April 6, 2016 by Zoë
Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith tells the story of a teenage girl chosen to be part of a group of children and teenagers sent into the labyrinth that surrounds their city. Despite the stories told within the city concerning benevolent angels, it quickly becomes clear that the labyrinth is a deadly place, full of monsters and secrets.
Despite the novel’s name and the mythological backstory built around characters named Icarus and Daedala, this story has almost nothing to do with Greek mythology, so don’t come in expecting a retelling. In fact, I’d suggest forgetting about Greek mythology altogether, since it’s not really relevant.
Speaking of Greek mythology, though, let’s move on to my first critique: the names. They were all fairly generic, some with slight quirks. Examples: Collin, Theo, Clara. This made it hard for me to figure out when the story was supposed to take place. The names weren’t really “futuristic,” but they also certainly weren’t historic. Or Greek. Except for one: Sybil. Her name actually turns out to have some significance, but you’ll have to figure that out for yourself.
At any rate, one of my biggest issues was the confusing temporal location of this book. Everyone is running around wearing robes and talking about temple ceremonies while also throwing in the occasional “OK.” Let me tell you now: this story is actually a mystery and the confusing temporal setting is a clue.
Which brings me to my second critique. I had a really hard time figuring out what this story was supposed to be about. It seems like a survival story, but it drags in the middle so it lacks in that survival story tension. Instead, in the last few pages, I finally realized that the point was figuring out the answer to the riddle of the labyrinth, but leading up to that I couldn’t tell if I was just supposed to accept it. This was probably because the main character just accepts it.
Which brings me to my third and final critique: the main character is extremely passive. Things happen to her and she gets passed around and helped by people for no real reason and with no real input on her part. This adds to some plot twists which seemed a bit contrived. Her passivity also just generally bothered me—I understand freezing up when faced with dangerous monsters, but once she as out of danger and actually was living in incredible safety, the main character remained as passive as ever.
Despite these critiques, I did enjoy the book. The labyrinth is a dangerous place and thus there are senseless deaths that aren’t glossed over. There are also some rather brutal assault scenes, which is something to keep in mind if you don’t want to read that. I appreciated them, though: it shows what the labyrinth does to people. There also was one particularly traumatized character whom the protagonist befriends, and again, I appreciated this: not everyone will have a stiff upper lip and be able to survive the labyrinth undamaged. In fact, no one can really come out of it undamaged.
This book obviously is leading into a sequel and ultimately I probably will read that too.
“Have amazingly wonderful dreams, OK?”
I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley.