by Caighlan Smith
Published on August 1, 2016 by Switch Press
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is 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 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 book left me with a lot of mixed feelings.
I’m a sucker for anything based in mythology, especially Greek which surrounds this entire story. Our main character is Nameless. As in, her real name is never revealed so for the sake of this review, she is Nameless. This sixteen-year-old is chosen to become an angel (or so she and her people believe). Instead she finds a whole new harsh world waiting on the other side of the wall.
Though not mentioned in the description, the vast majority of Children of Icarus is set in a labyrinth. My last couple years of high school, I had this weird obsession with labyrinths — they occupied my dreams, my writing, my reading choices — so I got really excited about seeing Smith’s take on a labyrinth, especially with the Greek mythos influence.
As a setting, the labyrinth was great. Dark. Mysterious. Filled with danger and uncertainty. And the monsters… plenty to go around. Perfect for a reader like me.
Yet the world couldn’t keep me hooked when the characters didn’t. Characters drive Children of Icarus in a way that makes each one essential to the story and reading experience. Unfortunately, I really disliked the protagonist. Nameless should be called spineless. She remained quiet for at least 80% of the story and didn’t have to play at being the “mouse” she’s compared to. But then Nameless has her chance to grow a pair and step it up and she does. Not that you get to really see it. That part is glossed over in favor of the actions of a side character.
The supporting cast is really the only reason I kept on reading. They had the connections to the Icarus story shared at the very beginning in a prelude. They had strong, distinct personalities that resonated through the pages. They provided the tension and conflict that Nameless experienced but didn’t play a major role in (excluding a decision she makes at the beginning). I read for these characters, not her.
I also generally wanted more from this book. If you’re going to base something in a myth, I want to see its influence (however twisted) throughout the plot, in the world. Immerse me in it. Smith did a great job of this at the beginning in showing how deeply the myth as written for this book affected the characters, in their mannerisms and speech, their beliefs. But it didn’t take long for the descriptions to drift to Nameless walking the reader through each scene, a bland tour guide to a tourist.
It’s hard to decide whether or not I liked this book. The writing was solid and I would read other works by this author, but I couldn’t connect (or even feel a desire to) with Nameless. Considering I saw the events unfold through her eyes, I was unlikely to enjoy the story to its fullest. But Children of Icarus definitely holds potential and leaves off with a cliffhanger that could’ve come a lot sooner to pick the narrative pace up. It wasn’t a good fit for me, sadly, but I wouldn’t discount it.