Dystopian Mythology

The Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith

children of icarusPublished August 1,2016 by Switch Press

Reviewd from a copy received from Netgalley

It’s Clara who’s desperate to enter the labyrinth and it’s Clara who’s bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It’s no surprise when she’s chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. 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 official summary gives nothing away about this book.  You think from the title and from the mention of a maze that it is based in greek mythology.  But the only reference to Icarus is in the short backstory we get at the beginning of the book.  In this story we learn that the gods were jealous of the angels and tried to capture them but missed Icarus.  When he tried to rescue the other angels he is tricked and his wings burn and he falls to earth.  It is here that Daedala (not Daedalus) finds him and builds a tomb for him so that he might rise again someday.  She then built a giant city over the tomb and then a labyrinth around the city to protect him.  Finally we are told that young and innocent children are sent into the maze every year to find the end and become angels.

After this interesting take on the Icarus myth we are introduced to our narrator who is the nameless friend of Clara.  We are never told her name, although for a short while she takes on Clara’s name.  Once she and Clara enter the maze, they find that everything they were taught about it was false.  There are no angels, and there doesn’t appear to be any end.  There are some brutal and graphic deaths, which the author manages very well. The girl then finds other kids who have been living, barely, in the maze, some for a very long time.  These kids have endured hardships that have changed them, and not for the better.  This girl is not very likable, at times as she is often weak, mute and has very little personality or anything really that endears her to the reader.  However this changes towards the end after she has endured horrible encounters with creatures in the maze and with the other kids who live there. In fact there are few characters in this book that are likable.  Most you are either terrified of or feel a great deal of pity for, and some are true psychopaths.  But once you learn what it has been like for them living in the maze you wonder how they survived at all.

Even though there are truly some horrific scenes in this book, I found it very hard to put down.  I read the entire book on a flight to Connecticut last week.  I rarely read for such a long stretch , but I truly just kept turning the pages to see what horrific thing was going to happen next.  It is not a book for the faint at heart, and it may even give some kids nightmares (recommended for 14+, but I would say 16+).  I am very much hoping for a sequel though as I want to find out more about this world the author has created.

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