Publication Date: June 15th, 2021
Hardcover. 304 pages.
The Ice Lion is pitched as a "cli-fi" novel set one thousand years into the future where climate change provokes a second Ice Age. The world is getting harder and harder to survive in, and slowly more and more human clans are dying off into extinction. We follow characters from the Sealion People as they fight for survival in this brutal environment and attempt to find safety and survival for their species.
The story is mainly told through the alternative POV of Lynx and Quiller, both members of the slowly dying Sealion clan who are fighting the elements and their enemy clans, such as the Rust People, for survival. I had a lot of mixed feelings about these characters. On the one hand, I really appreciated that Lynx was basically a "coward" and never tried to boast or seem overconfident about things. I feel like in a lot of books we run into characters who may be scared or think they can't do things, but immediately fight through that and are suddenly brave; in this case, Lynx is pretty much just constantly scared and waiting for others to come help him. It is through his own stubbornness and outward motivations that give rise to his own bravery in a way that, to me, showed his true ability to be courageous and overcome his "cowardice." On the other hand, sometimes his attitude was just a bit too whiny and helpless and I felt like we were hit over the head a bit about his personality. I do think that Gear did a great job of slowly developing his character and letting readers get to know him better as he gradually matured (to a certain degree) over the course of this book.
Quiller was a character I admired for her determination and willingness to take risks for what she believes in. That being said, her stubbornness was also a bit irritating at times, and there were a lot of those situations where you can't understand why a character is so stuck on another character when there are other amazing characters right in front of them. But, of course, they'd rather go after the character that doesn't necessarily want them. Quiller basically felt like the babysitter for Lynx and as the story progressed and this never really waned, it start to get a little frustrating as a reader. However, I also understand that this shows Quiller's loyalty to those she makes promises to and loves, which is a good sign. The only other large comment I have about Lynx and Quiller is that I often found myself forgetting that they were apparently only sixteen. It makes perfect sense that they would be this young, but it just didn't quite match up when I reminded myself of that at times.
There was a lot of promise to this concept, but–as weird as this may sound–I feel like it got lost in the plot the author chose to focus on. I understand that through the storyline we followed we got to learn a lot about the world, the present difficulties, the characters, the history, etc., but at the same time I feel like I never really got any sort of decent explanation or backstory about everything. There was so much focus on other things that sometimes I felt like the overarching ideas were lost, only to be focused on randomly for shorter moments that took away from the impact. All that being said, I don't feel as negatively about this book as I may seem, and I really enjoyed exploring this Ice Age-like world and discovering everything on in this world and wondering how some of the major issues would be solved. The advanced technology component adds a lot of potential, and I can see this series going in a great direction.
To speak briefly on the world-building, I found myself slightly disappointed, I think. While the general setting was richly detailed and I definitely got the sense of the struggle for survival in the harsh climate and the need for hunting and evasion from enemies, but outside of that I struggled to really understand the grander scope of the world. There's a fine line that the author has to straddle to combine a futuristic dystopian world with incredibly advanced technology with a sort of prehistoric Ice Age world that no longer has that technology anywhere. I think the author did a great job overall with capturing this idea, because it is certainly a difficult one, but I'm not sure she quite managed to convey it as well as she could have. I feel like a lot of information or ideas were kept vague or held at arm's length on purpose for the reader to slowly get hints about things, but this didn't end up working as well for me as it could have.
In essence, this is one of those books that I feel like I would've enjoyed a lot better if I hadn't known basically everything that was in the blurb–and I'll be honest, I debated whether or not to even include it with my review, but have hesitantly opted to include it. If I hadn't know that this book was set in the future or that there was some advanced technology component to it, I probably would've have a lot of fun slowly figuring things out with the tiny clues and tracks that Gear consistently sprinkles throughout the story. Instead, I felt as though I was constantly waiting for something to happen or be explained about what happened to the world and I never really got quite what I was expecting. This starts out sounding very much like a prehistoric setting with some hints of something being a bit off or supernatural. As the story progressed, more about the world and history were slowly revealed, but it's done in a very subtle way that follows characters who also don't really have any idea of what the world used to be like. I don't necessarily mind this setup or how the story was unveiled, but because of how it was pitched and setup, it left me feeling slightly confused about everything.
Overall, it's 3.75 stars from me! Not a bad book in any sense of the word, and one that I would certainly recommend if the concept intrigues you. I enjoyed myself and definitely plan to read the next book, which I am hoping begins diving a bit more into the world and its history. This book felt like a lot of setup, almost like a prequel, and I look forward to exploring more.