This week I’m reading P.C. Cast’s Divine By Mistake (spoilers). I read this book for the first time in college, over the summer while working as a camp counselor. It wasn’t something I would’ve picked out for myself at the time, but one of the other counselors had a copy and I had nothing else to read, so I asked to borrow it.
Reading this book the first time made me blush. It’s officially a fantasy, but carries some definite romance themes. The actual sex scenes are muted, but the lead-ups are graphic and intense. I remember thinking that I didn’t want anyone to know I was reading that kind of trash. My opinion on this has changed. I’m significantly wider read these days, and some of my favorite authors (looking at you, Kelley Armstrong) frequently write sex scenes so much more detailed than Divine By Mistake has. I’m desensitized, so they really don’t bother me anymore.
What struck me this time around was the complete unbelievability of the main character, Shannon Parker. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, here’s a basic overview: Shannon Parker is a run-of-the-mill English teacher from Oklahoma. One day she finds herself sucked through a portal into a fantasy world. The people there mirror people from her own world, and she herself is a mirror image of High Priestess and Goddess Incarnate, Rhiannon. Rhiannon, having discovered the mirrored world, traded places with Shannon to escape her own responsibilities.
Shannon awakes to find herself in this new world and everyone believes she is the real Rhiannon. This is where I find her reactions hard to believe. She has a few hours of “holy crap, this is all really weird”, then just kind of decides to go with it. For the next several days as the story unfolds she has fleeting thoughts of “I wonder what’s happening back in my own world” and “Rhiannon is probably destroying my life” but she seems perfectly content to just throw away everything she’s ever known without any notice. There’s no grieving for the relationships she left behind (she just replaces them with the mirrored people in the new world), there’s no crying over the life she lost, and there’s no freaking out over the strange new things she’s thrown into. On her first day, she’s told she’s been exchanged and then marries a centaur. Seriously? I think I would barricade myself in my room, convince myself I’d gone crazy and was locked away in an institution somewhere, or maybe just faint when the troop of centaurs walked into the room. Something more than “well this is my life now, it’s a little weird but I guess I’ll get used to it”.
What also strikes me as strange (and is definitely related), is she never tries to go home. There’s one or two places where she mentions that it’s impossible, but she never even tries to research how the switch happened in the first place. Her maid, Alanna, tells her about the experimentation and ritual Rhiannon performed, but she never seeks to understand it further. She never tries to determine if it can be replicated. She never even expresses a desire to go home. All of which is very unbelievable to me. In time, yes, maybe she could adjust to her new circumstances and come to accept that she can’t go home, but not immediately and not without fighting against it first.
That being said, I did enjoy the book. I’m looking forward to reading the next two, Divine By Choice and Divine By Blood. Once you get past the believability issue, it’s a beautiful story and a lot of fun to read. Shannon’s secret is shared among her close friends, she falls deeply in love with her centaur husband, and she saves her people from both disease and a deadly invasion. Rhiannon’s actions were steeped in selfishness and arrogance, but Shannon is able to turn the situation into something good and wholesome and find her true purpose in life.