July 27th, 2014
Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland
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). This is how I imagined her to look:
(Should be stated that this is actually lostie815's interpretation of Iko in "Cinder", not actually Zephyr)
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
Now to the DreamCast!
Naturalista from Instagram(Dont know her name) as Zephyr Mourning
Michael Hudson as Tallon
Evan Rachel Wood as Cass