2 stars · 2013 · dystopia · ya

Relic by Heather Terrell

Title: Relic (Books of Eva #1)
Author: Heather Terrell
Pub. Date: October 29, 2013
Source: finished copy via publisher
Summary: 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.
Genre: YA, Dystopia

These days it seems as though every book is The Next Harry Potter or The Next 50 Shades. Relic is pitched as not only for fans of The Hunger Games but also as a new take on Game of Thrones. Those are some mighty big shoes to fill and unfortunately, Relic doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors.

Eva lives in the barren, ice-covered New North. Two centuries earlier the gods deemed the world corrupt and wiped out nearly all of civilization. Those who survived the Healing relocated and began rebuilding their lives. The native inhabitants were relegated to servants and assistants, looked down upon for not being among the Chosen. A new form of government was created – a Triad – and every year a new group of 18-year-olds risk their lives in an attempt to win a seat.

The Lex, Aerie’s holy book, dictates a code of conduct for its citizens. Boys and girls (here known as Gallants and Maidens) are never to be alone together without a trusted chaperone. Apart from the hands and face, all skin must be covered. Maidens have very little say – if any at all – when it comes to their Betrothal and seem to only exist as objects for the Keepers, Stewards, and Guards to protect. Also mentioned in The Lex are the evils of the pre-Healing world: the Tylenols and MasterCards that ruled the people and the false god Apple.

Each year Testors are sent out onto the plains to search for Relics, evidence of the destructive ways of the pre-Healing world. Chief among these Relics are any Apple products and discovering one all but guarantees the Archon Laurels – one of the highest positions of power. Eva’s brother Eamon had been testing when he mysteriously fell to his death. In a move that rocked her family to the core Eva made the decision to Test in Eamon’s place. With only three short months to train Eva knows she doesn’t stand a chance against the other Testors – including her Betrothed Jasper. These Gallants have been training their entire lives and aren’t planning on going easy on a Maiden. Out on the ice everyone’s equal.

I’m not quite sure who Relic was written for, but it certainly wasn’t the Game of Thrones crowd. I honestly can’t see how that comparison was made at all other than GoT is wildly popular right now and the publisher wanted to latch onto that particular market. Terrell’s writing is competent, if not a little bland and downright confusing. There are numerous words and phrases (masak, nunassiaq, upernagdlit, etc) that were used in everyday conversation and never explained. I was able to figure out a few through the context, but a glossary or translation would have been extremely helpful. Also frustrating was how sheltered Eva had been yet she knew what ballet was – even the Mariinsky Theatre and technical terms – and the terms girlfriend/boyfriend. That one especially threw me off. In Eva’s world there are only prearranged marriages. There’s no dating and if you wind up betrothed to someone you come to love you’re one of the lucky few.

During the Testing Eva easily kills a massive Musk Ox and doesn’t seem to have a hard time surviving at all. Just a reminder: a Testor spends his entire life preparing for this one week. Eva had only three months to train with Lukas, one of the Boundary (Inuit) people, and she breezed through it. With any main character you expect them to win the game or find the treasure, but there’s also that element of tension. I didn’t get that from Relic. Eva’s told she won the Archon Laurels and that’s that. There’s no build up, no fear or danger involved.

Part of the Testing is a glorified archaeological dig. For the past 150 years Testors have been digging in the same spot and each year something huge is discovered. This didn’t feel plausible to me at all. This Testing guns and Apple Relics were unearthed and Eva found not only a skeleton, but also many Apple products – including a computer. This computer had been buried in the ice for nearly two hundred years, but the second Lukas sees it – apparently the Boundary folk are well aware of the forbidden Tech – it starts right up. Remember when I mentioned how sheltered Eva has been all her life? Within minutes she’s able to not only grasp the concept of computers and Internet, but she readily accepts it and decides that technology isn’t so bad after all – despite being told her entire life The Lex knows best.

There’s a chapter at the very end of the book – an epilogue of sorts – that is an extract from The Lex. It goes over the government and what each of the three positions stand for. Even after reading that I couldn’t tell you what the Archon does or what the Basilikon means. I also didn’t understand how the Testing works in relation to the positions. The Testing happens every year. The three members of the Triad holds the position for ten years. Eva’s father is the current Chief Archon, the position Eva has just won. If he has the position for a decade will she be added to a waiting list of the previous winners? Terrell was playing fast and loose with her government and none of it made sense.

Because this is a Young Adult novel, naturally there’s a love triangle and – surprise, surprise – that confused me as well. Jasper is Eva’s Betrothed. His uncle is Chief Lexor (whatever that means) and a union between the two families would only bring good things. Then there’s Lukas. Lukas in one of the Boundary folk – the native Inuits who are considered second-rate citizens. There isn’t much interaction between Eva and these two boys Gallants – at least not enough for me to believe in a potential love triangle. Again, not much build up, and feelings are awkwardly revealed in the middle of a completely unrelated conversation with a quick “Can’t you see how I feel about you?” Don’t feel bad, Eva – I certainly didn’t see it! As for Eva, she doesn’t seem to have feelings either way for these Gallants. The book is told through her eyes – there was never a moment where she discussed having feelings for Jasper or Lukas.

With so many things going against it it’s a bit of a surprise that I found myself enjoying Relic. The pacing was EXTREMELY quick and that definitely helped me get through an otherwise lackluster story. I’ll keep an eye out for the second book, if only to sooth my curiosity – and hopefully find some answers to my numerous questions! Relic is not the smart, new take on the Dystopian genre that it claims to be, but it was a quick and entertaining read.

…the Ladies, Gentlewomen, and Maidens of the Aerie will also have a special, sacred role. They will be responsible for keeping the hearth and home. They will ensure the adherence to the Gods’ rules within that domain. The manner in which they do so – as well as the ways in which their Marital Union will be selected and their children borne, for those too are consecrated duties and our race too precious to leave to chance – will be detailed in The Lex.

Long story short: if a society like this enrages you, pass on Relic.


4 thoughts on “Relic by Heather Terrell

  1. Hmmm… it does sound like a sloppy mash-up of The Hunger Games and that Ally Condie series. I feel like YA authors are just recycling basic dystopian plots over and over now. This doesn’t sound that original, I think I’ll stay away from it unless you proclaim the second book to be absolutely must-read.

  2. I had the exact same reaction to this book! And I’ll admit it was a fast read for me too but overall, I just didn’t like it. The whole Apple is a false god and Tylenol/Mastercards are evil incarnate made me laugh. I just couldn’t take it seriously! A part of me is kinda curious as to where the author will take it next though so maybe if it gets a ton of positive reviews (like from you!), I’ll check it out.

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