Thursday, 24 October 2013

Review: Relic by Heather Terrell

Relic by Heather Terrell

Author: Heather Terrell Website|Facebook
Published: 29 October 2013 (Soho Teen)
Format: Kindle e-book (ARC)
Pages: 288
Buy the paperback: Amazon|Hive|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo

Source: Received free copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Soho Teen!

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
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.

My Review:
I was drawn to this book because it was being compared to Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, both series I love, and so I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to grab a review copy! Relic follows Eva as she takes part in the gruelling challenge of the Testing, where participants must enter the harsh arctic conditions to discover hidden relics from the past.

Now I can completely understand the comparisons to Game of Thrones. The book takes place in the New North, a habitat created after most of the world's population was wiped out by what Eva's people call The Healing. The frozen landscape will be familiar to anyone who's read or watched Game of Thrones. Relic also has religious themes, as do the Song of Ice and Fire books. In Relic's case, Eva's people worship with Mother Sun and Father Earth and take guidance from their religious text - The Lex. The comparison to The Hunger Games is less obvious as the two books are quite different, but Relic is a post-apocalyptic novel and there is that survival element to the story. I did find myself comparing it a lot to Joelle Charbonneau's The Testing, seeing as the main competition in the story has the same name. That similarity was a little distracting at first.

When it comes down to it, Relic definitely has enough substance about it to stand on its own. The ideas in the book and the world building really won me over. I liked learning about the history of the New North. Throughout the book, Eva herself is constantly learning and reminiscing about her life and the society they live in now. We learn about the rules they Aerie people abide by excerpts from the Lex, and there are several rituals that take place in those early chapters that give a glimpse into how Eva's society works. I thought it was a nice twist to see a futuristic society that has shunned technology and sees it as the cause of the problems in centuries before. It was quite funny seeing references to tablet computers and credit cards as something so the characters think of as so horrific and shocking - I think because the author has used brand names we're all familiar with. I liked the mix of cultures Eva's people have evolved from. At points the book seems very Americanised but there are plenty of references to European cultures and places which I enjoyed. I sometimes find the world building in fantasy novels to be quite hard to keep up with, but I thought it was something really well done in Relic.The writing was sharp and exciting, and I could really visualise myself in Eva's surroundings.

Relic opens with a scene showing Eamon's death. Then we jump to the present where we meet Eamon's twin sister Eva who is our main character throughout the story. Eva herself carried the story really well. She comes from a powerful family, and is kind of oppressed in the society she lives in. Because she's a Maiden, she's expected to behave in a certain way (one passage mentions being pleasing to the eye and ear), always abiding by the rules of the Lex. She puts herself forward for The Testing, the only woman to have done so, which is a real way of proving herself. She's at an instant disadvantage because her sex has denied her the chance to prepare herself for The Testing in the same way the men have. Women in her world grow up learning different skills. Despite this she makes a real effort to prepare herself. I liked that we got to see her compete against an all male team. Eva is smart and resourceful throughout the tests she faces. My favourite parts were when she starts to write her Chronicle, a documentation of her Testing experience. It really showed her passion and potential.

There are two male characters in the story who are both potential love interests for Eva. Jasper also comes from a powerful family and is introduced as a potential suitor, approved by her family. Lukas is a Boundary Companion, a lesser role in society and his and Eva's relationship crosses a divide in terms of social standing. I definitely preferred Lukas, as he seemed to have a lot more about him. I think their relationship is more genuine, having stood for years, although Jasper seems a nice enough guy and I liked that he looks out for Eva during The Testing. It may come across a bit love-triangle-ish, but the romance isn't the main focus of the story. I got the feeling that it's something that might take more of the spotlight in future books.

Relic really won me over towards the ending of the story where all the pieces start to fit into place and provide a wider picture. I liked how the beginning, middle and end of the story all had different feels to them. I enjoyed the middle section where Eva is out there battling the elements and fighting to survive, but I think my favourite parts were back in the New North where we get to sink into this fantastic world that Terrell has created. There is huge scope for more. I feel like both the history of the Aerie people and the present situation in the New North has only been touched upon. The revelations at the end of the book had me hungry to find out more. I'm excited to carry on with this series.

Rating: 4*
What to read next: Relic is the first book in a planned series.
Books like this: The Testing by Joelle Charboennau, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Matched by Ally Condie

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