Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Relic - Heather Terrell

Another day, another dystopian novel.

Before I say anything else, I have to mention how much I hate the cover art for this book. Or, at least, the font choice and shadowing. Yuck. The background image works, other than that orange glow at the bottom, and represents the story well. The text makes me feel as though I should be picking up this novel as a paperback out of a fantasy/sci-fi bin at a used bookstore. Call me snobby, but I want my books looking like they are ready to win the Pulitzer, even if the content does not match. Dress for success, you know?

I'm climbing off my soapbox now. I don't talk a lot about cover art, mostly because of that whole don't-judge-by-it thing, but I simply could not let this one slide. It's the kind of cover art that makes me a bit ashamed to have it showing up next to thumbnails of simple, striking covers or stunningly beautiful ones

Ok, I promise I am finished.

Far more important than the cover art, let's talk about what's behind that cover: the story itself. Heather Terrell sets her protagonist, Eva, in the Arctic Circle, several hundred years in the future. Somewhere around our time, the world floods, presumably due to global warming. Humanity flees to what remains in the north and set up a new society there. The Inuit, called the Boundary People now, work as a servant class within the Ring, a massive ice structure built to protect the Aerie, the chosen survivors, from the remains of the world. The culture created by the Aerie is loosely structured around Medieval morals and traditions.

Eva, a teenager in a highly ranked family, suddenly finds herself the first Maiden in 150 years to compete in the Testing, a fierce competition meant to recover artifacts (Relics) from the tundra outside the Ring and produce the next leaders of the frozen society. You can make a few educated guesses about how things go from there, so I will not spoil anything further.

The book has a slow start. It takes about a third to a half to really get the story moving. Once it does, though, I found it hard to put down. Upon completion, I immediately put the second book On Reserve. Unfortunately, it will not be released until December. 

I need to be up front with you. Terrell's writing qualifies as mediocre. It's just...ok. Not necessarily bad, but not great either. Her dialogue and events seem overly complex at times. Particularly in the beginning, readers have to work hard to catch on to exactly what is happening. You know I like complex, so, for me, this quality was not a deal breaker. I know it would be for some of you, though, so I wanted to mention it.

Terrell reveals all three characters of the love triangle so quickly. You know exactly who the key players are going to be within a few short chapters. Of course, since her imaginary society has a whole bunch of rules that are difficult to discern, maybe it's not a big deal that she gives away relationship tensions right from the start. 

Sometimes in these books, the protagonists put the pieces together way to quickly to realize the danger they are in and all the secrets of the world they live in. Not so here. I really appreciated that, as the story progresses, Eva doesn't have everything figured out right away. She questions and doubts like a real person would. Thank you for that, Heather Terrell. 

I enjoyed this book. It is far from perfect, but it felt like a refreshing approach to the dystopian genre. It had a lot of the same formulas applied to it, but used them in a new way and in a very unique setting. Plus, female protagonists are the best, especially the ones that genuinely struggle to balance their fierce qualities with traditional femininity. Eva demonstrates that burden so well. 

Terrell set herself up well for future books. She has me intrigued, at least. I would love to see her writing style advance a bit more, but I will take what I can get. 

Pages: 288
Date Completed: June 8, 2014

Have you read any good dystopian novels lately?

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