Series: Books of Eva #1
Source: Giveaway (ARC)
Published: October 29, 2013
The truth will test you…
For fans of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games: high fantasy and dystopia meet in this high-stakes tale of a civilization built on lies and the girl who single-handedly brings it down.
When Eva’s twin brother, Eamon, falls to his death just a few months before he is due to participate in The Testing, no one expects Eva to take his place. She’s a Maiden, slated for embroidery classes, curtseys, and soon a prestigious marriage befitting the daughter of an Aerie ruler. But Eva insists on honoring her brother by becoming a Testor. After all, she wouldn’t be the first Maiden to Test, just the first in 150 years.
Eva knows the Testing is no dance class. Gallant Testors train for their entire lives to search icy wastelands for Relics: artifacts of the corrupt civilization that existed before The Healing drowned the world. Out in the Boundary Lands, Eva must rely on every moment of the lightning-quick training she received from Lukas—her servant, a Boundary native, and her closest friend now that Eamon is gone.
But there are threats in The Testing beyond what Lukas could have prepared her for. And no one could have imagined the danger Eva unleashes when she discovers a Relic that shakes the Aerie to its core.
Relic has garnered a wide mix of reviews, but the disgruntled ones seem in large part to be the result of faulty marketing. The publisher compares the book to A Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, and, frankly, Relic does not deliver the intense, richly developed story one would expect from such a comparison. And, most confusing to me, the book is not at all fantasy. There is no magic, no alternate world, nothing to suggest this book is nothing more than another solid dystopian. So, I can understand a lot of readers’ frustration. However, if one can look past the marketing (or if one was blithely unaware in the first place), Relic is enjoyable in its own right.
The book is part dystopia, but also part survival story and part mystery. There is even a smattering of romance, though protagonist Eva has a lot of other things to worry about now besides men. Most like relationships will really develop in the following books, though readers get a few delicious hints. In the meantime, the focus is on Eva’s journey taking her twin brother’s place in her society’s most honored and most dangerous competition: the Testing.
The Testing highlights Eva’s strengths as she competes against better-trained men to race across the icy wildness and find a relic from the world before the floods (or, as her people call it, the Healing). Eva is brave and smart and a strong female lead in these chapters. The book takes the time to discuss how she her role as the only Maiden in the Testing both helps and hinders her, as she experiences prejudice but is willing to play the game a little unorthodoxly. Unfortunately, Eva accomplishes her tasks so easily that the competition does not seem that hard. If a girl who never really bothered to train can do so well, what on earth is everyone else worried about? I would have loved to see Eva accomplish more problems in the Testing and have more difficulty solving them.
The most interesting thing about Relic, then, may be the setting. It is original in YA dystopian, set in New North, an island in the Artic. The society lives in the Aerie, a walled-in city that strives the mimic the Middle Ages because the religious leaders teach that technology and the worship of the false God Apple led to the flood’s and the world’s cleansing. It takes a while for the details of this all to settle, however, and the world building to really take shape. Even then, there are still some questions, like how the new religion began since the founders of the Aerie would have been survivors of the flood and known they had nothing to do with the use of laptops and cellphones. Hopefully more answers are forthcoming in book two.
Relic is solid book, one with clean writing a unique setting and characters. It is not the most imaginative or chilling of dystopians, but it does offer readers a little something different—a medieval town in the Arctic where a conservatively raised Maiden begins to question the boundaries of her world. Overall, a fun read.