BOOK REVIEW: Simply the Quest by Maz Evans

Elliot Hooper’s troubles are far from over.

His mum’s health worsens, he’s struggling at school, and a bunch of anarchic Greek immortals have moved into his home – including teen goddess Virgo, who’s in trouble with the Zodiac. What’s more, death-daemon Thanatos and his scary mum are at large. As even more immortal allies and enemies emerge, Virgo and Elliot must learn how to be heroes …

– Short Review –

The story pretty much continues where Who Let The Gods Out finishes; Elliot is still struggling with caring for his mother, with the added chore of having to look after a barn full of Gods. Simply the Quest continues to peel back the layers on Elliot’s life, the struggles he faces on a daily basis (the struggles that many children face on a daily basis), juggling his constant commitments and pressures on his time, but Maz expertly delves into his struggles in this book, highlighting once again what it’s like to be a young carer and trying to save the world.
The book is hilarious, more jokes than a stand up routine, and in my opinion probably a lot better. The jokes are rude, crude and laugh out loud. The Gods are bigger, better and worse than ever.
Maz wields her knowledge of Greek Mythology like a Hydra swings its many heads, introducing young readers to a wonderful collection of imperfect Gods. A book I would highly encourage schools to purchase, parents to purchase and also for adults – if you want something funny, something heartfelt, something that is educational without being boring…there is no better place to start than on this journey.

– Long Review –

Well what can I say, Maz Evans has gone and done it again! One of the books I most enjoyed recently from Chicken House Books in ‘Who Let The Gods Out?‘ now has a sibling, and what a brother or sister it is!

Simply the Quest is the everything a good sequel should be, it expands the universe that Maz had created brilliantly in the first book, it’s bigger, badder and we get to see a lot more Gods. It’s heartfelt without being soppy, jammed packed with jokes that quite literally made me laugh out loud (so make sure you are wearing some type of nappy – you don’t want to be wetting yourself now!), it’s educational without being boring and Maz Evans has delivered an Empire Strikes Back / Aliens to her Who Let The Gods Out? that will have you chomping at the bit for the next instalment (Beyond The Odyssey – out now).

Elliot is still concerned with looking after his mother, her condition is getting worse and there are not many good days to look forward to. The Gods are trying their best to help, but in all honesty Elliot feels like he is looking after children, meaning that he is at a very difficult low point in his short and chaotic life. He still has to find time to discover the other Chaos Stones and avoid being captured and killed by Thanatos and his henchmen whilst also the small task of trying to save the world.

Maz delves deeper into Elliot’s psyche in this book, which makes for brilliant reading. She does this by weaving into the story Elliot’s inner voice, his dark voice, which is his conscience. His dark voice as Maz deftly labels it, is only concerned with his darkest and deepest thoughts, ones that he doesn’t wish to share, but they keep prodding him, trying to manoeuvre him into making a choice that would make his life better, make his mother better, but would inevitably cause a great many others serious peril. Maz expertly showcases what struggles a young carer faces each day, it’s a dark, lonely and scary place; Elliot’s dark voice helps to shed a light on what thoughts must be surfacing and niggling at those who face this daily routine / battle. It’s about choosing the right thing to do when no one is watching and Maz pulls this battle of wills off brilliantly, with his dark voice almost becoming its own character within the book.

It was also great to see a whole host of new characters within Simply The Quest, which further highlights the rich tapestry that Maz has to choose from, bringing in additional imperfect Gods to a brilliant roster of familiar faces. My favourite new recruit was Hercules – who is taking a break from the pressures of being a hero and has set himself up in a new line of work, party planning. Needless to say, this might not be the best use of his skill set and which has hilarious consequences that are written sublimely by Maz to create a wonderfully funny set piece. It was also great to see original characters afforded more time in this book and Hermes is by far one of my favourite characters, he’s used a lot of the time for comedic relief within the story, but there are wonderful moments in Simply The Quest where we see him forming a lasting friendship with Elliot whether that be sitting with Elliot’s Mum or taking Elliot up into the clouds to see the sun rise for his Birthday, or protecting him at various intervals – these moments are priceless and help to show Elliot that Hermes sees him in his darkness, will sit with him in the darkness and above all cares deeply for him.

SPOILER ALERT

I have to admire Maz Evans as a writer, she doesn’t shy away from the difficult, and in doing so has made these books something of a must read, an educational resource and most importantly books that will speak to many a young person and in doing so, telling them that they are not alone. Maz delivers this in a deft and delicate way, showing the harsh realities that young people face on a daily basis; I can only hope that these books help to inspire young people, help to educate other young people on the many issues that their peers may be experiencing on a daily basis – whether that be young carers or children with parents or families in prison (which during my time in the education sector – is extremely high, and unseen by those in the classroom).

We discover in Simply The Quest that Elliot’s father is in prison. So not only is Elliot a carer for his Mother he now has to wrestle with this discovered truth of his Dad being in prison, hitting him like a loose lightning bolt from Zeus’ pocket. So Elliot enlist the help of the Gods and others to discover the truth about his absent fathers imprisonment which leads us further down the rabbit hole of his busy little life! It had me thinking of an old saying I once heard which has stuck with me to this day.

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so be KIND. Always.

There are some fabulous set pieces in this book, the night at the Natural History Museum is crying out for someone to take these books and make a film or animation of Elliot and his merry gang! Sublime! Also there are some moments in the book that are dark, brooding and take it up a notch from the first book, gradually becoming like the Harry Potter series – impossible to put down and also dealing with the darker side of life, grief, turmoil and the quest to do what is right against what is easy.

The books conclusion is dramatic and gives you the thirst to pick up the next book and continue on this quite brilliant journey. I can’t wait to start Beyond the Odyssey and discover what the gang will get up to next, what they will discover, who they will discover, what new Gods will appear and also what happens with all the loose ends from this Simply the Quest.

Simply The Quest is Simply quite brilliant. This series of books is something very special to behold, so if you haven’t picked it up yet I suggest you do, all three books are out now from Chicken House Books – so why don’t you begin the journey!

Simply The Quest is published by Chicken House Books and is available to purchase here.

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Maz Evans

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Maz Evans 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 Dorset with her husband and four children.

We also reviewed book one – Who Let The Gods Out and you can read our review here.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Maz Evans about her writing and the fun she has been having with the Gods, which you can read here.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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