Khanh the Killjoy

So everyone hated this but me! Is this a first?

Promise of Shadows - Justina Ireland
The darkness agrees with me. It asks me to release it, as loud as a roar and as quiet as a whisper. I remember what my sister said long ago: You must control the darkness. You can’t ever give in to it. But the shadows want to make me happy, and I deserve a little happiness.

This book is fantastic. It has the misfortune of having one of the worst summary opening lines I have ever read. I mean, come on "She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man?" SERIOUSLY? After reading that line, my expectations for the book just dropped. I expected a stupid, brainless girl, the sort who spends her days watching TLC's Hoarders or Toddlers and Tiaras. I was so blessedly wrong.

Ignore the summary. This book is fantastic.

The main character is flawed, she is hurt, she is vulnerable. But she is intelligent, she is rational, she can use her brains. She is depressed, but fuck, wouldn't you be, too, if you were sentenced to hard labor in Tartarus after seeing your sister's corpse flayed open like a wild animal?

Zephyr is not strong, but she grows. She is in pain, suffering from the murder of her beloved sister, Zephyr. Yes, this book has the standard YA elements of a special destiny, but what differentiates it from other YA books of its ilk is that the main character is fanstastically built, the mythology is wonderfully wrought (and the Greek gods and goddesses well represented), the romance is light, the emotions there, but believable. And really, there's better things to think about when the gods are out for your blood---than love.

I just don’t need the distraction. I need to focus on not failing. That’s going to be hard enough for me to do without getting all twitterpated about a boy.

YES! That's the fucking attitude I want!

My point is that the main character does not feel like a Mary Sue. There is a supporting cast of character that actually does stuff. There are relationships and friendships. There are questions as to whom one can trust. The main character is a Harpy with *gasp* dark skin. Thank you, book!

My one complaint in the book is that it's slow, and in the middle, the plot kind of fell into the yawn category. I wanted more action, I wanted more excitement, and this book didn't deliver what I wanted for the middle half of the book.

The Summary: Zephyr Mourning is a Harpy, and she is in Hell. Actually, she's in Tartatus, same thing, you know. And man, it fucking sucks. For one thing, it sometimes rains excrement in Tartarus.

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.

It wasn't always like this. Life wasn't always so miserable. There was a time before, when Zephyr was happy. She wasn't the best Harpy in the world---she fails at magic, but she doesn't fail at ALL magic. It's just that the magic she can wield---Erebos---is the forbidden sort. Harpies are supposed to use light magic---Aether, and Zephyr is incapable of that. Since Erebos is forbidden, Zephyr is the most useless Harpy ever, failing her Trials, but nevertheless, she had a future.

That promise of a future ended with her sister's murder.

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.

Zephyr is in Tartarus because she somehow managed to kill the minor god who murdered her sister. That isn't supposed to happen, literally. Harpies---lowly warriors in the scheme of things, aren't supposed to be able to kill any type of god, and the Gods, the Exalted, wants to know how she did it. They captured her, they ripped out her wings, and now they want to make her pay. Zephyr doesn't care anymore, she's so tired, so lost, so desperately sad.

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.

As lost as she is, as hopeless as she feels, her life will not end in the pits of Tartarus. Her friends Cass is with her, and she has bigger plans. She doesn't want to remain in Tartarus for a moment longer, and she is taking Zephyr with her as they escape to the Mortal Realm. Zephyr has another motive for escaping to the Mortal Realm. Her sister's soul is not in the Elysian Fields, it's just gone. There is a mysterious being, the Nyx, who can find lost souls, and Zephyr is desperate to locate The Nyx. A legend, like the Easter Bunny. Like the Boogeyman.

“He’s dead. He was betrayed long ago by his beloved, and killed by a sword made of bright. But as he lay dying, he swore he would return, that not only would he avenge his murder, but that he would slay the bright Exalteds who killed him.”

Luckily, Cass and Zephyr are not alone. As awesome as both of them are, it takes more than a little luck to escape a fucking drakan. Zephyr is terrified, she's ready to give up. Really, what's the use? Her sister is gone, she is on the run from a mess of gods and goddesses (Hera, that bitch) who wants her ass on a platter. What's the use? Might as well end it all by being eaten. Dying is easier than this.

I’m suddenly just so exhausted.
I’m tired of being afraid.
The entire mass of the creature regards me, waiting for me to do something. But I’m so sore and tired, and a wave of defeat washes over me. I just can’t see the point in fighting anymore.

But fate---or rather, a childhood friend, has bigger plans for her.

“Are you seriously going to sit there and wait for it to eat you, or are you going to cross the chasm?”

She is not alone. She has friends. But who is her friend? Who can she trust? Is it Cass? The legendary liar? The one whose Pellacis family line is known to be betrayers? Her one true friend in Tartarus?

Nanda’s expression turns stormy. “A Pellacis?”
I turn to look at Cass, who hangs back. “What’s wrong?”
“Pellacis are dangerous vættir. They’re liars and cheats, as dishonest as they are pretty."

Is it Blue? The charming boy with a smile that could be deceptive?

I like Blue and his playful attitude.
But even though I’m fond of Blue, I don’t trust him. To be fair, there aren’t many people I trust these days.

Is it her childhood friend, Tallon? He may have rescued her from Tartarus, but what's his true incentive?

“I would guess that the kid you knew has changed some.”

It is not by accident that Zephyr came to be rescued. Zephyr is a pawn, she is a plan, she is a hope to her people, the downtrodden Vaettir. And she fears that she may fail them all.

Not even the frowns of the few skeptics in the crowd can remove the hope of all those people looking at me, wanting me to be the answer to all their problems.
I can’t save them. I can’t even save myself.

The Setting: This is an altered version of Greek mythology, with some of its main players, like Hermes, Hera, and Hades (I stuck to the H's), and as a mythology Nazi, I have to say that this book worked just fine. I have no problems with how the gods and goddesses were portrayed, such as the fucking awesome Hades. As cuddly...

Hades suddenly opens his arms, and before I can retreat out of his reach, I am wrapped up in a hug. It’s a strange sensation, and his darkness wraps around me in a comforting embrace. I want to stiffen, to resist even this small measure of affection. But the darkness is calming. Reassuring.

As he is terrifying.

... the whole of his darkness draws back from him, so that for one shining moment his form is revealed. The inky aura looms over him like a snake about to strike.
“Insolent puppy,” he says.

These gods are not the focus of the book, but the brief glimpses we get of them are glorious. The book centers around Greek mythology, building around the myths of the Titans, Cronus. The book has its own system of immortals, with definite ranks. From the lowly Vaettir, with partially human blood, downtrodden and used by the Gods.

The gods tell us the vættir are the ones who are flawed, our human blood compromising us. But it’s the gods who betray the ones they love without remorse.

To the Exalted, gods like Hades and Hera, all-powerful beings, to lesser gods of the Acolyte order, who use and abuse the lower classes at will. This book focuses on the tension between the ranks, and it does so very well.

The descriptions of various places are awesome. We see Tartarus, the river Styx (which smells just fucking horrible).

I smell the river long before I see it, the stench of rotting flesh and dead fish wafting across the plain toward us. It smells like hatred and lies, and I wonder if that’s why some vættir refer to the Styx as the River of Deceit.

Zephyr: Love! Love! Love~ Zephyr is the kind of character I have always wanted in an YA book. A heroine who is angry, sad, flawed. She sometimes gives up, but the thing is that we don't blame her for wanting to give up. Initially, Zephyr is so angry that I completely understand her attitude of "Why bother? Why bother when I have no future." Because really, can you feel otherwise when you're in a place that rains crap. But what I love about Zephyr is her rationality in the face of chaos.

I take a deep breath and fight back the hysteria. I have to try to think about this rationally.

It's her realism, she's not some starry-eyed girl who takes unnecessary risks.

I already know that I stand absolutely no chance against a cerberus. No need to tempt the Fates.

It's her self-realization. She knows when she's behaving badly.

The physical contact combined with the childhood nickname is enough to break through the haze of rage. I look down at him, and I suddenly feel very guilty.
I’m acting like a spoiled brat.

It's the fact that she's so human, she's not a prophetic heroine, she's scared. She's not ready.

But I’m not brave. Never have been, never will be.

That's what makes Zephyr a character I like. She is a girl who is forced to grow up.

The Romance: No insta-love. No heart that goes pitter fucking patter every 5 seconds. Don't worry, her friend is totally hot, and she does feel things for him, but really, THERE'S BIGGER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT HERE. Not to mention she's a Harpy. Love is an emotion that good Harpies do not feel. Breeding is the game for the survival of the species. Love is out of the question.

Whoever my father was, I know I was the result of a breeding contract, not some torrid affair. Love just isn’t in the cards for Harpies.

When Zephyr catches herself noticing something about the guy she loves---his eyes, his muscles, she tells herself to snap out of it.

Harpies do not have crushes, especially on their childhood best friends.

She hates herself sometimes, for feeling such things, for being so weak as to fall for someone.

No wonder I failed my Trials. I’m not even a Harpy. Feeling this turmoil and sick excitement over the mere thought of kissing Tallon proves what a failure I am. Harpies never fall for anyone. They definitely never fall in love.

Zephyr isn't a pretty pretty princess, and Tallon doesn't treat her like one. They argue, they clash, he pushes her beyond her limits when he sees that she's going nowhere with her apathy.

“Apologize for what? Trying to keep us from waking up to a battalion of Acolytes on the doorstep? If anything, you owe everyone an apology for putting them in danger and for being a brat.”
Before I even think about it I’m swinging at him.

They have a great relationship, trust is built, friendship regrows from lost time, and I completely ship the two of them.

He laughs. “If anyone is strong enough to stand with me, it’s you. You can handle my darkness.”

I don’t tell him that’s because I am the dark. Besides, a girl has to have some secrets.