This Neon Gods book review discusses Katee Robert’s first book in her Dark Olympus series, which focuses on Hades and Persephone.
I’ll admit I’m a little late to the game here. Neon Gods came out June 1, 2021, and while I’ve been seeing it virtually everywhere for the last nine months, my reading schedule made it impossible to find room for it.
But then it’s sequel, Electric Idol came out in February, and I finally had an excuse to buckle down and read this one. And boy, am I glad I did.
I’ve read a few of Katee Robert’s other stories, and I’ve loved every single one of them. She’s a prolific writer, and I’ve by no means worked my way through her entire catalog, but the thought has certainly crossed my mind.
From what little I’ve read of her, Katee’s writing seems vibrant, tight, exciting, and sexy as hell. In my experience, her erotica has been well-paced and full of many of my favorite tropes and kinks.
It seems shocking, as a huge fan of Greek mythology, that I didn’t pick up Neon Gods the second it was released. It has my name written all over it, and I’m kicking myself for having not read it sooner. Thankfully, I’m here to rectify that oversight with my Neon Gods book review.
The story isn’t exactly brand new—you’ve likely heard of Hades and Persephone’s “romance” in one form or another. In the original myth, Hades kidnaps Persephone to be his wife, and in response, her mother, Demeter, refuses to let anything on earth grow until she’s returned.
Zeus eventually allows Persephone to come home, but because she ate some pomegranate seeds while in the Underworld, she must return to Hades’ domain for a few months out of the year. This signifies the seasons—winter when Persephone is away from Earth, and spring when she returns.
Neon Gods may play around with the same characters and some of the general plot points of the story, but Katee Robert has created a whole new world for her protagonists to play in. And, in fact, this was one of my favorite aspects of the book (second only to the spicy scenes, of course).
Olympus is split into the upper city and the lower city, separated by the River Styx. All of the main players in Greek mythology are turned into powerful men and women that control various aspects of the economy—the food, the water, the soldiers, etc.—or they’re simply socialites. Either way, they all demand respect and attention, and Neon Gods reads almost like a mafia romance in parts.
The Olympian gods are referred to as the Thirteen, and their names are simply titles. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades (more on him later) are Legacy positions, meaning the titles are passed down from father to son. For the others, such as Athena, Ares, Demeter, etc., their titles must be earned—in any way possible.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Neon Gods is less about the magic and mysticism usually associated with Greek mythology and more about the political intrigue that comes with powerful people interacting with one another.
These kinds of stories aren’t always my jam—sure, I like the tension and suspense that comes with having to play a smart game, but politics can get tiresome (especially in this day and age). However, Katee Robert knows how to weave an intricate web that never feels overly simple or too complicated to follow.
I’ll admit, I came for the porn, but I stayed for the plot. Neon Gods is as interesting as it is sexy, and I was invested in every aspect of the story, from start to finish.
As you can imagine, Zeus is not a good guy—in Greek mythology or Neon Gods—and while he’s not the only villain in the story, he surely is the most dangerous one. He’s already supposedly killed three of his wives, and he’s looking for a new Hera to stand by his side.
That’s where Persephone comes in. Zeus has set his eyes on her as his new prize, and her mother is more than willing to agree to the marriage arrangement if it means their family becomes even more powerful. But Persephone is her own woman, and she’s not going to have any of that.
I loved Persephone as a character because while she’s forced to fall into Hades’ strong arms to save herself, she’s by no means helpless. In fact, Persephone might just know how to play the game better than anyone. She’s incredibly observant and intelligent, and because she’s been keeping herself afloat for years in the upper city, she knows how to anticipate everyone’s moves and make sure the outcome is to her benefit.
Even better, however, is the fact that she’s kind. Persephone is truly a good person who cares about her sisters and Olympus’ citizens. She refuses to be caged, but she doesn’t want her actions to hurt anyone around her, either. Our heroine is put into a tough position, but I never had any doubt that she’d figure out the best way forward.
In a moment of panic, Persephone does the unthinkable—she crosses a bridge into the lower city. Very few people do this, let alone those who hold court with Zeus. Most people believe Hades to be a myth, but they still steer clear of what they consider the seedy part of town.
Except when Persephone crosses the bridge, she finds herself being scooped up by a very grumpy Hades, who is definitively not a myth. He brings her home and cleans her up, and this is when the adventure truly begins. Not only does Persephone have to stay out of Zeus’ grasp, but she has to ensure Hades will protect her while she figures out her next move.
Even better, Hades balances out Persephone’s character. He’s cold and grumpy on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside (my favorite kind of guy). He’s carefully cultivated a reputation for being merciless, but at the end of the day, he cares about the people in his part of the city. And he’ll do anything to protect them.
Watching Hades and Persephone give into each other was like devouring a deliciously decadent dessert. The lust, the tension, the banter—it was everything I wanted out of this book and so much more. I truly cannot use this Neon Gods book review to overstate how much I enjoy Katee Robert’s writing.
Persephone is sunshine incarnate—or at least that’s the mask she’s been wearing her whole life. Perfect and prim, she’s the innocent daughter of Demeter, and it’s not hard for people to believe the rumors that Hades kidnapped her and is holding her ransom.
Except Persephone is tired of being fake, of putting on her sunshine smile. She wants to live on the edge, to shock people, to make them rethink what she stands for and who she is. And hooking up with Hades is the most efficient way to do that. Plus, he’s been wanting revenge on Zeus for years, so it’s a win-win for both of them.
I’ve read plenty of romance/erotica that begin with notes about how this is a work of fiction and the timelines are often sped up to make for a better story. It’s an important message to get out there, especially if you’re writing about BDSM. In the real world, the vetting and negotiation process can take a long time, but that doesn’t always make for the most interesting of books.
What I loved about this book, and what I truly want to drive home with my Neon Gods book review, is that it’s an excellent example of what entering into a relationship based in kink should look like. Hades verifies consent in multiple ways throughout the book—sometimes point blank and sometimes in sexy, roundabout ways. He and Persephone negotiate their scenes, and if one of them isn’t up for it, there are no hard feelings for backing out. In short, it’s open, honest, and healthy.
And let’s not forget the sex scenes themselves. Hades is into public sex, and while Persephone has never done that before, she’s intrigued by the idea. They go slow, according to both their comfort levels, and whether they’re hooking up behind closed doors or with an audience, Katee’s descriptions are hot and heavy in the best ways possible.
There is some fluidity to their dynamic, and neither one of them ever really put a label on it, but within their Dom/sub relationship, there are bratty tendencies. If you like good banter, a little resistance, and earned submission, I think you’ll absolutely love Hades and Persephone’s story.
And you know what? There’s a lot of substance here, too. I can’t wait to pick up Electric Idol, and not just because I want to read Psyche and Eros’ story, but because I truly can’t wait to return to Olympus to find out what’s happening with all the characters we met in Neon Gods.
Look for more recommendations on our books page.