“The year is 1972. Jilly Coppercorn is happy, mostly. Her past was anything but. Abuse, addiction, and living on the street brought her to the brink of self-destruction. Now she’s struggling to stay clean and make ends meet. Jilly’s present life in Newford revolves around studying art at Butler University while surrounded by her supportive new family-of-choice: her caseworker, the Grasso Street Angel; best friend, Geordie the fiddler; and fellow artist, Sophie Etoile.
“Rising from the ashes to take on new responsibilities is hard, and nothing comes easily. As Jilly strives to create a life she can be proud of, she recives a tempting opportunity roaring in from the past on an oversized motorcycle. Donna Birch, the only close friend from Jilly’s old juvie days, has blossomed into a confident, tattooed bass-player who offers Jilly a one-in-a-lifetime chance to leave Newford—and start afresh in a beautiful, mysterious city where dreams are almost too easily realized.
“The problem is, Jilly still has unfinished business in Newford.”
This YA urban fantasy caught me by surprise. The entire story was compelling with subtle hints of lurking fantasy. Mr. De Lint placed great emphasis on attention to detail of locations and characters while weaving Jilly’s current experiences with her past.
Jilly meets her old friend, Donna Birch, quite by accident and is invited to hear her play at the biker club “Cool Hand Juke”. Despite, Jilly’s best friend, Geordie, not believing the place exists, Jilly goes. After attending the gig, JIlly accompanies Donna to her place where she learns she has entered into another reality where unfulfilled dreams can be realized. It seems too good to be true and easy as well. Finances materialize in a bank account, an apartment is set up in no time and Jilly goes for walks, meeting other residents with flavourful backgrounds. Soon Jilly discovers the mysterious city is filled with dead people: all who had unexpected deaths before their time. Jilly questions why Donna brought her to such a place without telling her more of the details.
Things get interesting when Jilly learns the doorway in closes and she needs to find another one going out.
The story contained elements of fairy tales where one inadvertently makes a bargain and tries to get out of it. Another aspect covered was of the sociological effects of people needing to be transformed through hope for a better future. That by providing any small kindness you do for others goes a long way to improving their lives. Best of all, the novel has a satisfactory ending.
Promises to Keep is companion to the bestselling novels The Onion Girl and Widdershins.
Charles de Lint is the bestselling author of over seventy adult, YA, and children’s books, including Moonheart, The Blue Girl, Medicine Road, and Forests of the Heart. He is the recipient of the World Fantasy, YALSA, Crawford, and Aurora awards. De Lint is a poet, songwriter, performer, and folklorist, and he has a regular book review column for Fantasy & Science Fiction. He lives in Ottawa, Canada, with his creative co-conspirator, MaryAnn Harris.
The review copy was provided by Chalene Brusso of Tachyon, with thanks.