show. After working as a creative writing lecturer, she founded Story Stew, an anarchic creative writing programme that has visited primary schools and literary festivals around the UK, including Hay and Imagine. Maz lives in London with her husband and four children.

Who Let The Gods Out was published by Chicken House on 2nd February 2017.

You can purchase a copy of Who Let The Gods Out from FoylesWaterstones, or The Book Depository:

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To discover more about Chicken House Books click here

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Review by Ross Jeffery

Tune in tomorrow to read our Meet The Author interview with Maz Evans!

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