Author: Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, PNR
Publication Date: May 7, 2013 (LBFYR – North America)
Source: NetGalley Review Copy
Summary: Your heart beats only with their permission.
Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol’s family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn’t know it was fighting.
Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside — safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can’t avoid.
She’s different. She survived. Why?
When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador’s privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn’t a coincidence. It’s a conspiracy.
Within the Icon’s reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions — which they’ve always thought to be their greatest weaknesses — may actually be their greatest strengths.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – a really great new series from a great author!
Review: Wow. Where to begin? This book is pretty short at a shade under 300 pages, but it packs a huge punch. I didn’t think that Stohl was going to go into the space opera area of YA (a sub-genre that badly needs boosting), but I’m glad she did, because she’s done right by it. There’s a lot going on in this first book in the “Icons” series, and now I’m pretty much slavering for book two. If you’re looking for an exciting sci-fi adventure that still stays within the familiar elegance of Stohl’s prose, definitely be sure to give “Icons” a try!
So, “Icons”. A term for religious art (mostly within the Russian Eastern Orthodox practice of Christianity). A term for someone legendary, worth worshiping. And in this series, a term for the aliens that have come in fifty years from now and have taken control of Earth. Also a term for the weapons that are being shaped to fight them – the Icon Children. We get to see four of them in this book – and the idea of each one symbolizing an emotion does harken back to Russian Icon paintings, which I thought was really clever on Stohl’s part. There’s a lot of religious imagery tied in with the space opera/alien side of things, and I never thought the two could really mix until Stohl mashed them together.
All of the technical areas of this book are pretty much flawless, not gonna lie there. The worldbuilding is fantastic – using that mix of religion, terror, dystopia, and aliens/space opera really helps build up this world where the Megacities have gone silent, and the ones left are just barely sustaining humankind. We have a mix of chapters from Dol’s POV, and documents from both before and after The Day – and it all flows really easily and really well. For worldbuilding, if you have a society that’s different from our current one – be it past or future, I love it when authors use “documents” and “diaries” to help explain the world and root it more firmly in our minds as the audience. And slowly (but surely) throughout the book, we get definitions and explanations as to what REALLY happened in terms of The Day, and the what the Icon Children really are, and so forth. Me gusta.
The character building and relationships – while there’s a sort-of love triangle that happens, I can see why it did, and why it worked. It felt like a kind of obvious route to take, but it worked. I won’t spoil how or why it did – that would be spoiling a large part of the story, but it seemed more or less resolved at the end of this book, and I’m hoping for new characters and a new set of Icon Children for us to play with for book two. Because if there are 13 main Icons…that would mean there has to be 13 Icon Children to take them down, right? Otherwise I was really satisfied with how the Icon Children for this book were built for us, though I could have used a little more on Tima – her time felt a little squished and I felt like she was a little neglected. Lucas was a close second there in terms of lack of development, but it was enough for us to go on, and continued to get stronger throughout the book. But Tima continually was a bit neglected, and she was the weakest character. I hope she gets the attention she deserves in subsequent books. Dol and Ro were fantastic, though, and very strong. As was Doc.
Otherwise? I just love the mash of dystopia, biopunk, space opera, and religion that came with this book, and its pace was non-stop action until the final page. I wanted it to be longer. I didn’t want it to end. So you can imagine how excited I am for book two. It looks like it’s going to be a crazy bloodbath full of mystery and betrayal, and I am so down with that.
“Icons” is out from LBFYR in North America on May 7, 2013. If anyone thought Stohl might have been a one-trick pony with her work on “Beautiful Creatures”, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how wrong you’ll find yourself to be. One of the best of 2013 by far, and I just want that second book NOW.