Welp, that happened. Unfortunately.
It's always interesting to see how an author fares as a solo act when for so long she has been part of a team-- and a rather popular team, at that. I wanted to know if I'd like Margaret Stohl's writing on its own, not because I was such a huge fan of Beautiful Creatures, but because I was not. I was expressly indifferent (even antagonistic, sometimes) toward that series and toward MC Ethan in particular, and I wanted this to be more up my alley. I wanted to like a story told by Margie Stohl because I have met her and she is awesome.
Alas, you don't always get what you want.
It's hard to review Icons because it didn't really even feel like a story to me. It felt like a bunch of characters thrown into a situation they didn't understand, with some people tossing facts at them until suddenly they think they've got it all figured out. I, however, still don't have anything figured out. What are the Icons, exactly? Why did the House of Lords come? Why are they called that? Why does the Embassy work with them? What are they doing that is so horrible it incites a Rebellion, and why have they gotten away with it for so long? What does any of it have to do with Dol's and Ro's and Tima's and Lucas's powers?* These questions should have been answered in book one. Book two should be about progressing the story along, not filling us in on the background information that the first book left out. This book does a horrible job of explaining itself, to the point where I was so confused I felt like I was trying to swim to the surface of the ocean with no knowledge of which direction was up. I wanted to just give up, stop swimming, see if maybe I'd float to the top somehow despite the fact that I'd been down so long that all the air was gone from my lungs. Holy extended metaphor, Batman. I'm just trying to give you a sense of how I felt reading this book-- that it was neverending and even a little suffocating.
[*It's possible that if I read the book again, I'd find the answers to at least some of these questions. But I am not going down the read-a-book-a-second-time-to-see-if-you-like-it-better road again.]
I haven't read very many alien books, so I can't tell you which ones come out on top of this one, but I can tell you that there are many of them. Even as someone whose experience with alien books pretty much starts and ends with The Host, the concept behind Icons did not seem groundbreaking to me. Coupled with the snoozefest of a narrator and the barely-interesting other main characters, that pretty much makes this a no-go for me. I didn't like it.
I give this two stars because I did start to care a little about the characters toward the end. Lucas, especially. I have a soft spot for the morally confused, the ones who are torn between two different versions of right and wrong. Dol got a whole lot more empowered and became less of a looking glass in the last few chapters, too, at which point I breathed a sigh of relief. I saw what Ro and Lucas saw in her (and no, you're not going to see me complaining about the love triangle. They happen; get over it). Also I was told Ro underwent some kind of "change" that made him more endearing, but I would've preferred to be shown this change, because I don't actually know what it was. And Tima-- well, Tima was always pretty awesome. If a little obsessive and weird.
Can't say I'd recommend this one for fans of alien invasions; instead, I predict that I'll end up recommending The 5th Wave, which grabbed me more in the first page than Icons did in the whole book.