Vial of Tears

Vial of Tears
Age Range
Release Date
October 05, 2021
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Two sisters become trapped in the underworld--and in the machinations of deities, shapeshifters, and ghouls--in this lush and dangerous Phoenician mythology-inspired fantasy. Teenage sisters Samira and Rima aren't exactly living the dream. Instead, they live with their maddeningly unreliable mother in a rundown trailer in Michigan. Dad's dead, money's tight, and Mom disappears for days at a time. So when Sam's grandfather wills her the family valuables--a cache of Lebanese antiquities--she's desperate enough to try pawning them before Mom can. But she shouldn't. Because one is cursed, forbidden, the burial coin of a forgotten god. Disturbing it condemns her and Rima to the Phoenician underworld, a place of wicked cities, burning cedar forests, poisoned feasts of milk and lemons, and an endless, windless ocean. Nothing is what it seems. No one is who they say. And down here, the night never ends. To get home--and keep her sister safe--Sam will have to outwit beautiful shapeshifters, pose as a royal bride, sail the darkest sea... and maybe kill the god of death himself.

Editor review

1 review
fast-paced and rich with details from Lebanese mythology
Overall rating
Writing Style
What Worked: The blend of Lebanese mythology with the American Teen Culture of today makes for a very rich and unique story. In America, Samira and Rima are doing the best they can. Their father is MIA after a military operation that went wrong years before and their mother constantly gambles to pay the bills. Samira takes very seriously her promise to her father that she would look out for the family while he was gone. So, when a strange inheritance from Jiddo (Grandfather) arrives containing rare coins, Samira is determined to hide it from her mother until she can determine its worth. One of the coins is an obol, a burial coin, that ensures someone gets to heaven. Rima discovers it and the demi-god Eshmun arrives to whisk her away to the Phoenician underworld to secure his lost obol. Samira latches on to her at the last minute and goes with her.
Samira and Rima react to their new surroundings much like anybody would: disbelief, suspicion, and resistance to anything they are being asked to do. Eshmun takes them on a journey to his home, but Rima is captured along the way. Samira learns there is a prophecy that Eshmun or his child will lead his people out of the underworld. So not only is Samira wrapping her head around being in a mythical Phoenician underworld, her sister stolen, but now the expectation that she will marry and create said prophesized heir. She learns that forces want Eshmun captured for his healing tears as well. That is a lot for Samira to handle but she is fierce and determined.
What Left Me Wanting More: Samira had to be the protector of the family and responsible beyond her years. Even though the underworld situation gets a resolution I am left wondering if anything about their real-life improves after this experience.
Final Verdict: This story was fast-paced and rich with details from Lebanese mythology. It was a bit unexpected that a love interest with Eshmun was possible, but the story didn’t end up going in that direction. The fierce loyalty to family and perseverance in tough situations kept us hoping that Samira would succeed in rescuing her sister and making it back to the real world. Samira is also forced to deal with the fact that her father isn’t coming back and she can’t keep holding onto death.
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