Title: Children of Icarus (Children of Icarus #1)
Author(s): Caighlan Smith
Release Date: 19th July 2016
Publisher: Curious Fox
Genre: YA, Dystopia
Source: Publisher (ARC)
It's Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it's Clara who is bright, strong and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It's no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes they are torn apart for ever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.
This is one of those books that is incredibly hard to review because its reading should really be done with the least amount of knowledge possible regarding its plot. The blurb is incredibly vague (something that is rare now in books, and I wish happened more), and one of the best things about embarking on this reading journey is really not knowing what lies ahead.
That being said, I will try and not spoil anything about this book but still do my best to make you want to read it, because I absolutely loved it!
Clara, the girl named in the synopsis, is the protagonist's best friend. They've known each other their entire lives, and they seemingly share the same desire of one day being chosen to enter the labyrinth that will allow them to become angels and join Icarus. However, they soon learn that everything they thought they knew is not exactly what it seems.
This book is written in first person present tense, which is not very common but works perfectly with the tone of the story, and the fact that the protagonist is never named. I didn't even realize this fact until I was probably a third through the book, and it only goes to show how well this is worked into the writing and how it does not stick out like a sore thumb. The protagonist takes on her best friend's name for most of the book (for simplicity I will call her "Clara" from now on), but she spends a good chunk of it refusing to say or think of her own name. This is only one of the many ways in which "Clara" struggles with her identity, and seeing her development throughout the plot was a delight to witness.
"Clara" is not an immediately likeable character. In fact, for the first half of the book or so she barely speaks, she doesn't really show a personality, and is in no way, shape or form someone that is ready to face the dangers that lie in front of her. She is like the little, shivering mouse hiding in the corner of a room, waiting for everyone else to not notice her and leave so she can go about her business. The few interactions that she has with Clara, you cannot really understand how they have become friends, as she has a very dominant personality and sometimes treats her in a way that does not shout 'best friend' material.
All of this put together would usually make me hate a main character, but in this case it oddly works. Why do all dystopian heroines have to be strong, brave, courageous from the get go? Not everyone is a Katniss Everdeen, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing such a deadly world through the eyes of a more fragile character, who earns her strength along the way. I kept thinking that this is what it would have been like if Primrose had gone to the Hunger Games had Katniss not volunteered in her place, and that visual stuck with me throughout the book.
Much like Primrose, "Clara" goes through an immense transformation in this book. I will not get too much into this as to not spoil anything, but I will say that if you become frustrated at times with how much she is seemingly weak and surprised at how she manages to survive against several of the labyrinth's beasts, rest assured that "Clara" does grow into someone that you will be happy to follow!
This is very much a character journey story, but the world building was also fantastic. The main reason I wanted to pick up this book was its use of mythology that is not often used in YA, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. While some aspects of it I had been expecting (mostly related to the labyrinth, as that's really the only thing you know about before reading), I was surprised to see other influences weaved into its original mythology. While it is only present in the very beginning of the book I really enjoyed the 'High Rise' aspect of the character's lives, as they all reside in very tall buildings that encompass everything they need to survive without having to pass its threshold, as it provides a wonderful parallel with all the dangers the characters will face wide in the open. I could also see some similarities with the movie 'The Island' (which is a fantastic film with Ewan McGregor and Scarlet Johansson, I leave the recommendation), when it comes to the aspect of people being told a lie their whole lives and being sent off to certain death instead of a promised paradise. These are most likely not intentional, but this mix of modern with the ancient came through as very natural and at the same time original.
'Children of Icarus' will have immediate appeal to fans of 'The Hunger Games' and 'The Maze Runner', and certainly to any dystopian reader out there. With its 'out of the box' narrative, originality and poignant themes, this action packed story will have you turning the pages at lightning speed to find out just how many surprises the darkest corners of the labyrinth holds. That is, if you dare enter...