When they discover that their water supply is being poisoned Down Below, an expedition, including seventeen year-old girl Icelyn Brathius, must descend and face the monsters, the Threat Below, that wiped out civilization centuries ago.
Icelyn quickly learns that all is not what it seems as she uncovers secrets hundreds of years old and struggles to stay alive in a world where no human is fit to survive.
dystopian 1 star
I would like to thank Word Slinger Publicity for a copy of this book to review. Though I received this book for free, that has no impact upon the honesty of my review.
First off, let me say I'd seen no prior reviews of this book, and my only knowledge of it came from the jacket teaser. I came to this story with no preconceived ideas beyond those which the blurb provided - dystopian, adventure, obstacles to overcome, personal growth, possible romance. And it provided the dystopian future, but the closest it came for me in the obstacles to overcome area where the characters themselves. Most specifically the main protagonist, Icelyn Brathius.
Icelyn is the daughter of the ruler of the remnants of humanity, or roughly 100 or so souls. Now part of her attitude isn't her fault, as she's grown up privileged in a very classist society. Of course she comes from the ruling class, those prized for their mental abilities, known as the Cognates. The Veritas are those who prize the physical; they are also the second-class citizens in this last little pocket of humanity. That's the ways it's always been and the way it'll always be. At least Icelyn thinks so, when she can be bothered to think of it at all.
Sadly Icelyn is so beyond self-absorbed that it was a true struggle for me to read this book. She gets into situations that are prime opportunities for her to learn and grow as a person, yet she never does. She can see flaws in others, yet she never recognizes those same flaws in herself. She is narrow minded, and does not even contemplate change in herself. If any change is to happen it should be for her benefit. Even later in the book when it appears she's changing, she isn't really. It's still all about her.
Her father, the Chief Cognate and ruler of all humans, is a weak man with no ruling abilities and less spine. But he descends from Sean Brathius, the man who saved the pitiful few humans from the Threatbelow. And as such he is automatically the ruler, as his father before him, and his daughter after him. There has never been a time when a Brathius was not the ruler of the Kith, or remaining people. But it would seem that others see the truth of this error, even if they make no move to change it.
There are two teenaged boys that are also protagonists - Adorane and Torrain. Torrain is Icelyn's betrothed, and has been for many years. And though she treats him horribly he still wants to win her affection. Even levelheaded, smart Adorane is enamored of Icelyn. They were best friends when young, before their social class began separating them. Even after both are betrothed to others of their own class they remain friends, and though Adorane hides it well, he too carries a torch for Icy (one of his pet nicknames for her). So though I'd like to care about one, or both, these characters, I can't get past their blindness to Icelyn's unending list of massive flaws. If the story centered around either of the boys I might have found more enjoyment in it, for they both undergo personal challenges and come out the better for them. They both grow and mature, and yet their constant devotion to Icelyn is inexplicable to me, leaving me unable to fathom their characters as being remotely grounded in reality.
Strangely enough the characters that I did empathize with were the Anahgwins. As the truth of their history unfolds it reveals them to be the harmed victims, not humanity. They are no different than all the other species that we tried to alter, tame, or eradicate. Well, they are different in two ways - one being that we weren't able to eradicate them at all. In fact, truth be told, humans are the cause of all their own problems - as always. So as a story with a moral to be learned, this one most certainly has one. I'm not sure how many readers feel as I do, siding with the so-called antagonists, but for me their story is the one I wanted more of.
As we learn the truth behind the Threat Belows and their relationship to humanity we begin to see history repeat itself, with the same deadly consequences. That is assuming you were able to make it through roughly the first 375-400 pages of non-stop annoyance. The only real action and growth takes place in the final quarter or less of the book. Getting to that point was almost physically painful for me. I hated Icelyn so much I wanted nothing to do with her story; but I'd agreed to write a review and kept holding out hope that something would click and the story would change. And though it eventually did gain some action and potentially emotional scenes for me it was a case of to little, far to late. Yet I see from the other reviews (when I grabbed the teaser to include in this review) that I am in a very small minority, with many others simply loving this book. More power to those who enjoyed it... another great example of that old adage, "to each their own." Suffice to say I will most emphatically not be reading the sequel.
First I lived in Delaware. Then in Pennsylvania. Then Delaware again. Then Maryland. Now I live in California.