Children of Icarus
Smith’s Children of Icarus is a brilliant reweaving of Greek myth. In Daedalum, children between the ages of ten and sixteen can be chosen to be Icarii, the Blessed of Icarus, who are sent into the Labyrinth surrounding their city. If they make it through the Labyrinth, they reach Alyssia and become angels like the slumbering Icarus. To be Chosen is a great honor.
To be Chosen is to meet death. The Labyrinth is nothing like they’ve been told. It is a place of unspeakable horrors. There is no magick to keep the Icarii from hunger, thirst, or weariness. There are only nightmare beasts.
Clara has wanted to be Chosen her whole life. This is the last year she is eligible. When she and her best friend are Chosen, things seem to be perfect. They aren’t. Don’t be fooled. Almost straight from the gate, Clara is killed, along with many other Icarii, when a flock of harpies attack. Her friend assumes her name, quite through an accidental misunderstanding. She and a few other fledgling Icarii are rescued by a group from a place called Fates. They are taken in, taught how to survive in this harsh world they now inhabit.
But “Clara’s” misrepresentation gets her into more trouble than she bargained for. Cast out from Fates, she is then taken in by a mysterious figure known as the Executioner, who teaches her even more valuable survival skills. The Executioner’s greatest gifts, however, come from an journal and the secrets it holds.
Just wow. This is a gritty, no-holds-barred book once it gets going. The Labyrinth is a brutal place full of death. The Fates aren’t thriving. They merely survive, hoping to last a few years at least. Most never do. This book is like Lord of the Flies meets Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hunger Games. I found it to be a great, if terrifyingly realistic, depiction of survival culture. Compassion would be rare, and we see that reflected here.
I adore how the Greek mythology is blended and retold, turning Icarus to an angel, making Daedalus female, turning the Labyrinth inside out. The Icarii begin in the middle and work to find the way out of the maze. We get to see many Greek myth critters such as harpies, dragons, and Stymphalian birds. Hoping to meet the most obvious labyrinth dweller in a future book. What such place would be complete without a minotaur?
Things did start kinda slow, but less than a third of the way through the pacing picked up. I must admit, I didn’t care for “Clara” as a protagonist until she met the Executioner. She was shy in a painfully bad way and truly a liability. However, she found her equilibrium. Things ended at a clear cliffhanger, with some revelations a lá M. Night Shamaylan that I didn’t expect. I want the next one now!
Recommended if you enjoy gritty fantasy, dystopic fiction, Greek mythology, or mythic re-imaginings. Perfect for Hunger Games and Divergent fans.