In a nightmarish, claustrophobic world, a small band of near-feral adolescents scavenges among harpies, hydras, and other horrors from Greek mythology.
The highest joy for any child of Daedalum is to be chosen as an Icarii and sent out of the city; once through the vast surrounding labyrinth, they are taught, they will become angels like the fallen Icarus of legend. The unnamed 16-year-old protagonist soon discovers the horrific truth: the labyrinth is an endless trap, filled with monsters, and those Icarii who aren’t immediately slaughtered may be even more dangerous. The characters are realistically rounded, without clear-cut heroes or villains; the plot, mostly focusing upon complex female relationships, avoids stereotypical gender roles or even a whiff of romance—although not sexual violence. (The absence of racial descriptions indicates that they are all probably white.) Unfortunately, the first-person present-tense narrator is so pathologically timid, needy, and passive that readers will likely endorse her self-loathing, especially when her mute listlessness leads to cruel deceit and inadvertent death. Still, as the short chapters and constant tension keep the pages turning, she is forced in the final section to attain (rather unbelievable levels of) competence and self-assertion; it’s frustrating to realize it’s all little more than setup for the real story to begin, presumably in the next volume.
Dystopia fans with the patience to wait could do worse—but with so many similar titles out there, they probably won’t bother with it. (Fantasy. 12-18)