This is Book One of a new trilogy, touted as a story to appeal to fans of The Hunger Games. And in fact, it could have been titled “The Kinder Gentler (But Not Better) Hunger Games in the Arctic.”
The story building is much more detailed than in The Hunger Games. The New North is the Arctic island home of the only survivors of global flooding after the polar ice caps melted some 250 years before this story takes place. New North is ruled by a Triad (mandated by The Gods, needless to say), consisting of a Lexor (sort of a police chief), a Basilikon (priest) and Archon (government administrator). The polity relies on two sacred texts, The Praebulum and The Lex. The Lex sounds suspiciously like the Bible, but the New North people don’t know that, because they don’t know what the Bible is.
One reason they are uninformed is because New North has been organized in the form of a medieval society, without access to much knowledge of the past. The people have been taught that technology is what angered the gods and brought their wrath down on earth. The people of New North know only what they are taught about the time before:
We of the New North need Archons to show us the perils of our ways before the Healing – the abuse of our Father Earth that yielded the Healing floods. We need to learn again of the hunger for Tylenols that poisoned our minds; the thirst for Cokes that weakened our bodies; the greed for MasterCards that toppled our rules. All this evil spawned from the worship of the false god Apple….”
Needless to say, New North is not sponsoring Black Fridays each year. What they do host each year, however, is a game in which eighteen-year-olds compete in The Testing to serve in the Triad. As part of the competition, they must climb down a glacier and dig through the ice to find relics: leftovers from antediluvian times. The most valued relics are of course the Evil Apple devices. (Not much has changed in that respect…) There are always relics to be found; the more critical part of the Testing (besides surviving, of course), is to construct the best Chronicle about the found relic, describing how the relic led to mankind’s fall.
Eamon, son of the current Chief Archon, is scheduled to take part in The Testing this year, but when he falls to his death from the Arctic Ring while training, his twin sister Eva takes his place. She is helped in her training by Lukas, one of the boundary peoples that serve the families of the New North. Complicating matters is the fact that she must compete against the boy to whom she presumably will be bethrothed, Jasper, who is son of the Chief Lexor.
Out in the frozen grounds of The Testing, all the Testors find their relics, but it is Eva who comes up with a new way to chronicle her find, and Eva who discovers that everything she was taught may not necessarily be true.
The book includes a few illustrations by Ricardo Cortes.
What I Liked:
The world-building shows talent and imagination.
Eva is a good heroine, although she seems to be the lone three-dimensional being in a world full of flat space characters.
What I Didn’t Like:
The bit about Tylenol and Coke and Apple is simplistic and downright silly.
The set-up for the inevitable triangle is eye-rolling.
The identity of the bad guy is pretty obvious.
The writing is a bit robotic.
Evaluation: This book is somewhat entertaining, but a bit too derivative of The Hunger Games, except without the depth which enabled us to care more about the characters. The world-building shows a lot of promise, but sometimes goes way over the top.
Published by Soho Teen, an imprint of Soho Press, Inc., 2013