YA Review: Relic by Heather Terrell

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Like every year, I came home from Book Expo America 2013 with a trunk full of books. They always look so good on the show floor, all new and shiny. One in particular, the ARC of Heather Terrell’s Relic, caught me by surprise, and not just because of its compelling story and characters. No, what first grabbed my attention was the reaction my 14-year-old daughter had to it. As if some sixth-sense drew her, she pulled the book from my luggage without so much as touching those around it, hugged it tightly, and announced in the breathy tones reserved for Suzanne Collins and Veronica Rossi, “This looks soooooo good!”

Now, I needed that book back, pronto. I promised the incredible Meredith Barnes of Soho a review, and I planned to have Relic read and reviewed as quickly as I could. To my daughter’s great disappointment, I demanded she return it, promising to hand it over as soon as I finished. I worried she’d nag me constantly to get my reading done.

She didn’t have to. Relic had me by the end of the prologue–whose events, by the way, are all over the promotional material. I knew what would happen, and I lived it anyway. Chapter one slows things down a bit, introducing Eva, the heroine, her place in this dystopian society, and all the important scene-setting requirements. Ms. Terrell does these with a deft hand, never over-playing, never focusing on anything that would detract from the pacing.

Eva is young, but tragedy has matured her. She feels real, and a little average. This trait, her every-woman-ness, plays well as the book’s events unfold. Instead of protagonist with some incredible advantage–hidden power, legacy, strength, what-have-you–Eva faces her challenges as anyone might, with just her courage and determination to see her through.

I particularly loved her quest for hidden relics in the New North’s frozen chasms. The tone is one of adventure and discovery, a nice change of pace from the dizzying action sequences I’m used to. That’s not to say Relic’s pedestrian. Far from it. Tension fills the pages, but unlike stories that put characters in jeopardy to increase the stress, here it’s the need to see what Eva unearths next that trait me riveted. Not once did I dare peak ahead to see ow she deals with her obstacles. Relic is all about the moment, and those moments drew me in so deeply, I rode the story from one to the next, relishing the anticipation. Not wanting to spoil it.

Physically, Relic’s world is well realized, but that’s nothing compared to the detail Ms. Terrell put into its society and history. I can’t go into details without venturing into spoiler territory. I’ll tell you that Ms. Terrell has a good deal to say about society. Occasionally, it closes in on preachiness without actually crossing the line. I quickly forgave the author, once the dominos started to fall. Eva’s reaction to them are pitch perfect. I believed each one, living her shock along with her.

This book is carefully and intelligently crafted, it finds its threads, addresses them, and moves on. Notice I said ‘addresses’ not ‘ties them up.’ This is the first of a series, and I for one can’t wait for the next one. As I raced toward the end, I both wanted to finish, and hated to. It left me wanting more, which is the highest praise I can give any book. Book two can’t come soon enough.

Relic by Heather Terrell

Soho Press–Available October, 2013

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