“The Dragon’s Promise” by Elizabeth Lim | Book Review

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Princess Shiori’anma embarks on a journey to the underwater kingdom of Ai’long, risking her human life to return the pearl in her possession to its rightful dragon owner. As she navigates this delicate task, the pearl takes on a life of its own, sometimes helping Shiori and other times causing chaos. She must keep it contained by any means necessary, but her magic is still a secret, any use of power a danger to her and her loved ones. Her friend Seryu promises to try and keep her safe in his grandfather’s kingdom, but his personal feelings for the princess are clouding his judgement. When Shiori finds herself bound to the royal family, the circumstances feel insurmountable, and she fears she’ll never return to the surface. Will she be able to keep her promise and survive to tell the tale? Will she make it back to her family and finally marry Takkan? Perhaps forbidden magic and the fate of a kingdom is too great a burden for a teenage princess . . .

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Knopf Books for Young Readers, imprint of Random House Children’s Books, through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

For the optimal reading experience, I reread “Six Crimson Cranes” as an appetizer to the entree of “The Dragon’s Promise, the duology finale and my most anticipated book of 2022. Chapter one begins right where we left off, Shiori following Seryu to his grandfather’s ocean kingdom. I spent much of my childhood pretending to be a mermaid princess with a castle at the bottom of the swimming pool so the idea of spending some time underwater thrilled me, even as an adult reader. Out of nowhere, the dreaded reading slump got ahold of me, and my reading came to a complete halt. I pushed myself to read here and there but made very little progress, taking one whole month to finish a story I initially thought I would devour in one week at most. Yes, the slump did affect my reading experience, but I know for a fact it wasn’t the sole roadblock because I tried my luck with another book and flew through the chapters. Plain and simple, this sequel left me feeling disappointed and wishing the duology was, instead, a standalone book.

There was a lot of ground to cover in order to wrap up Shiori’s tale, and nothing flowed, instead feeling like three separate sections that happened one after the other. It read like “We’re in this place. Now we’re here. Lastly, we’re at this location.” The first book took me on an adventure that felt like a whirlwind, and the sequel took me on a guided tour that made me hyperaware of the seconds, minutes, and hours ticking by. I found Shiori incredibly annoying, even more so than before; I understand that her immature mistakes were meant to grow the character, but at some point she has to stop making those same mistakes to show growth, and I never felt that shift. I also didn’t like her use of the word “snitches”; maybe I’m being too picky, but it felt out of character and out of place in this particular fantasy. 

I was rooting for Shiori and Takkan as a couple, but there were too many unnecessary twists and turns. One specific thing that transpired in the underwater kingdom didn’t need to happen, but I would’ve been fine with it had there been some sort of significance; it ended up affecting nothing and was, therefore, a waste of pages. Just when the romance seemed to be back on track, Shiori herself sabotaged the happy ending not once but twice. When I say I felt frustrated with her, I don’t mean the good feeling of frustration while reading that feels like part of the experience; I mean the bad kind of frustration that negatively affects your opinion of a story.

I’m struggling with the intensity of my disappointment, but I’m going to push through that wall and give you a positive: I love the moment when Takkan gifts Shiori with a simple wooden comb painted with memories they’ve shared. He parallels their quiet moment with the hunter who won the Lady of the Moon’s heart with a simple comb amongst suitors gifting her gold and jewels; he gave Imurinya a comb to put up her hair so he could see her eyes and light them with joy. Swoon! That moment gave me everything I was craving from their romance, not to mention their continuous quoting of these words inspired by Shiori’s stepmother: “You are the light that makes my lantern shine.”

I am very open to rereading “The Dragon’s Promise” after a period of time and giving it a second chance with a fresh mind. For now, I’m settling on a 3 star rating and walking away. If you’ve read the first book, please give the sequel a chance and read it for yourself. Just because I had a “meh” experience doesn’t mean you will; I’ve seen reviews from readers who enjoyed it so it does have an audience. I would also recommend you look into Elizabeth Lim’s “Spin the Dawn” duology because there are many connections to the “Six Crimson Cranes” duology, especially after the events of the second book. I’m considering a reread myself which is a relief because obviously my heart still loves this world Elizabeth’s created.

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Content Breakdown: Abuse, Alcohol, Animal Harm, Blood, Bullying, Claustrophobia/Drowning/Seasickness, Death, Language (very minor), Loss, Magic, Prejudice, Religion, Romance, Self Harm, Sensual/Sexual Situations (very minor), Spirituality, Suicide, Superstition, & Violence

*Disclaimer: This section of my review expands on the content breakdown. It is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Abuse: One mention of a child whose father forced her to wear a mask to cover her “disfigured” face & beat her when she disobeyed.

Alcohol: Intoxication & Wine

Animal Harm: Many animal characters are involved in fighting, & some are harmed or killed.

Blood & Violence: Arson, Blood, Choking/Strangling, Death, Demon Attacks, Fights, & Possession, Fighting (one-on-one & large groups), Ghost Attacks & Fights, Mentions & descriptions of hypothetical death (ripped apart by demons, torn to ribbons by sharks, etc.), Mentions & descriptions of demons & ghosts, Mentions & descriptions of wounds, People turned to stone, Poison, Restraints, Self-Sacrifice, Stabbing, Threats of violence & death, Unconsciousness, Various weapons (arrows, beaks, claws, knives, lightning, magic, spears, stones, swords, etc.), & at least one appearance by Lord Sharima’en, the undertaker.

Bullying: A story is told about how Channari/Raikama was mistreated by other children; they threw turtle eggs & called her names like “Monster,” “Snake Demon,” & “Witch.”

Claustrophobia, Drowning, & Seasickness: Be aware that 14 chapters take place underwater! At various times, Shiori is tortured by the dragons, her ability to breathe taken away so that she drowns for as long as they want her to. There are mentions of seasickness & underwater attacks varying in intensity.

Death & Loss – BOOK ONE SPOILER – There are several mentions of Shiori’s stepmother who died in “Six Crimson Cranes.”

Language: D*mn & D*mned

Magic: Mentions of Amulets (the source of an enchanter’s magic), Dragons, Enchanters/Enchantresses, Inspiritation, Sorcerors/Sorceresses, Witches, & Wraiths

Shiori is told that the dragons poured a bitter tea called Sangi down her throat so she could breathe underwater. 

While imprisoned, Shiori meets a young teenage boy who’s slowly turning to stone. 

Bloodsakes are a major plot point carried over from book one, enchanters who possess the magic to free imprisoned demons from the Holy Mountains with the spilling of blood. There is a brief mention of past bloodsakes who were executed to keep magic out of Kiata; Emperor Hanriyu found the practice barbaric, & it ended with his reign.

Shiori is called a witch & sorceress with derogatory intent, the people of Kiata still believing that magic is evil.

Prejudice: There are quite a few discussions about how the dragons look down on humans & any dragon who is half-human. They call them krill, a derogatory name referring to food for shrimp & whales. Elang is half-dragon, half-human & struggles to find his place, not feeling like he fully belongs to one world or the other; he despises humans, probably as a way to find favor with the dragons, but still they look down on him, believing he doesn’t deserve his title “High Lord of the Westerly Seas.”

Takkan implies that Kiatan nobility is quick to judge outsider & refer to them as “barbarians.”

Religion, Spirituality, & Superstition: Mentions of Altars, Demons, Demon possession, Heaven/Heaven(s), Fate, Food offerings, Ghosts, Gods/Goddesses, Hell/Nine Hells, Incense, Luck, Prayers, Priests/Priestesses, Resurrection, Shamans, Shrines, Superstitions (i.e. avoiding the number 4), Telekinesis, Temples, & Trinkets to ward off demons (i.e. a bracelet)

Mention of the number 9 as the number of eternity

There are constant mentions of “strands,” as in people’s fate/path. For example, “may our strands cross again.”

Shiori uses the magic of the Tears of Emuri’en, water that reveals fate’s possibilities.

There’s a description of a bedroom with mourning sheets in the windows & prayer plaques & scrolls around the bed, wishes for safe passage into the afterlife. Later on, there’s a description of a shrine with ivory banners also representing a wish for safe passage into the afterlife; there are also food offerings on an altar & a wooden statue of the deceased.

Bandur is described as an especially dangerous demon who can command other demons, possess one’s mind & thoughts, & steal a soul with one touch.

The Forgotten Isles of Lapzur are inhabited by demons & ghosts. The ghosts can turn you into one of them with a single touch, & the demons prey on fear, distorting one’s memories until you’re disoriented enough to kill without fighting back.

Gods & Goddesses Mentioned:

-Ashmiyu’en, goddess of life

-Emuri’en, the goddess of fate & love, who becomes Imurinya, Lady of the Moon

-Nazayun, god of Dragons

-Sharima’en, god of death & the Undertaker

Phrases used as curses & exclamations:

-Bane of Sharima’en!

-Blazing Eternal Courts! 

-Bubbling, blazing demons of Tambu!

-By the Eternal Courts!

-By the miracle of the gods . . .

-By the sages!

-By the strands!

-Curse the sages!

-Demons of Tambu!

-Demons take me!

-Emuri’en’s Strands!

-Glorious gods!


-Gods knew . . .

-Gods spare me!

-Great gods!

-I hope you rot in the Nine Hells!

-May the luck of the dragons be with you!

-Miracles of Ashmiyu’en!

-Nine blazing hells!

-Nine hells!

-Nine hells of Sharima’en!

-Oh gods!

-Praise the great gods!

-Praise the sages!

-Sons of the wind!

-Strands of Emuri’en!

-Thank Emuri’en!

-Thank the Eternal Courts!

-Thank the great gods!

-Thank the strands!

Romance: A handful of times Shiori blushes while admiring Takkan’s build & muscles.

A handful of moments when a couple is alone but do nothing beyond hugging; they sleep in each other’s arms one time but are traveling in a group.

At least one cheek kiss, One nose kiss, One almost-kiss, & 4 kisses

Sensual/Sexual: Shiori asks how it’s possible for a human companion to have a child with a dragon, & Lady Solzaya explains that after a binding ceremony, the human companion is immortal & no longer human, implying there’s some kind of change that makes mating with a dragon possible.

Self Harm: It’s revealed that a character’s facial scar was self-inflicted, a punishment of sorts because she hated looking in the mirror & seeing a beautiful face instead of her own “disfigured” face. She also tried to cut off the disfigurement, but despite her effort to fight through such a painful procedure, it always came back.

Suicide: Under the control of a demon, nine priestesses killed themselves: four by dagger, three by fire, & two by drowning. This is only mentioned, not described as it’s happening.

An imprisoned priestess pulls out one of her rotting teeth, crushes it into a powder, & throws it in the air, freezing her guards before uttering a few words & dropping dead.

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