Image from Goodreads
Review by Sophie Duffy
Published by Amulet Books, 1st November 2012
The computer screen glowed in my dark bedroom like a moon. Mom was late logging on to video-conference with me. My mom was totally into ancient civilisations: Mayans, Incans, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans. She even liked Vikings. Her latest expedition had taken her to the jungles of South America. She had told me that in the jungle nothing dries, that everything stays wet. She said even the moonlight felt damp on her skin, s if she had been bathing in milk.
More than anything, Maya wants to discover something incredible. Her parents are scientists: Her mother spends most of her time in tropical rainforests, uncovering ancient artifacts, and her dad is obsessed with digging up mammoths. When her father gets invited by an eccentric billionaire to lead a team investigating a mammoth’s remains in the Arctic, Maya begs to come along. Upon her arrival at the isolated camp, the mammoth is quickly revealed to be a fake, but there is something hidden in the ice—something unbelievable. Along with a team of international experts, each with his or her own agenda and theory about the mystery in the ice, Maya learns more about this discovery, which will change her life forever.
Thirteen year old Maya is a spirited, determined character with a passion for books and learning. With her snow-white hair, she has always found herself on the outside. She is desperate to find her own place in the world of science, like her parents, where she will be accepted for what she does, not how she looks. An unexpected expedition to the Arctic with her father is hopefully the start of this journey.
Quimby writes beautifully and the descriptions of the Arctic are both poetic and atmospheric. She builds a believable setting in which the drama can unfold. And unfold it does.
We soon realise nothing is as it seems at the camp. There is no woolly mammoth buried in the ice. It is something quite different. Something that will be life-changing for all involved.
Maya is the first-person narrator and her voice is authentic and inviting. We navigate the new, unknown landscape of snow and ice through her eyes, emotions and thoughts, feeling the biting cold as she does, and sensing the wonder of it all. When she teams up with Kyle, the son of an anthropologist, they become a dynamic duo, intent on uncovering the intrigue that they know is going on. Their friendship is based on fun, discovery and doing what they think is right - no hint of a romance (which is refreshing!). They have no agenda, just empathy with the mysterious creature that comes from the ice.
What I really liked about ‘The Icarus Project’ is the way Quimby makes this world of mythology and fantasy also very real, based in science, and with a believable strong female lead, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, finding her place in society and full of hope for her future and her desire to do good. The fast-paced adventure is balanced satisfyingly by the beautiful language and the emotional depth of Maya.
A fabulous read.