Genre: YA / POST-APOCALYPTIC / ADVENTURE
From Amazon: "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."
The dystopian nature of this futuristic, post-apocalyptic world might bear some resemblance to The Hunger Games series, but this book has no magic in it at all. What might make it fantastical is the fact that its set-up is a bit far-fetched: we are looking at a dark-ages sort of civilization populated by the descendants of survivors of a flood that wiped out modern civilization.
Situated in an icy, northern landscape, this civilization calls itself the Aerie. All her life, a teenage girl named Eva has been taught to fear the corrupting power of the god of Apple, and other relics of the fallen old world of sinful technology. Ipods, phones, and other pieces of tech are dug up from the ice and treasured as relics of a past.
The shunning of the modern technology reminds me of the Heartkeeper novel by B.T. Lyons. Both novels feature young people living in a post-apocalyptic world in which the modern civilization that we know has been wiped out - by either a flood or war, leaving a dark age over hundreds of years in which future generations, due to the loss of fast communication and recording technologies, re-interpret what has happened. Both dominant cultures reject the technology that led to humanity's downfall, shunning its convenience and isolating nature.
However, Relic goes beyond shunning technology to critiquing the extreme measures taken by the Aerie to shun ALL sorts of technology, even modern medicine. Relic acknowledges that some technology can be used for good, and questions the authority that benefits from the Aerie folk believing that all technology is evil.
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.
What I Liked:
- Strong female protagonist. Eva grows up under a lot of pressure to act as a Maiden, especially from her mother, who has mastered all aspects of PR by donning a mask in public. But Eva is determined to get things done, and despite her Maiden conditioning, she shakes it off just fine.
- Acknowledges that technology can be used for either good or evil. The Boundary folk represent the secular version of the futuristic societies that exist in Relic.
- Mysteries of the Aerie. There is more to the system than is revealed right away. Suspicious characters lurk around. Things that are unsaid. There has to be a reason for keeping the people of the Aerie ignorant of the outside world...
- Beautiful icy landscape. The narrative gives me a strong sense of the living conditions of the Aerie.
- Gripping narrative. I wanted to find out more about the world that Eva lived in and how it became that way. The information is released little by little as Eva's understanding of her surroundings matures.
What I Didn't Like:
- iPods are evil. Okay. I see what the novel is doing here. But this hatred of the prevalence of specifically Apple products in modern, everyday life starts to feel more like yet another Apple advertisement as I read more of its power to control people's lives. It'd feel less of an ad if there were other brands featured.
- We've seen this scenario before. Corporations are evil. Consumerism leads people to live empty lives. A repentant society does a complete 180 after the wasteful ways of humans leads to a catastrophic end to modern civilization as we know it.
- So...Where'd the flood come from? I can see the parallels that the religious Aerie drew between the Biblical flood and the end-of-the-world flood.
Overall, Relic was an exciting read. It doesn't offer much new to the critiques of capitalism and consumerism, but I feel that this is more of a lead-up to the second book. Here, we're provided with the context for what has happened to the world and the human race. The overall simplicity of the social commentary keeps the novel in the YA genre, but it is entertaining to read.
Thanks for reading!