Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner is the first in the Mermaids of Eriana Kwai trilogy. It centres around eighteen-year-old Meela, a native of the remote Pacific island of Eriana Kwai. For all of Meela’s life, and longer, the island has been plagued by vicious mermaid attacks that are slowly killing the island’s people. In response, the islanders started sending out warriors on Massacres every year in the hopes of culling the mermaid population enough for them to be able to finally resume fishing. But in recent years, less and less men have been returning from the Massacres, instead falling prey to the mermaids’ allure, and the island is falling further and further into poverty.
Finally, the islanders decide to try a new tactic: send women, less susceptible to the mermaid’s allure, instead. And so, after five years of training, Meela and nineteen other girls set out with the promise of glory and honour – but without the promise of any of them even returning home alive. But for Meela, the Massacre isn’t just about saving her people from starvation. It’s also about Lysi – the mermaid she saved and befriended when she was ten, and what happened to ruin their seemingly unbreakable friendship.
I feel the first thing I ought to talk about is the characters. I often find that in young adult fantasy books, characters that jump off the page are sacrificed for non-stop plot – I don’t get enough time to get to know the characters before the next action scene sweeps them off their feet. This was not the case with Ice Massacre, though. Before diving into the action, we get to see Meela as a child, which helps us to see the person she later becomes more clearly. With twenty girls on the ship sailing for the Massacre, and therefore twenty girls with whom we spend the majority of the book, plus several characters who stay at home on Eriana Kwai, this sort of in-depth characterisation obviously cannot be done for every character, but I feel there was just enough for the reader to connect with those who mattered most. My favourite examples were Meela’s parents, and, although they were secondary characters, Eyrin and Blacktail – I felt that the little we were given about them was plenty enough to give us a good sense of who they were.
Another great thing about the characters is their diversity. In this case, what I mean by this is that they are diverse from the characters we most often read about – as natives of Eriana Kwai, most of them are people of colour, with a few descended from Americans or Canadians, and none of them are native English speakers. This offers a different perspective and is refreshing to read. And, although only hinted at until towards the end of the book, there is also some diversity in sexualities present.
As mentioned earlier, there was not time to show every character’s personality and backstory fully on the page. Unfortunately, this meant that a few of the scenes on the ship read like lists of names; I found I couldn’t picture the people mentioned, and sometimes had difficulty remembering who was who. However, this didn’t actually cause too much of a problem, and, with there being twenty characters on the ship, fully distinguishing and developing every single character could easily have taken an extra hundred pages, and I feel that the book was the perfect length – it gave all the detail it needed while also keeping it fast-paced and interesting. Therefore I feel that the occasional lack of characterisation of side characters was a worthy sacrifice for the pacing of the book.
After the characters, the second most important thing in a good book is the plot, so I am pleased to report that it is as well-balanced as the pacing. Ice Massacre is full of tension and intrigue, but there isn’t an annoying amount of conflicts and unanswered questions. The fight scenes are equalled out with moments of reflection. And I found there to be just the right amount of foreshadowing for the revelation which occurs later in the book (no easy feat!).
My favourite part of the plot was probably the romantic subplot – which is not something I say often! The relationship felt organic and genuine, and progressed at what I thought to be a realistic rate. It was also pretty necessary to the plot, so it wasn’t shoehorned in just for the sake of a romance. The characters had great chemistry and I was really rooting for them to get together.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Ice Massacre. It was an original and exciting book about friendship and survival, and it was so difficult to put down! I can’t wait to read the sequel, Ice Crypt, which is already out, or the finale, Ice Kingdom, which is due out in 2018 according to Tiana Warner’s website. And I would definitely recommend this book to pretty much anyone – unless you’re squeamish about gory fight scenes!