Eleusis was once united with Hades, a subterranean nation that relied heavily on relationships with the more prosperous Eleusis. After Hades’ king became corrupted by incredible power, the mages of Eleusis sealed up Hades, leaving the Hadeans to fend for themselves in increasingly desperate situations that forced many to eat the cursed fruit of the damned, trapping them in Hades. Persephone, daughter of the great mage Demeter, struggles to keep a secret and manage the expectation that she will take Demeter’s place. When she is captured by a soldier of Hades and forced to eat one of the fruits of the damned, Persephone goes on a journey to find her way back to Eleusis and uncover Hades’ secrets and her own history.
Persephone is a quiet and engaging story that deftly weaves a young woman’s coming of age and questions the value of punishing a whole nation for the actions of its leadership. Author Locatelli-Kournwsky weaves Persephone’s story with Demeter’s backstory, thus building a greater understanding of the setting’s history and Persephone’s search for a place. While there are plenty of action scenes, it’s the little bits of foreshadowing and careful details that keep the story engaging. Persephone is a charming heroine who carries the story with her kindness and determination.
Locatelli-Kournwsky brings Persephone and her world to life with wonderful watercolor illustrations, with soft colors contributing to the story’s gentle tone and stately pacing. The expressive character designs, which are reminiscent of Studio Ghibli films, manage to capture the protagonist and other cast members as well as portray cityscapes and Hades’ underground caverns with absorbing detail.
Fans of Studio Ghibli films will be drawn to Persephone for its artwork and readers regardless of their love for Ghibli will stay for the engaging narrative. Although there are serious topics and some violence, nothing gets too gory, making it appropriate for middle-grade readers and older.
by Loic Locatelli-Kournwsky