Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)

Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)

By: Kaitlin Bevis

(http://kaitlinbevis.com/)

Published by: Euterpe (July 5, 2012)

A young adult fantasy review

 

Persephone suspects she is going crazy.  The wind whispers her name and she often feels she is being watched.  Then her mother tells her she is a goddess, so clearly craziness is catching.  Being attacked by the god of winter and carried off to the Underworld by Hades don’t help Persephone’s day.  Ironically, they do convince her that her family is sane, if different.  Now Persephone’s only obstacles are learning how to be a goddess, the obsession of the lustful god Boreas, ruling as queen of the Underworld, and trying to regain control over her life.  Also, finding oneself in a permanent, political marriage to the god of the Underworld can get tricky.  Hades proves a very different god than Persephone imagined.

I found Persephone fresh, fun, and easy to read.  Bevis modernizes Greek mythology by creating her own history of what changing values and worship systems would do to the deities, rather than simply updating them like Rick Riordan.  Her alterations are engaging and change the stakes so that readers get to encounter well-known myths with fresh eyes.  (Yes, I am using the word “fresh” a lot because it’s about the goddess of spring.)  I can’t wait to find out more about the gods in her world-I wish there’d been a bit more exposition just filling me in.

I enjoyed this heroine.  Persephone’s discovery that she is a goddess is the most authentic, plausible supernatural-acceptance narrative I’ve ever read.  She felt so organic that she came across as a truly strong heroine without it seeming like the author was trying to make her one; she just was.  Her personality grounded the novel and grew in the spotlight, no matter what else was happening.  Plus, Persephone’s practically the only time I’ve seen a short girl in this supernatural role.

Bevis very deliberately leaves no stone unturned in creating a Hades whose character is positive.  His Underworld has a lot to offer and is wonderfully fleshed out.  The supporting cast is compelling, rather than just plotpoints.  There’s enough action to keep the pacing quick.  She does assume enough knowledge of Greek mythology that, while readers won’t be lost, they might not enjoy the novel as much if they aren’t in the know.  The myths Bevis actually retells successfully marry familiar myths with her versions of the characters.  The overarching plot that extends to the sequels is promising.

So basically, as Persephone renews the earth, Persephone renews her story.  What’s not to like about spring?  I recommend it.

 

(Review for the sequel here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/daughter-of-earth-and-sky-daughters-of-zeus-2/)

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Similar Posts:

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/694/ (Connections between Greek myth and “The Little Mermaid”)

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/modern-may-queen/ (Katniss as May Queen poem)

Shadowfell

Shadowfell

By: Juliet Marillier

(http://www.julietmarillier.com/)

Alfred A. Knopf 2012

A young adult fantasy review

 

Neryn’s homeland of Alban brims with magical fairies, stonie mons, and other creatures.  Unfortunately, King Keldec has been systematically taking control of all Alban’s magic by turning it, and those who wield it, to his personal service for life.  Anyone who cannot be converted is ruthlessly stamped out.  Neryn, with her gift of seeing the fairy folk, knows about running, about hiding, and about the perils of trust.  What Neryn does not know is if Shadowfell, the fabled home of a resistance force, is real.    Yet, between the enemies that hunt her and the mysterious strangers who help her, Neryn becomes determined to make her own resistance count.  After all, battling Keldec’s oppression involves far more than a place.

Shadowfell includes many of the most recognizable themes concerning magical lands, tyrants, and discovering personal strength.  Marillier manipulates them into a modern, edgy atmosphere that balances the story’s tension against its familiarity.  The result is a story where the small events draw you in and keep you engaged despite the plot’s overall predictability.  It may be the type of story you’ve read before, but here it feels less like following a cast who knows they’re in a story and more like experiencing unsettling emotions applicable to real situations.  The personalities of Neryn and Flint center the story.  The relationship between the hunted girl and the mystifying man grows in complexities and questions as they near Shadowfell.  Seen through Neryn’s eyes, the dynamic is easy to empathize with and the shifts in the relationship are realistic.  Marillier deftly uses the relationship to illuminate the issues Shadowfell discusses.  Best of all, she does it without trying too hard.

Akin to a cross between the Tiffany Aching books and Legend of the Seeker, Shadowfell serves up a journey for those who like their protagonists to think.  For those who prefer lots of action or more light-hearted magical quests, this book might be a bit heavy.

 

Personally, I found myself drawn in after the rather stereotypical introduction.  I really enjoyed reading the book and I overall did like the characters.  Thinking back on it now, though, I cannot really recall why I liked it as much as I did.  It has a lot of qualities that I personally don’t care for, though they were turned to good account for those who like that sort of thing.  I can only hazard a guess that it was the balance between all the elements-I was never left with just one aspect long enough to get really unhappy with it.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy)

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1)

By: Sarah Rees Brennan

(http://sarahreesbrennan.com/)

Random House (September 11, 2012)

A young adult fantasy romance review

Kami Glass has come to terms with the fact that she may be crazy.  After all, when the voice you’re constantly connected to in your brain is the friend who makes you feel sane, even craziness seems safer than losing them.  Particularly when Kami’s zest for investigation begins exposing her quiet English town as a disturbing place.  Unfortunately, the new discoveries are happening everywhere and they are not abiding by the rules.  The founding family has returned to the town, animals are being ritually sacrificed in the woods, and supernatural things seem to be happening.  But for Kami, the most unnerving thing of all is meeting her imaginary friend…in the flesh.

Brennan writes with charm and creates voices that are distinctly fun.  For all of the strangeness of Kami’s private world with Jared, Unspoken is cheering and easy to read.  The mystery element folds in nicely, turning up new information at a good pace without losing suspense from any of aspect of the story.  The world of Sorry-in-the-Vale fills the novel with a sense of place, with a fully-functioning society to support the important characters, and with an atmosphere that feels natural, no matter what eccentricities came to light.

Most importantly, Unspoken plays with the notion of individuality and what it really means.  In order to care about this overall theme, Brennan really had to bring it with her characters.  She succeeded.  Kami heads a cast of three-dimensional people with histories and secrets.  Specific stereotypes are deliberately smashed and issues of class and race are included as they really would be, integral underlying matters that don’t need a lot of focus to touch on everything.  The discussion of physical beauty and attraction mirrors and complements Brennan’s discussion of personality and perception in such simple ways it was almost painfully wonderful.

Unspoken meddles with so many things: romance, mystery, magic, meaningful questions.  This novel works through as many layers as Kami and Jared do in their relationship with each other.  The ending clarity felt nearly wrong, with so many layers of suspense and wonder lost in the final revelations.  On the other hand, this is only book one and I see several reasons why Brennan may have wanted the ending to feel that way.  If nothing else, it felt fitting.  This is the first Sarah Rees Brennan book I have read and already I trust her to ultimately provide satisfaction.  Like Kami, I feel “strongly that Fridays should not be full of disappointments.”  Luckily, Unspoken offered me none.

First Frost

First Frost

By: Liz DeJesus

(http://www.freewebs.com/lizdejesus/)

Musa Publishing Imprint: Euterpe 2012

A young adult fantasy review

 

Bianca’s life revolves around her mother’s family-run museum.  This museum is special because it holds artifacts from fairy tales, such as Snow White’s apple and Sleeping Beauty’s spinning wheel.  More importantly, the museum is a legacy that has always passed to the women of the Frost family.  At seventeen, Bianca Frost feels ready to break away from the inheritance, the tradition, and the magical objects of the museum.  After all, magic can’t be real.  Unfortunately, the truth about magic and fairy tales proves itself to Bianca in a most brutal way-sending her on a quest to discover her own powers, rescue her loved ones, and enter the story begun by the famous First Frost.

DeJesus writes with timely, vivacious humor.  First Frost is full of references to current sensations like Tina Fey and tokidoki, as well as to the Grimm’s tales.  This flamboyant tone moves the book at a quick rate and makes it easy to digest.  On the other hand, this persistently light feel occasionally overrides the influence of the plot.  It is difficult to sympathize and connect with characters who don’t seem to be taking their own crisis very seriously.  The dashes of romance and sprinkling of real feelings add layers, but don’t necessarily create fully fleshed-out characters.  However, the charm of this book lies in the alluring items, the rambling journey, and the colorful atmosphere.  Too much psychological depth or focus on the heroine’s many obstacles would have turned this into a very different work than the sweet, delicious medley DeJesus’s story is.

First Frost is the literary equivalent of frozen yogurt, covered with many tempting toppings.  It’s not traditional ice cream, and the toppings might leave some tastes less emphasized than you’d expect, but it’s a sweet, cool treat for the summer.