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I’ve just dumped a load of dirt on top of my steadily growing pile when Cass speaks.
“I think you got a visitor,” she says, looking past me toward the guard shack at the far edge of the plain. We work on the line with a few hundred others, digging a ditch the same way we have every day since I got to the Pits. The lowest point in the Underworld, the Pits of Tartarus is a bleak place. A muddy plain edged by a forest of black trees, the sky a constant twilight, it’s a place reserved for criminals and lowlifes. All we do here is dig, moving the mud into long rows. I’m not sure why we dig all the time, since no one ever tells us anything except when to work, when to rest, and when to eat. I’m not even sure the work serves a purpose beyond keeping us from killing each other, and we still manage to do that just fine.
Cass elbows me hard in the side, and I wince. My ribs are still bruised from our most recent attack. A couple of Fae who thought kicking me to death would get them out of Tartarus or at least get them some respect. Thanks to Cass, all it got them was dead.
She nudges me again, and this time I groan. “That hurts.”
“It’s the Messenger this time,” she says, jutting her chin toward the figure at the far end of the line. “They’re getting serious.” I don’t look up. The last thing I need is the guard taking his whip to my back.
Panic rises, tightening my chest. I take a deep breath and force it down. I cannot freak out. “You don’t know that he’s here for me,” I tell Cass. The words are more for me than for her. One of the guards, who are all minotaurs, starts to move in our direction, and I lower my voice. “If he’s here for me, they’ll let me know.” I hold my breath until the half-bull, half-man creature heads back the other way. I don’t want to get in trouble for talking. Cass doesn’t really mind the punishments the bulls hand out. I do.
I’m not as strong as she is.
The bull’s voice echoes across the plain, carrying down along the line of prisoners toiling in the dirt. I keep my head down and my shovel moving, not bothering to acknowledge the shout and buying some time to compose myself. It starts to rain, and I sigh. It’s the least of my problems, but the downpour gives me something to focus on besides my visitor.
Rain in Tartarus means a lot of different things. Today it’s a fine mist of excrement falling from the sky. It’s like having an outhouse upended over your head. Cass keeps telling me that at some point I’ll get used to it, but she’s been here longer than anyone else. There’s no time in the Underworld, but from what I can tell of her penchant for togas, she’s been here a while. Like, centuries. I don’t think I’ll be kicking around here that long. Too many people want me dead.
And the weather sucks.
The best way to keep the muck out of my eyes and mouth is to keep my head down and wait until it passes. I’m a smart girl, so that’s what I do. Deep down, I’m hoping that the guard won’t call me again.
“Mourning. Zephyr Mourning. Get your lazy carcass down here, Godslayer.”
I wince at the tone in the guard’s voice. I’ve waited too long to answer, and now I’m in for it. The bulls down here are no better than the prisoners, just as violent and rude. What do you expect from a minotaur? I’m not very good at taking a punch, and I have no desire to provoke the guard any further, so I plant my shovel in the mud and jog in the direction of the shout.
I slow down to a walk when I see a familiar figure walking beside the bull, a whip-thin man with a shock of white-blond hair. The “Messenger” Cass called him. But she’s old school, and most vættir these days refer to him by his given name, Hermes. The Messenger of the Gods. He carries an oversize golf umbrella and picks his way around the larger muck puddles. The wings on his ankles flutter in agitation. His blue eyes glow in the constant dusk of Tartarus, their metallic blued-steel sheen denoting his Æthereal blood and causing the other prisoners to subtly shift away from him. There’s too much shine to them for him to be anything but Exalted, and even the dumbest vættir knows better than to cross paths with one of the favored sons and daughters of the universe. Their powers are so vast that they are gods among gods.
Still, all the æther in the universe can’t keep the rain from splattering Hermes. His impeccably tailored dove-gray suit has several dark spots. It serves him right. Only Hermes would wear couture to hell.
A few feet still separate me and Hermes when a fight breaks out on the line. A couple of Fae grapple, their wrestling match carrying them right into our path. The scent of their rage pushes away the stink of the rain, and for once I’m grateful for my ability to smell emotions. Their anger is the acrid aroma of burning flesh, which is better than the bathroom scent of the rain. Whatever they’re fighting about, it’s clear that the Fae hate each other. This is more than a normal Tartarus scuffle.
The Fae are more intent on their fight than on the Æthereal walking toward them. They go down a couple of feet away from Hermes, landing in a deep puddle. The contents splash up and across the legs of Hermes’s pants, soaking them with crap and mud. I swallow the hysterical laugh that threatens to bubble up.
This can’t end well.
Everyone freezes for a moment, even the fighters on the ground. They’re all waiting for Hermes’s wrath, for the outpouring of æther that follows any Æthereal temper tantrum. But this is Tartarus, and there’s no æther here. Hermes is as powerless as the rest of us.
That doesn’t stop him from closing the umbrella and swinging it at the nearest Fae. The fiberglass snaps as it catches the slim man across the face, snapping his head back with an audible crunch. The other Fae tries to scramble away, but Hermes is much faster. With one hand he hauls the Fae up by the scruff before slamming him face-first into the soft mud. Then, with the detached expression of a man buying groceries, Hermes holds the flailing Fae down until he no longer moves.
Bile burns the back of my throat, and it’s hard to breathe. I push down the fear that makes me want to run away, to keep running until I can forget the coldness in Hermes’s eyes as he killed a man.
Cass appears next to me with a sigh. Even though I can smell the mixed fear and relief from the rest of the vættir, I get nothing from her. Cass’s emotions are always a mystery. “Great, now I’ll never get that food ration he owes me.” She’s serious. Cass never jokes about anything.
Life is cheap in Tartarus.
A couple of bulls run over to haul away the two Fae. Their bodies will be thrown beyond the tree line so that the unseen things that live in the woods can feast on them instead of on us. I relax so my expression doesn’t reflect the horror I feel. Hermes straightens, tossing away his ruined umbrella. “Hey, Zephyr,” he says as he adjusts his suit.
Cass slides back into the work crew as I cross my arms. It feels like a lifetime since I last saw Hermes. Time passes differently in Tartarus, so I have no idea how long it’s actually been. A month? A year? Some days it feels like it was just yesterday that I landed here. Others, it feels like I’ve been here my entire life.
No matter how long it’s been, I can’t forget that he’s the one who put me in Tartarus. I thought he was more than just my sister’s boyfriend. I thought of him as family, the big brother I never had. And he turned me in to the Æthereal High Council. That’s what I get for trusting an Æthereal.
Never trust the gods.
Reminding myself of his betrayal centers me. “Hey, Hermes. If it isn’t my favorite psycho . . . pomp.” My voice is even. I’ve learned a few things down here, especially from Cass. I won’t let him know how his presence fills me with a burning rage that blurs my vision and makes me want to scream.
He gives me a wide smile, his chiseled cheekbones looking even sharper. “Funny. Did you think of it yourself?”
I sigh, feigning boredom. “What do you want? Can’t you see I have a very important ditch to dig?”
Hermes’s lips twitch. At least he still appreciates sarcasm. He clears his throat. “I’m here to speak with you on behalf of the Æthereal High Council.”
I shrug. “Okay.” I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to say. I was never important enough to garner the High Council’s notice before they sent me to Tartarus. Not many of the vættir are. We’re second-class citizens, lucky to avoid the gods’ notice.
“This is a private interview,” Hermes says. He eyes the nearest bull. The minotaur straightens, steam puffing out of his bovine nostrils as he snaps to attention.
“You may use the nearby gatehouse, Exalted, if it suits your needs.” The minotaur executes a clumsy bow, muck flying off one of his massive horns and landing on Hermes’s pants.
Hermes sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose before he remembers that his hands are covered in crap. Rage tightens his mouth as he gives the half-man, half-bull creature a limp-wristed wave to lead the way. We follow the guard to a nearby outbuilding in silence. Only the set of Hermes’s shoulders belies his utter disgust.
This would be hilarious if I wasn’t sick with dread.
We make our way through the steady rain to the gatehouse, where the bull remains outside while we go in. The room is small. It’s little more than a shack, really. Rough-hewn boards keep out the storm, and the floor is made of hard-packed earth. Dark fire flickers in the hearth, casting no light but warming the room nonetheless. A rickety table and chair lean against the wall opposite the fireplace, and a handful of pixies sealed in glass globes cast the only light in the room. The pixies emit a sickly yellow glow when they see us, one of them tapping on his prison insistently.
“Hey. Hey! Let me out before the bull comes back. I’ll pay you.” I ignore the bug. Anyone foolish enough to try to bribe me must be new to hell. He must not know who I am, or that I don’t care about his money, because there’s no way I’m ever leaving Tartarus.
Godslayers don’t get parole.
I try to scrape as much of the sludge off my face as I can, before I see the well in the far corner of the room. The water has the same sulfurous rotten-egg smell as all the water here in the Pits, but at least it doesn’t smell like an outhouse in August. There’s a grate near the well, and I upend the bucket over my head while standing on it. I repeat this two more times before I’m satisfied I’ve gotten the worst of the mess off. No sense in trying to get completely clean. This is Tartarus, after all.
I hold a full bucket out to Hermes. He shakes his head in distaste before thinking twice and dipping a lemon-yellow pocket square into the water. He gingerly wipes the dark streaks off his pale skin. I dump the rest of the water over my head before tossing the bucket back in the corner.
“The Underworld seems to agree with you,” he remarks as he starts to put away the handkerchief, thinks twice, and throws it on the sad-looking table.
I squeeze the excess water out of my blue, ropy locks and snort. What does he see? The front I keep up so the weaker inmates won’t mess with me? Just because I’ve learned how to hide my fear doesn’t mean I’m not scared. “It’s hell, H. I don’t think it agrees with anyone.”
He purses his lips. “No æther, which means no real magic, it’s perpetually dark, the sky rains excrement, and there are monsters waiting for a chance to devour the unwitting. I honestly don’t see what your problem is.”
His sense of humor is still as dry as the Sahara. It’s too bad I don’t find him funny anymore. I extend my talons and growl. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t turn your face into confetti, Betrayer.”
Hermes’s blued-steel gaze flashes. “Because it’s the last thing Whisper would’ve wanted you to do.”
Agony arcs through my chest, and I look away so he won’t see the pain of my loss in my gaze. Whisper. I can’t think of my sister without remembering the last time I saw her, her chest a gaping wound, her blood soaking into the concrete of the patio. She was my best friend and now she’s gone. My talons slide back under my fingernails. I wasn’t really going to attack him, anyway. “She loved you, you know. Even though she knew you’d eventually leave her.”
He clears his throat and looks away. I’m glad that I’ve managed to make him uncomfortable. Some of the water from my hair has managed to find its way into my mouth, and I spit onto the floor. “You didn’t come here to discuss my sister. What do you want?”
He sighs. “Still just as ladylike as ever. The High Council has sent me down here to inquire how it was that you managed to kill an Æthereal.”
I smirk. This is the third inquisitor the Council has sent down since I got here. The first two left with nothing, and Hermes will too. Just because he used to screw my sister doesn’t mean I owe him anything. “Just lucky, I guess.”
His lips thin in irritation before he sighs. “I bear this message for you.” He takes a shining white rock from his pocket, and I take a step back in surprise. He holds an æther stone, a magically charged rock that would fetch a good price in the Pits. Before I can ask what he plans to do with it, he drops it on the ground between us. Light surges upward and snaps into sharp focus. I can’t help the hitch of breath in my chest.
Standing before me is a too-real image of my mother. The last time I saw the form before me, she was leaving for a battle, her claymore propped on her shoulder. Ruby-red hair knotted into locks that reached her waist, skin the color of midnight, and wings of deepest red and black. “Blood on coal,” Whisper used to call them when we’d watch her fly off to battle. I know that it isn’t really her. She’s dead, her shade somewhere in the Elysian Fields, enjoying eternal happiness. The projection is the Æthereal equivalent of Princess Leia’s plea to Obi-Wan. Still, I can’t stop myself from reaching out to her like I’ve always wanted.
My mother’s voice cuts through my mind after all these years, an unwanted phantom. You’re the daughter of an Æthereal, Zephyr. Try to stop being such an incredible disappointment. I can even see the way her dark face would scrunch up at me, as though I was the one problem in her life that she couldn’t solve.
The memory is the opposite end of the emotional spectrum from the woman gazing at me lovingly from the projection. “Zephyr, I know you probably aren’t happy to see me, but I need you to answer Hermes’s questions. It is of the utmost importance that the High Council be able to understand how you killed Ramun Mar.”
I swallow dryly. Who is this woman? There’s love shining in her eyes, and she seems gentle and affectionate. This stranger is nothing like my mother. That Mourning Dove once flew me up to ten thousand feet and then dropped me, all to teach me how to fly.
“There’s no room for mistakes in battle,” she called as I fell, screaming until my sister, Whisper, flew up to catch me. It’s amazing I ever learned to fly after that terrifying introduction to the sky.
The message plays, but I’m finished listening to the lying image before me. I fight back angry tears before I kick the æther stone toward the corner. It falls into the well with a wet plunk. I fight to keep my words steady. “If you think that’s going to get me to talk, then you don’t know me at all.”
“Do you think that’s what your mother would want?”
I turn around once my eyes have stopped burning, the threat of tears avoided. “That woman doesn’t exist. Never did. I don’t know how you did it, but it’s a pretty sad attempt to get me to talk. Why don’t you just tell me what you want from me?” The words come out as a plea. I bite my lip, my eyes sliding away from his all-too-knowing blue ones.
“Aw, Peep,” he whispers, and the pet name cuts through me, the pain sharper and fresher than the ache of his betrayal. He reaches for me but at the last moment draws back, and I know he’s thinking about our last meeting.
He’s remembering that I might not have been caught by the Æthereals if he hadn’t tricked me.
I hate him even as I love him with all my heart. He made my sister so happy, and that made me happy. Deep down I’d always hoped he would stay with Whisper, marry her like people do on television. I had this idea of a huge wedding, one that everyone in the Aerie would attend. There’d be cake, and I’d be Whisper’s maid of honor. It would be just like a movie.
I made the mistake of telling her that one time, and she just laughed, the sound high and brittle like glass breaking. “Zeph, you know that Æthereals don’t marry vættir. Especially not Exalteds like Hermes. I’m just grateful for the time that we have together. One day you’ll understand that.”
Hermes sighs and leans back against the wall of the gatehouse, drawing me out of the memory and putting a physical distance between us that’s a match for the emotional one. “The High Council needs you to cooperate because a war is brewing over you, kiddo. The kind of war that the vættir might not survive.”
“Why me? What did I do?”
A bark of laughter escapes from him. “What, besides kill an Æthereal? No big deal there, Godslayer.” He shakes his head, a small smile playing around his lips before he turns serious again. “You killed one of the unkillable. People want to know how. They want to know if it can happen again. And if they’re next.”
I smile tightly. “Sounds like Hera’s been working overtime.” At my trial she’d advocated for my death more than any of the other gods.
Hermes nods slowly. “That’s putting it mildly. She’s been on the warpath since you were sent here last year, and things are only getting worse.”
The air whooshes out of my lungs. I feel like I’ve been punched. “A year? I’ve been here a year?” I imagine all the things I’ve missed in a year. If I’d been in the Mortal Realm, I would’ve finally gone to high school, a real school with norms. Homecoming, prom, football games, all the things regular people get to do. That’s what I would’ve spent the last year doing. Not digging ditches and fighting to stay alive.
After I failed my Trials, I thought a normal life was finally in my reach. Harpies who cannot pass the Trials are either given menial positions or expelled from the Aerie, forced to spend the rest of their lives trying to blend in among the norms, full-blooded humans. Most Harpies dread the modern world and opt to work in the Aerie’s laundry or kitchens, but I dreamed of the day when I’d no longer have to live in the Aerie. Freedom seemed like a blessing, not a curse.
But then I accidentally killed an Æthereal and ended up in Tartarus, ruining all my plans. And now I find out that I’ve lost a year in what felt like a few months.
Hermes’s eyes dart away from mine, and he shrugs in response. “Time passes differently down here.”
“You think?” I begin to pace as his words sink in. I’m finally realizing that my imprisonment is permanent. I’m not going to go to high school, or college, or anywhere else in the Mortal Realm. I’m going to be forever stuck here in Tartarus, covered in sludge and pretending to be brave. A year has passed, and I feel just like I did the last time I saw Hermes. Desperate, confused, and incredibly lost.
I stop pacing and cross my arms, trying to school my face to blankness. Arrows are useless without a bow. It’s an old Harpy saying. No sense wallowing in might-have-beens. “Are we finished?” I snap.
Hermes startles, my sharp tone unfamiliar. “What?” he asks in surprise. I’ve never raised my voice at him. I’ve always given him the deference that the Exalteds demand, even as he snuck into the house late at night to meet with my sister. But now I’m not thinking about class structures and the proper forms of address, or even the way my sister lit up when she saw him. I’m just thinking about the year of my life that I lost.
“Are you done with me or what? I have to get back before someone steals my shovel.”
His expression goes from shocked to sad, and I have to turn away from the pity on his face. “What happened to you, Peep? You’re different. I almost didn’t recognize you when I arrived. You’re rougher now.”
I sigh and sit in the room’s only chair, leaning my head back against the wall’s rough wood. “Tartarus happened to me, H. That’s all. Just Tartarus.”
Posted March 11, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***
Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.
Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.
But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?
What I Liked:
I love Greek and Roman mythology, you all. Well actually, I love most types of mythology - including Norse and Egyptian and so on. But Greek mythology is definitely my favorite. So when I read the synopsis of this book months ago, I knew I had to read it. Yes, my rating shows that I did not enjoy this book as much as I had hoped I would. But I'm glad I gave this book a chance.
Zephyr was sent to Tartarus because she killed a minor Æthereal (god), which is basically impossible for the vættir (non-god, non-human race, like Zephyr, who is a Harpy). But the Æthereals - especially Hera - are suspicious, and want to know how she did it. No one knows about Zepyhr's dark powers - shadow vættir are not supposed to exist anymore. So Zephyr escapes from Tartarus with the help of some friends. Thus starts the race to defeat Hera and her army of Acolytes from stealing shades and shadow vættir.
I liked the use of mythology in this book - and Ireland's adaptation of mythology. The author definitely added her own interpretation to Greek mythology, which was cool. All of the stories and legends and mixed-up families was so like the original Greek mythological tales. I liked Ireland's spin on things.
The idea of this book was definitely a good one. I wanted to like the plot, because it sounded really interesting. I wanted to like the characters, because they sounded kick-butt. I wanted to and did like the use of Greek mythology in this book. But I found that I really did not like very much about this book, unfortunately.
What I Did Not Like:
The plot, the characters, the romance, the pacing, the mood, the execution, the inconsistencies. There were so many things that niggled at me while I was reading this book, and I should have written them down as I was reading. I did NOT finish this book in one sitting, which made me sad. It did not hold my interest at all.
So, the plot. The plot was so boring. This book was so boring. I mentioned that I did not finish this book in one sitting, that the book did not hold my interest. I literally FELL ASLEEP while reading this book - no joke. Granted, it was a Monday after my four classes, and it was the first day of classes after a four-day weekend, but STILL. This book was NOT exciting. I wasn't thoroughly invested. The plot was all about stopping Hera from stealing shades and destroying the shadow vættir.
Honestly, I still don't really understand the point. I don't really get why Hera was stealing shades and bent on destroying the shadow vættir. Actually, I think I understand the latter. But the former? Why? And why was that so catastrophic? Why didn't the gods (Æthereals) intervene directly, if it was an Æthereal behind everything, and they knew it? One Nyx is NOT stronger than one Æthereal. So that makes no sense.
I did not connect with a single character. And I didn't like any of them. They seemed flat and one-dimensional to me, and not the types to which I could relate. I can't stand flat characters, and I especially can't stand when I can't connect to characters on some level. Also, there were a ton of secondary characters, and I feel like none of them were really fleshed out.
The romance. Blah blah blah snooze. The romance was so boring. I could see the attempt at an angst-filled romance, but it was an ATTEMPT, and it so did not work. Instead, I was really hoping that either Zephyr or her love interest would die - or both. I seriously did not care at all if they did not end up together, or if one died, or whatever. So... the romance was pretty badly done.
I was not a fan of the pacing. Most of this book was sitting ducks, or whatever the phrase is. There are a ton of paragraphs and pages involving long explanations and stories and history. No thank you, let's get to some action. The action scenes were few and far apart, which was annoying, because the non-action scenes were really boring. So, the pacing wasn't the best. It was too slow.
The execution of this novel was (overall) pretty poor. The concept was really cool, and Ireland's spin on Greek mythology was fabulous, but the execution of the actual story was not so good. It's bad when your reader could care less about basically everything. And doesn't understand what's going on or why things are going on or so on.
I already mentioned a few inconsistencies (like with the gods not intervening), but the fact that I noticed more than a few at all is a red flag to me. For example, I also noticed something about Zephyr's hair. I thought at one point, when she incinerated everything, Nanda had to cut off all Zephyr's hair, really short. But then at the end of the book, Zephyr's curls were back. What? From that point of the hair-cutting to the end of the book, only a few weeks passed (like maybe three at the most). Hair does NOT grow that quickly, to that length anyway.
Anyway, those are the not-so-great things about this book (for me). Another thing - I really thought this book was a standalone. But the ending is a bit ambiguous. Well, I won't be reading future novels in this series (if it does end up being a series), so that's that.
Would I Recommend It:
Heh. Not really, no. I was so ecstatic to read a book involving Greek mythology, but it was such a disappointment. The negatives highly outweigh the positives. Heck, I had a hard time FINISHING this book, and STAYING AWAKE. Save your time and sanity and read something else!
1.5 stars -> rounded up to 2 stars. I'm actually not sure why I'm giving this 2 stars as opposed to 1 star - probably because I really WANTED to like this book. Oh well.
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Posted May 23, 2014
MYTHOLOGY+HOT LOVE INTEREST+*gasp*PEOPLE OF COLOR
IT'S A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
(NO BUT SERIOUSLY READ IT YOU WON'T REGRET IT)
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Posted March 6, 2015
I didn't really know much about this book, going into it. I knew it had something to do with mythology and that's it. I ended up finding an enjoyable read with lots of mythical elements!
Zephyr has been stuck in Tartarus for the past year for killing a god. She has no idea how she did it, she just wanted revenge for her sister's murder. With the help of an old friend, she's able to escape into the mortal world, but she's still being hunted. It turns out, that Zephyr has a very dark ability and is the next Nyx. It doesn't help that there's a prophecy about her leading a war against the gods...
There is a lot of world-building in this book. I had a lot of issues with this at first. Instead of info-dumping, we get the opposite are are dumped right into the book, getting strange words thrown at us as if we understand them. I was able to figure them out eventually, but it wasn't very fun. Other than that, there is a lot of great, interesting world-building here!
As for Zephyr, she's a great main character and I did feel like she grew in this book. She began in the book feeling like a failure and she felt the same throughout a majority of the book, as if she might disappoint everyone. She also had to fight the darkness inside her turning her into something else. She actually grew into a surprisingly strong character.
The romance was okay. It didn't really wow me and I was fully expecting something to happen with them (I'm a pro and spotting who the love interest will be. It comes from reading so many YA books). There was nothing really wrong with the romance. It wasn't a love triangle,insta-love, or distracting. It was just an okay romance; there just wasn't any spark.
This was an interesting book with mythology! I had some issues with following the story and the romance just didn't connect with me, but I did end up liking this book. This is my second book from this author and I am very curious what else she has in store.
Posted September 22, 2014
So Tartarus—the land of suffering and torture deep down in the Underworld—isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be. And somehow, Zephyr Mourning the wingless Harpy has found a way out. With a ragtag group of mythologically-challenged friends, she learns her life’s purpose—to wield the dark shadows that go against everything her family has ever stood for. But with her sister’s soul on the line, Zephyr may just have to fight in a battle she really has no hope of winning.
A book smothered in ancient made-up lands, with only a small dose of Mortal Realm visits, isn’t unique to the world of young adult literature. However, Justina Ireland’s version, although heavily reliant on Greek roots, is described in a way that has me convinced Ireland travelled back in time to create and spread the story of Hades, Hera, and the Harpies. Zephyr’s voice is sharp and humorous, but it also paints a great picture of places that I would like to see—for a brief amount of time at least, considering Tartarus isn’t exactly a place one would like to build a summer home at.
Zephyr is a strong character, even though she has her breakdown moments. She’s realistic and charming, but at the same time, her emotions do come and go faster than Hermes can pop his way out of the Underworld. It’s surprising she doesn’t have neck problems from the amount of emotional whiplash present. Also, Promise of Shadows isn’t a book to read in one sitting. It needs to be absorbed in smaller doses. There’s a lot of information that tends to feel like it is being thrown at the reader, perhaps due to the brisk pace of the storyline.
Despite these minor flaws, I feel that the book is a remarkably entertaining read. It’s a promising choice to satisfy those who are not quite sure what they will do with their lives after the Percy Jackson spinoff ends.
*Note: I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher via Book Review Board of Missouri. This in no way altered my opinion/review.
Posted July 29, 2014
I found out about this book through a blog post on Diversity in YA. I was intrigued on how a book about Greek mythology would incorporate diversity, when many associate the Greeks with "white." In some ways I agree with this, but on the other hand, my sister's recent obsession with "The Percy Jackson" series has left me at a stand still. Fictional white gods shouldn't be a viable excuse for the lack of diversity, and "Promise of Shadows" is definitely proof that characters being different races doesn't take away from these "fictional" myths.
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 b
Posted June 16, 2014
I loved this book so much!!! I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology, and Ireland goes beyond the goddesses of love and beauty, to the delightful and wicked: the furies and the harpies. For those of you who’ve read my review of Ireland’s debut, VENGEANCE BOUND, you know how highly I thought of that book, so it’s safe to say my expectations were fairly high, and PROMISE OF SHADOWS did not disappoint.
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.
Posted March 14, 2014
This book is about shadows and spirits if your goth this book can be interesting for regualar people to so if you like spirits or shadows e noteand secrets to i hope you like the book i know the person rate the book plz this person is awsome he is cool he likes ninjas shadows it is a awsome book Do you think the book is awsome vote... it is awsome bou some parts are boring skip them if you want for adaults the think the boring parts are cool but they are not kids think the boring parts are boring i hope you like the book thanks watch tv if you dont wanna this is what peoples parents say dont watch tv read a book thats what parents say bye everyone....!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2015
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