I went with three flames for this one because despite all of the negatives I found in this book, the concept and plot of the story was hypnotic and I found myself under Smith’s spell.
A little background because I think it helps illustrate my confusion. If you’ve never heard the story of Daedalus and Icarus, you might want to read it before starting this novel. It’s not necessary, but it might help you make sense of some of the names. Daedalus was a master craftsman who lived and worked on the Island of Crete (think Greek mythology). King Minos, the ruler of Crete, hired Daedalus to construct a labyrinth (a super-confusing labyrinth), with the express purpose of housing a Minotaur (half man + half bull = totally ugly).
Despite the fact that the Minotaur is moved to this labyrinth that is supposedly inescapable, he still has to feed said monster. He devised a scheme where each year, Athens would send to Crete an offering of 7 young men and 7 young women who would be sacrificed to the Minotaur by being forced in to the labyrinth for him to just happen upon at his leisure. But then, there was Theseus. Ariadne, daughter to King Minos, saw Theseus arrive via ship and can you say love at first sight?
Well, Ariadne cornered Daedalus and begged him to help Theseus survive the Labyrinth and Daedalus just handed over the cheat codes. Well King Minos found out, was pissed, and locked both Daedalus and his son Icarus in the maze….yeah….the one he designed….. and built. That maze. Needless to say, they escape, but they can’t stay in Crete because they do not want to feel the wrath of King Minos, so they try to plot their escape from the tiny island. They couldn’t leave by sea, because Minos controlled all of the seas surrounding Crete. The only way out was to go up. So Daedalus, master craftsman that he is, designs and builds two sets of wings using wax and feathers that the two of them picked up all over the island. When they set off, Daedalus issues a warning to his son, don’t fly too close to the sun because the heat will melt the wax and the wings will disintegrate. So what does Icarus do?
You’ll just have to read the story for yourself if you want to know.
So why the history lesson? Well Fey Bell, our MC, is stuck in a maze. She’s from a city called Daedalum and the people from that city are known as Icarii. She’s not the only one in the maze though. There are essentially 4 different regions of the maze. There is Fates, which we learn through the reading that Fey Bell once lived there; there is Kleos, a territory run by a group of boys; Harmonia, a territory run by a group of girls; and then there is Fey Bell’s stronghold, which she inherited from the Executioner, a woman who taught her how to survive in the maze.
I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe this book and I keep coming back to a cross between The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The Maze Runner reference is kind of obvious; a bunch of kids trying to survive in a maze where there are a ton of creatures that want them dead. The Girl on the Train is a little more difficult to explain. That story is told in alternating perspective with Rachel ping-ponging between what is currently happening now and muddled flashbacks of murky things she remembers from her benders. BUT WITH THIS TWIST: imagine that Rachel (or in this case Fey Bell) as a character, knows and has access to all of the murky flashbacks, but we as the reader, don’t. There was just so much information missing that I felt was necessary to the story. So much so, that I made a list:
- Who was the Executioner? What is her role in the maze? How are we supposed to put stock in her teachings if we don’t know her role? Her name sounds ominous but other than the fact that she taught Fey Bell to survive, we really know nothing about her.
- In that same vein, why does Fey Bell never tell anyone about the Executioner? She mentions numerous times in her thoughts that she would not mention the Executioner to whomever she’s speaking to, but we never learn why.
- How/why did Fey Bell leave Fates? We got a bunch of hints thrown at us, such as♈ various references to Colin kicking Fey Bell out, being forced to fight for her life, not trusting anyone at Fates, etc. ♈ but we never get the full story. It’s hard to get behind Fey Bell’s attitude towards Colin and the rest of her frenemies at Fates if we don’t know why she hates them…
- Who is Gina and why was her death upsetting to Fey Bell? I don’t really consider this a spoiler because the only thing we learn about Gina is her name, she existed, the Executioner was her mother, and then she died, but she’s never mentioned in relation to the immediate story….why should we care who she is? Why does it matter that the Executioner is her mother?
- Who is Elle? Why is Elle the way that she is? Why does Elle call Fey Bell, Clara? Who was Clara?
- I really loved the references to ancient Greek names/stories, but how do they relate to Daedalum? Why did the author give them this name? Was it just to invoke the memory of the ancient story or was there some deeper meaning to it?
- There’s a little bit of romance between Fey Bell and two different guys, but without knowing the background, it was hard for me to figure out which one could be betraying her and which one I should root for. We learn next to nothing about these guys, so how are we supposed to rally behind either one of them?
I just had all of the questions after reading this story. I really loved the premise (and that cover —- wowza) but it just felt like the author held so much back from us that was necessary for the reader to understand Fey Bell and life in the labyrinth. Despite the fact that so much was missing for me, the story was fascinating. I love female main characters and I love it when authors put them in action roles that are generally reserved for males. I love it even more when they kick ass in that role and aren’t just a whimpering pile of mush. So kudos to Smith for writing a kickass female MC in a fantastic world (though I don’t think I would call Fey Bell a fiery female). I just wish there was more.
Believe it or not, I’m not one of those book bloggers who LOVES ARC’s and actually tend to avoid them. I generally don’t enjoy reading ARC’s because a lot of times they get cleaned up before they are mass-produced and in some instances, the final story is way different from the ARC story. I love finished products because I hate coming across problems in books. Despite this, I do have a NetGalley account and I was poking around and saw this cover (which again, wowza) and when I read the synopsis I just had to read this one. I’m not sorry that I picked this one. I would definitely be interested to read the final version to see if any of the blanks get filled in, but if Captsone is planning to sell this as a hardcover for $17.95, I probably won’t be picking it up if the story remains as is.
*I received an ARC copy of this book via NetGalley from Capstone in exchange for feedback*