The Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith & Its Anonymous Narr

Posted: August 4, 2016 in Book Review
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The gods were always jealous of the angels, or so we are taught. The gods have always been cruel, always tricksters.

Remember the story of Icarus? Children of Icarus turns the story on its head. In this book, the angel Icarus is a victim of the gods; he survives his nearly-fatal fall when the sun melts his wings.

But the great architect Daedala does still construct the famous labyrinth over the tomb where Icarus regenerates through the centuries.

Or so we are taught.

There is a labyrinth, but no one knows how to get through it. Here’s where our narrator comes in:

There is, somewhere, an end to the labyrinth. Every year, those young and innocent like Icarus are sent to find this end. If they accomplish this task they are rewarded with entry into Alyssia, land of the angels, where they themselves will become angels and one day welcome Icarus home.

Or so they are taught.

YA Fantasy published August 1st, 2016 by Capstone Switch Press.

About This Book :

This book defies easy description. An unnamed girl accompanies her best friend, Clara, a promising young angel-to-be, into the labyrinth. As she meets danger after danger, the unnamed girl copes with her new life in an aggressively passive manner, until [highlight to view spoiler: her mentor arrives in the form of a mysterious legend known only as “The Executioner,” three-quarters of the way through the book].

So, yes, the premise is weird.

But I was excited to read it because the publisher, Switch Press, published one of my latest YA faves in 2015, Railhead by Philip Reeve. While Reeve is a very experienced writer, Caighlin Smith, author of Children of Icarus, is a young writer in her early twenties; still, she shows a lot of promise, in Children of Icarus.

What I Liked :

The strong prologue; the quick start that moves into adventure mode with only a brief, tense setup; the lovely characterization of Clara, in the beginning; the differentiation of the secondary characters; and the sensory-driven prose, brushed with moments of horror. These elements kept me entertained until nearly halfway through the story.


Things slowed down a lot at about the 1/4 mark. Although the author dives deeply into the psyche of her narrator, the unnamed girl lives in a constant state of victimhood and inactivity. Because of this, the middle of the book sags into angsty passivity and the plot flounders. In fact, I’m still not really sure what the plot was supposed to be. If the goal was to find the end of the labyrinth, [highlight to view spoiler: then the narrator didn’t succeed or fail because the book ends before we find out]. The book skips around a few important steps of the hero’s journey; it wasn’t a rebellion; it wasn’t an escape; and it wasn’t an epic Greek tragedy. The ending left all my plot and worldbuilding questions unanswered.

That’s my other main complaint: the prologue promises some fun worldbuilding and mythology, but after the first few chapters, all that promise tapers off without much explanation. The worldbuilding stays at a very close range, from the first person, present tense narration, and the answers to most of my questions have been postponed to book II.

On the plus side, this book is not a romance, the final 1/4 picks up with some great action sequences and “hero’s journey training” moments, and I enjoyed the labyrinthine monsters throughout the book.


Children of Icarus will please young genre fans, but if you’re looking for consistent adventure and in-depth worldbuilding, look elsewhere—perhaps to Smith’s next offering.

***3/5 STARS

Thank you to Caighlan Smith, Capstone Switch Press and Netgalley for my e-copy of Children of Icarus!


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