Promises to Keep: Prequel to the Newford Stories

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Charles de Lint Newford Promises to KeepPromises to Keep by Charles deLint

Promises to Keep is the story of the early Jilly Coppercorn, how she meets so many of the other central characters from the Newford stories, and the adventure that results when she unexpectedly bumps into Donna, a friend from her past who she had met while in the Home for Wayward Girls. Jilly used to be a victim of abuse, a junkie, and a hooker, but she’s changed her life, is clean, and is attending college and working. What change will this friend from her damaged past bring with her?

Promises to Keep is really a prequel to the Newford stories. While it does not necessarily assume a familiarity with the other stories set in this fictional city, the reader would benefit from having read at least some of the other books.

Charles de Lint always writes beautifully descriptive prose. When he’s at his best, you actually feel like you are in the world he has created and described. I loved the familiar characters in Promises to Keep, too.

But, while I enjoyed this book, I had a few issues with it. First, the ending feels disconnected from the rest of the story. Throughout the story, Jilly emphasizes the need to earn what you get, to learn from your mistakes, and to take personal responsibility for your actions, but the ending is completely disparate, with an almost deus ex machina resolution to the conflict.

Second, the book felt a little stale because Donna reminded me a lot of Grace from Mysteries of Grace, and this familiarity was underscored by the similarity of locations in the two stories. Promises to Keep was written first, but I read Mysteries of Grace recently, so I felt like I was revisiting old ground.

My final problem was the repetitive nature of Jilly’s personal mantra of how the world should work. I wanted to say, “Okay, I got the point already!” De Lint needs to stop telling me how the world should work, and show me why it should work that way.

It was difficult to give a star rating to Promises to Keep because, even though it had some problems, I so much I enjoyed reading about how Jilly meets Sophie and Wendy and Geordie and… Well, you get the point. I’ve read all the other Newford stories, and loved most of them, so I have a previous attachment to these characters. I appreciated reading about all of the episodes that are briefly mentioned in other books. So, I’m giving Promises to Keep 4 stars for the de Lint completionist, and 3 1/2 stars for everyone else.


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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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