Book One of the Books of Eva
By Heather Terrell
Illustrations by Ricardo Cortes
Available now from Soho Teen
Read the prequel "Chronicle"
RELIC begins with a treacherous mountain climb and a betrayal, resulting in the death of Eamon. I loved this beginning, and was sad that it took a long time to get to what I thought would happen earlier: other characters realizing Eamon was murdered. The main character, Eva, is Eamon's twin sister. She decides to take his place in the Testing, even though it isn't very maidenly.
Eva is from the future, living in the Arctic along with the other surviving humans. She's high class, and does have the right to compete in the deadly Testing for the prize of becoming one of the three rules. However, the reader can tell that Eva's society isn't quite what she things. There's the regressive ideas about humans, the way they treat the Boundary folk (how they refer to the Inuit people they stole land from), their bizarre history of the world. At the same time, there's things about Eva's world that it takes a modern reader a bit to clue in on.
I liked how RELIC combined a survival in the wilderness story with dystopian fiction, with a tiny dash of murder mystery (more to come in future books), and a meditation on how history is told and preserved. I was cringing at the archeology Eva practices, and I know basically nothing about archeology. But I can dig it, since her society is supposed to be flawed.
Plus, I really like Eva. She's got a bit of that not-like-other-girls thing going on, but she's cool in spite of that. She's willing to listen to people who know more than her, even when she's been told she shouldn't. She's curious, clever, and determined. She has empathy, and a powerful imagination. She has a love triangle, which is unfortunate, but thankfully doesn't take up too much of the book. There's Jasper, the fellow competitor who she's basically betrothed to, and Lukas, the boy from the wrong side of the frozen wasteland.
RELIC is a quick read with a gripping opening, an intriguing heroine, a tantalizing mystery, and a memorable setting. You never forget that Eva is in the Arctic and could die of one wrong move. I'll definitely be back for the second book, if only to find out who killed Eamon. (And, of course, to see whether Eva can get out of the predicament she finds herself in at the end of RELIC.)