Ice Massacre

Ice Massacre

Ice Massacre was written by Tiana Warner and first published in 2014. It is a fantasy story which focuses on a team of twenty teenage girls as they are sent off to battle flesh eating mermaids. Although this novel reads as though it is the first part of a longer series, at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Life is difficult in Eriana Kwai. For thirty years, mermaids have swarmed in waters surrounding the island and slaughtered anyone who tries to fish there. The islanders have been completely cut off from their primary trade and are slowly beginning to starve. In order to combat the threat, twenty warriors take to the sea each year in an attempt to cull the mermaid numbers. Being chosen as one of these men is a great honour, even though few survive the ordeal.

Following a slew of failures, the people of Eriana Kwai settle upon a new plan. Since only men are susceptible to a mermaids’ charms, this time the islanders have decided to send a team of teenage girls into battle. Meela and her friends were chosen when they were thirteen as the best that island had to offer and have undergone five years of training in order to turn them into the perfect killing machines. It is now their turn to undertake the honour of participating in the Ice Massacre.

Yet Meela hides a dark secret – one that would quickly turn her friends against her if they knew the truth. While the thought of killing is repulsive to her, she knows that she needs to harden her heart and fight for her people if she ever wants to overcome the shame that she brought on her family eight years earlier.

I feel that I should probably begin with a small warning for people who are not fond of violence. While Ice Massacre is predominantly a fantasy story, it still does contain some pretty horrific elements. While it never feels overly gruesome, there is a lot of violence within this novel along with some fairly intense and threatening scenes. If you are a sensitive reader, please bear this in mind before you pick up this novel.

I was really pleasantly surprised by Ice Massacre. While I can’t honestly say I’ve read much mermaid literature before, when I read the blurb of this book I had an image in mind of something akin to The Little Mermaid and, try as I might, I just could not make this idea seem threatening at all. Fortunately, there is nothing cutesy about Warner’s mermaids. They are very much creatures of myth – seeming in equal parts enchanting and monstrous. Yet what I liked the most about them was that they were not just portrayed as demons within the novel.

Using an impressive degree of subtly, Warner managed to eloquently show that both humans and mermaids were equally at fault. Most of the conflict between the two races seems to stem from the fact that they both react to threats in the same way. The mermaids believe that the sea belongs to them and so attack human trespassers. The humans respond to this violence and, as there is a language barrier between the two races, both assume that the other must be mindlessly savage. Over the years, a miscommunication which could possibly have been settled amiably has escalated into an all-out war.

The novel never really tries to enforce any kind of ideology on the reader, instead leaving them to decide what is right and wrong for themselves. While Meela begins the Ice Massacre harbouring nothing but hatred for the mermaids, she begins to doubt herself when she sees the savagery of the people that she travels with – girls her own age who joke about eating human flesh and would even murder baby mermaids if given half the chance. Meela grows further conflicted as she is reunited with Lysi – a mermaid who she befriended as a child before a misunderstanding forced them to part ways. As Meela and Lysi gradually overcome their differences and discover that their feelings for one another run much deeper than friendship, Meela’s whole outlook begins to change. She slowly comes to believe that the Ice Massacres do nothing to help the situation and realises that she needs to think of some other way to make peace with the mermaids.

For the most part, I found this plot to be utterly gripping. I really did have trouble putting the book down as I just really needed to know how it ended. The first third of the story was by far my favourite, as most of this was given over to a lengthy flashback showing how Meela and Lysi became friends. This section is both tragic and incredibly sweet and I felt that it went a long way towards fleshing out both of these characters, adding a deeper perspective to their later actions. While the rest of the novel was a lot more actioned packed, there was a repetitiveness to it that I did find slight wearing. There are only so many ways that an author can write combat when the entire cast spend the entire time confined to the deck of a ship. After a while it just seemed as though every night there came another attack which took the lives of two to three girls. Lather, rinse and repeat. This leads me to my second issue.

I did not really care for many members of the cast as I was never given time to get to know them. While all of the twenty girls are named (putting them one step above the auxiliary cast in The Hunger Games), I only felt as though I got to know a handful of them. While Meela, Annith and Dani got a lot of development, a lot of the others were pretty interchangeable and so I did not feel anything when they were killed. Yet those of them that were developed were brilliant. I’ve never seen a novel that contained so many strong female characters. In fact, there were actually very few males in story as all of the warriors on both sides were female.

The singular biggest disappointment for me was the ending. When I’m reviewing a novel, I always read around a bit first to see what other things the author has written and find out if the book that I have is intended to be part of a series. For Ice Massacre, I have been unable to find anything and so I assumed that it was a stand-alone story. Yet the novel had a very abrupt, cliff hanger ending. The motivation of the mermaids is only actually revealed in the penultimate chapter and the story ends as Meela decides what her next course of action must be. This was really not the ending I was looking for. I did not even get to see Dani get her comeuppance, which was something that I desired more than anything (oh, how I hated her). I always hate cliff hangers as they feel like an author’s way of emotionally blackmailing you into buying the next book. In the case of this novel, this felt especially needless as the story was good enough to make me want to read more without resorting to this.

In conclusion, Ice Massacre is a great novel which really does show mermaids in a refreshingly original way. It boasts a cast of strong female characters and a story that is truly gripping. My only small gripes are the lack of development for the secondary cast and the disappointing ending but I really don’t think that these things should put you off the story. This is certainly a novel that I would recommend.

Ice Massacre can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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  1. Trackback: The Sobeks – Part 1 | Arkham Reviews

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