icarus coverRating: 5 stars
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 Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Icarus Gallagher has been raised his entire life to be a thief. He steals priceless artwork and replaces it with forgeries his father, Angus, creates. Their only target is the wealthy Stuart Black.

Icarus knows the rules. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t be too good at anything. Don’t join any clubs or sports. Don’t make any friends who might want to hang out after school — and definitely don’t ever invite anyone to your house. Nothing that could lead anyone to pay too close attention to Icarus and his father. To wonder why Icarus is always exhausted after nights sneaking into the Black mansion. Or to see their home filled with paint and priceless stolen artwork. Not that Icarus has time for friends anyway, not with his life caught up in a complex plot for revenge he doesn’t fully understand. So Icarus does as he is told. He takes the art and he keeps to himself. He allows himself one casual friend per class and keeps his head down. And with his eighteenth birthday soon approaching, Icarus bides his time until he can leave home and have a new life.

Then, one night, the unthinkable happens. Icarus is caught mid theft by Helios Black, Stuart’s teenage son. Icarus didn’t even know Helios was living there and he is certain he is about to be turned over to the cops. Instead, Helios bargains: he won’t report Icarus as long as, in return, Icarus continues to sneak in and visit him at the house. As it turns out, Helios is essentially on house arrest, kept at home by this father with an ankle monitor for a year with no phone or computer, as punishment for some misdeed. It is clear that Helios is scared of his father, that he hates him just as much as Angus does. And something about Helios compels Icarus to break all his rules and agree. Not only that, but he keeps their encounter a secret from his father, acting as if he was never caught.

As the weeks and months go by, Icarus continues to sneak into the mansion, visiting Helios. The boys begin to learn more about each other and a bond blooms between them. And as Icarus builds this new, intense connection, it also helps give him the confidence to begin strengthening some friendships with classmates he has always kept at a distance by necessity. The more time Icarus and Helios spend together, the more secrets also begin to come out — why Helios is being kept at home, why Angus hates Stuart so much, how their pasts are all intertwined, and how the mistakes of the parents are impacting their sons. Icarus also realizes the extent of the abuse Helios is suffering at the hands of his father, and is determined to help him. Icarus’ father is fueled by nothing but a need for revenge, but Icarus may be finally able to break free — and find a way to save the boy he is growing to love.

Icarus is a beautiful, haunting story that kept me totally captivated throughout and left me with a major book hangover when it was done. This story is just so intense and well written and engaging and I loved every minute of it. Icarus is our POV character and he is so fascinating. He has been groomed since childhood to be a thief with one purpose — to steal from Stuart Black. It is his entire life, the only life he is allowed to live. While his father, Angus, has a public job as a renowned art restorationist, their secret life of crime means that Icarus needs to keep his head down at all times. He can’t get too close to anyone, can’t do anything to stand out, can’t take a chance on anyone really knowing him for fear of them learning the truth. And Angus is reserved and distant, so focused on his own goals that he has nothing left for Icarus.

It is clear that Icarus yearns for connection, even as he tells himself that he doesn’t need it. One of the things I loved about this story is the slow unraveling of all that control, of Icarus letting himself go bit by bit, and finding his way to happiness. It is like meeting Helios opens that door for him for the first time. Not only does Icarus form a tight friendship and ultimate romantic connection with Helios, but he starts to tip toe over that hard line within which he has always lived. It starts by not telling his father that Helios caught him in the house. Then it is ever so slowly deepening the friendships with a few people from school. Of letting them actually know him, and even more, letting them be there for him. It is like this slow blossoming; the more Icarus lets go, the more he starts to find a life and people who care about him. It is really lovely how things build throughout the story and we really see Icarus come to life.

I also loved watching the developing relationship between Helios and Icarus. Things start out cautious, Icarus having no real idea what Helios wants from him, or what he wants in return. But the bond between them grows, and soon even stronger feelings. There is a lovely connection between them, two young men who are on the cusp of adulthood in lives dictated by their neglectful and abusive parents. I just adored Icarus and Helios together and couldn’t help but root for them. The relationship between Icarus and his father is also so interesting. Angus is so singularly focused on himself and his desires for revenge that he sees Icarus more as a tool than a son. He has raised Icarus to excel in the specific things Angus needs from him and forced him into this small version of himself that takes away any hope Icarus has for real happiness. It’s hard to say Angus loves Icarus, as any father who truly loved his son would not treat him as he does. But Angus is also honestly shocked when Icarus finally confronts him, clearly never realizing he has been hurting him all these years. Angus has moments of kindness, times when the fog clears and he seems to remember he has a child who he should think about. But most of the time, Angus can’t think past his own needs. Yet at the end, when he really needs it, Angus manages to come through for Icarus.

The web of the mystery slowly untangles as we learn about what is really going on between the families to cause this never ending conflict. I think Ancrum times it all really well in terms of how the secrets are revealed. At first, there is so much unknown as to what is really going on or why. It builds the tension nicely and gives the story this haunting air. But we get the reveals at just the right time, keeping the mysteries from dragging on too long and bringing the reader in on all the secrets. There is a nice twistiness here as the truth finally comes out, bit by bit. We also get an intense and exciting ending that is a huge adrenaline rush, especially compared to the more steady pace of the rest of the book. It just comes together so well and I loved it all.

This book is obviously rooted in the story of Icarus from Greek mythology. I thought the connections were well done, particularly with regard to the dynamics between father and son that run throughout the book. In mythology, Icarus’ father, Daedalus, is imprisoned, along with Icarus, and Daedalus builds them wings of feathers and wax by which to escape. Daedalus warns Icarus against complacency and hubris. Don’t fly too low or the wings will get sodden from the water. Don’t fly too high or the sun will melt the wax, causing the wings to fall apart. In legend, Icarus flies too close to the sun. He reaches for too much and it is his downfall. Here, however, Icarus reaches for that sun and it is his savior. Meeting Helios changes Icarus’ life for the better, giving him the chance to really live. And through Icarus, Helios finds his own salvation.

This is really such a beautiful, engaging story, I am not sure I am even beginning to do it justice. I was just so captivated by these characters and watching all these secrets unfold, learning the truth about what has led these two sets of fathers and sons into this situation. It is haunting and rewarding and fascinating and I just loved every minute of this one.

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