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Promise of Shadows Hardcover – March 11, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—After murdering her sister's killer, Zephyr Mourning lands herself in Tartarus—a section of Hell—serving an eternal sentence. Feces rains from the sky and the Centaurs on guard have a tendency to kill unruly prisoners, but Zephyr has a few things going for her: she's a Harpy, which is a half-human, half-god warrior vættir, and she only recently discovered she can unwittingly control and use dark magic. The teen used this forbidden power to avenge her sister Whisper's death, and it is this same ability which identified Zephyr as the much-revered and prophesied Nyx. Legend has it that the Nyx will protect and save all vættir from the Æthereals—gods who subject the vættir and other lesser mythical creatures to indiscriminate terror. With the help of her handsome childhood friend Tallon and his brother, Zephyr escapes Tartarus, along with fellow inmate Cass. This motley crew goes on a quest to discover if the reluctantly heroicized Zephyr really is the Nyx, and how she can stop the megalomaniac goddess Hera from wreaking havoc on the mortal and immortal realms. Though Ireland relies on preexisting knowledge of Greek mythology and doesn't spend enough time explaining complicated terminology, the fast pacing and dynamic plot will engage readers. An underdeveloped romance between Tallon and Zephyr is just enough to tantalize them. The snappy, hilarious dialogue between the protagonist and her friends balances the ominous apocalyptic story line, which will also attract fans of "The Hunger Games" (Scholastic), "Divergent" (HarperCollins), and underdog heroines.—Amy M. Laughlin, Darien Library, CT
" [A] solid book...the mythos Ireland creates strikes the right mix of familiarity and invention, and is well worth exploring." (Publishers Weekly)
"Zephyr’s narration hooks readers with snappy, hilarious one-liners. A dark, slyly funny read." (Kirkus Reviews)
* "Ireland does a wonderful job of creating characters described in myths and bringing them to our world… Ireland also does a masterful job with throwaway comments that reveal the diversity in her characters with regard to race, sexuality, and of course, immortality without being heavy handed…a healthy dose of action, a strong thread of humor, and just a touch of romance. (VOYA, STARRED REVIEW)
"The fast pacing and dynamic plot will engage readers...The snappy, hilarious dialogue between the protagonist and her friends balances the ominous apocalyptic story line, which will also attract fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and underdog heroines. (School Library Journal)
Top customer reviews
What I liked most about this story, besides kick-butt heroine, was that the romance elements don't overwhelm the plot. Humor is a close second.
A strong storyline takes the heroine, Zephyr from hell to the mortal realm and back. Along the way, she learns who and what she is. In a nice twist, her power to save becomes the power that may end all life.
There was also a fun hint of romance tangled in with the fantasy, action, and mythology. So, you know, something for everyone!
Promise of Shadows follows the exploits of Zephyr Mourning, a harpy, who was sentenced to an eternity in Tartarus, due to her finding out the means to kill a god. I should mention it was a minor god, but being a vaettir(I take this as anything supernatural that is not a god), she shouldn't have this strong power, but there were many events that lead up to this moment.
I think where this book struggled for me was points of world building. Mind you, if you are familiar with Greek mythology, it may not be an issue. But I believe you have to also be a teeny familiar Norse mythology as well, as many of the terms they uses are in fact from Norse mythology. I just happen to be a Norse myth buff, so I instantly recognized words that looked Scandinavian to me. But there were two things that bothered me, because they're not explicitly explained. It doesnt hold the story back at all, so this is not an insult or jab of any kind.
But terms "Aethereal" and "Exaulted" were thrown around a bunch, and for the most part, many gods mentioned were both, but it doesnt explain exactly what makes an Aethereal "Exaulted." My knowledge of Greek mythology leads me to believe Aethereal is a term meant only for gods. I took the "Exaulted" as the big guys on campus. You know? Hermes, Zeus, Hades, Hera, etc. But it doesnt explain, but it could just be because the author is attempting allow the audience the intelligence to come up with these ideals on their own?
Some of the pacing was a little off, but only because there were many times Zephyr would speak off focus. Her love interest Tallon? I don't mind a main character having the hots for a guy, but many times, there seemed to be too much time spent on telling me how hot he was, and how much she was attracted to him. I think I would've complained less if more time would've been spent on their relationship. Physical attraction is only one part of attraction. So if there had been more moments that proved why she liked him so much, outside of seeing and imagining his washboard abs, you coulda sold me :D
Now with that out the way, I think this is the first book in the fantasy genre that I literally just loved. Books can have their faults but you still feel connected to them. Zephyr was totally relatable. I mean, as relatable as one can be when she's a harpy and wanted by the gods for murdering a god. She wasnt perfect, and I liked her through her unsureness and flaws. I could totally see myself in her situation if I were a mythological creature many of the gods already hated. She was so human by the relationship she shared with her sister. I cant say that I would have done anything different if someone had killed my sister.
Zephyr had untapped abilities that wanted to manifest, but just never had the right time to, and she wasnt allowed to use this power, because it was of the "shadows" and a prophecy states a warrior of darkness will come and save everyone from the tyranny of the gods. I think this could be a metaphor for just knowing you have talent, but being afraid to use it, in fear you'll be judged. Or accused of showing off, or any other reason you might find not to tap into the things that make you special and different.
And lets not ignore this fact. Zephyr a sista ;p She had what I interpreted as blue dreads, that were later a fro(explained in the book). She even specifically mentions (when encountering a shapeshifter) seeing a black girl with blue hair. It only dawns on her that she's looking at herself(as the shapeshifter turned into her).
But many times, women of color are always left out of the conversation of whether people of color are in science fiction and fantasy. I found her character refreshing, and making her a person of color doesn't take away from the story, so it makes absolutely no sense NOT to make her a person of color.
Her backstory is fleshed out well enough where I find out much of her history and why she is even able to wield dark magic. One of her parent's is a big dog, and while it should be obvious, it was still interesting to see how all that worked it's way into her present.
The conflict was definitely a highlight. She was prophesied to be the next "Nyx" a genderless term to describe a vaettir who could wield the dark power like a god, who would be the vaettir's hope at gaining freedom from the god's reign.
And I LOVED that Hera was the villain. I know because she's the god of marriage and the like, she gets this rap of being innocent and docile. But many forget she's a god. Who has a lousy husband. I mean, you don't get more vengeful than being married to the biggest gigaloo in Mount Olympus. I didnt see all the gods in this book, but Im interested to see where the story leads, as Aphrodite was depicted in a way I'd never seen her before(red head and total warrior princess). There were many elements that set it aside from other interpretations, but then again, I've yet to read Percy Jackson(my sister is currently reading it).
Eh, I dont really have any complaints Grammar and Writing Style wise. I dont want to waste paragraphs talking about it being an industry standard. Just know it blends dialogue with beats well, 90% of the time the POV is clear, and it's edited well. I mean, it's traditionally published.
Diversity. It has diversity. Much of it just isn't as explicit, since every character in the book aren't human. She had a surrogate mother named Nanda, who lead me to believe many harpies were in fact black. They all had coarse dreaded hair, and dark skin. So when someone didn't have dark skin, it was like a rabbit spoke or something. Nanda had a daughter named Alora. She wasn't a harpy, because her father's blood wasn't strong enough. So she seemed mixed race. And Tallon, her love interest(and Nanda's nephew) seemed to be mixed race/man of color. And his brother was obviously white.
There was a a lot of hidden diversity if you have an eye for how races are often described. I wish it were more explicit, but maybe it's just to give the audience the intelligence to think outside their "default" thinking.
I think it reminds me of a neighborhood in NY, where all you friends could be different races, and it doesn't bother you much. Multiculturalism shouldn't just be one thing, but how people of different backgrounds interact with each other.
I think the title is eye catching. It makes me wonder why it's called "Promise of Shadows." You dont really get it at first, but I think the title suits the book. The cover. I think it's pretty. Im just a little on the fence with books not being brave enough to highlight a woman of color protagonist. The cover is very alluring and pretty, but I think it could've also been pretty with a unique woman of the cover as well. :)
The character names. There wasnt a common name in the book! It's been a few weeks since I finished it, so I cant remember every name, but each time a new character was introduced, I felt like I was playing Final Fantasy XD
Character descriptions. This was a little shakey. I can interpret that much of the book is diverse. Tallon,his aunt and his cousin seemed like people of color. But since they're vaettir, they're not explicitly so. And it becomes difficult to tell because they were vaettir, so they may not uphold the way we see race as human beings. It took a while for Zephyr to be described in full, which I found appropriate. But sometimes readers dont interpret characters black when they see terms like "brown skin." As if it isnt obvious. XD
The actual score dips back and forth from a 3.5-3.75
If anything, it exceeded my expectations.
Zephyr Mourning was such a fabulous character (and I love that name!) Unlike the MC in Ireland’s first book, whose life hadn’t afforded her much chance for vulnerability, Zephyr was less sure of herself. She had doubt. All her life, she’d been expected to be a certain way, by her family and by herself, and she didn’t quite measure up.
Of course, all that could be because she had a greater destiny…
The mythology in PROMISE OF SHADOWS was spectacular. The story opens up in hell—well, one of the hells in the Greek underworld—and in this way we literally get to see Zephyr go through hell and back. We also get to visit several familiar characters from Greek mythology, each wonderfully re-imagined and given new flair. I loved seeing Persephone, Hades, Hermes… But of course, the real treat was meeting the characters I hadn't seen before: wonderful Zephyr, mysterious Tallon, and hilarious Blue, to name a few. I loved watching these characters navigate their dangerous journey, and their complex relationships. I felt like I knew them, and came to care about them deeply. Such a fantastic story!
Now I want to mention my two absolute favorite scenes in the book (without getting too spoilery, okay? Don’t worry). All throughout the book, Zephyr struggles with issues of identity and feels like she doesn’t measure up to what people expect of her. But at two moments in the book, I felt like she finally stopped worrying about who she was supposed to be, and allowed herself to be who she truly was, and feel how she wanted to feel. To desire. To act. And it was glorious.
The first scene is a battle scene, and I don’t want to give too much away, so I will just mention a couple of my favorite lines, even though I loved THE WHOLE THING:
“The darkness finds it like a hungry dog digging for a buried bone. There’s a second of triumph when the erebos reaches the aether and a moment of hesitation as it waits for permission.
Good doggy, I think. Then I let it off the leash.”
My other favorite scene takes place in a hotel room, and again, without saying too much, I want to share my favorite lines:
“I think back to the night I found Whisper with her boy from town. No wonder she was so mad. I can’t imagine what I would do if someone came between me and Tallon. This thing between us, this hunger, it makes me feel murderous. I want him to be mine.”
Oh my, that scene. It was so perfect and powerful and relatable. If you haven’t read it yet, know that these glimpses aren’t doing it justice, but if you have read it, you will understand what I mean.
These were the moments when Zephyr let go of her vulnerability, let go of her doubt, and gave in to her true self: someone who was strong, powerful, passionate. And funny. (Oh, I loved when she was funny!)
All in all, this book was a wonderful experience, alternately sweet and dark, profound and hilarious, and entirely enjoyable the whole way through. LOVED it.
"I'm not sorry I hit you," I say, and Alora starts to sob again. "But I'm sorry I tried to kill you."
"Now we settle our grudge." "No, a-hole. Now you die."
"That's the thing about Tartarus. Everyone can hear you scream. They just don't care."
If you want a great book that incorporates mythology, action, and contemporary teen problems, this is such a great book. We included it on our summer reading list for 8th grade and the students loved loved loved it fiercely. One even wrote a song about it : )