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Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke
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Our Lady of the Ice (2015)

by Cassandra Rose Clarke

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Last year, I became a big fan of Cassandra Rose Clarke after reading her adult novel debut The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, an emotional tale about love, loss and androids that shattered my heart to pieces and left me pining for more. So ever since I learned about her new book Our Lady of the Ice, I have been counting the days. Its premise sounded captivating too, a mystery drama unfolding inside a city encapsulated by a glass dome, the only protection against the frigid darkness of an Antarctic winter raging outside.

The novel also features an intriguing cast. Eliana Gomez is a female PI, taking on as many jobs as she can in the hopes of scraping together enough money to get out of Hope City and head for the mainland. Her boyfriend Diego Amitrano is the adopted son of and right-hand man of Ignacio Cabrera, the city’s most notorious crime boss. Lady Marianella Luna is an Argentinian aristocrat and the celebrity face of an independence movement to build agricultural domes, a project which would help free Antarctica from the control of the mainland. Last but not least is Sofia, an android fighting for a different kind of freedom, envisioning Antarctica as a safe and human-free haven for all of robotkind.

Despite being a brand new story featuring all-new characters, I was thrilled that in some ways Our Lady of the Ice felt very much like the spiritual successor to The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. It explores some similar themes, such as: What does it mean to be human? How far would you go for love? What is the price of personal freedom? Still, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was more of a character study, looking at these questions on a more personal and intimate level. Our Lady of the Ice, on the other hand, widens the scope. Here we get to see through the eyes of four very different characters who are all connected to each other in some way, weaving a rich narrative that readers get to experience from multiple angles.

All this also takes place at the bottom of the world, in Hope City, Antarctica – a settlement that grew out of the remnants of a failed amusement park built near the turn of the century in the coldest, most forbidding place on earth. Many of its citizens are descendants of the hundreds of workers who arrived decades ago to build and maintain the park. The city is also home to a great number of robots, from repair drones to fully sentient androids or “andies” that were left over when the park closed down.

Human or non-human, everyone is out for something. Eliana only has her eyes set on a ticket out of Hope City. Diego is torn between carrying out unsavory errands for Cabrera, who is like a father to him, and his love for Eliana, who makes him want to become a better person. Marianella has a huge secret, and she’s terrified of being found out. And Sofia…well, Sofia probably has the most astonishing story of them all. She has reasons to be more motivated than most. Programmed to be a “comfort girl” during the amusement park’s heyday, music is written into her code to trigger some very unpleasant reactions, making Sofia highly averse to any old song recorded before the 1930s. It’s frightening and it’s heartbreaking. I love how this book stirred up my emotions. Time after time the characters will do things to make you hate them, but then the story will always remind you again of their respective situations and why they made those choices. I felt much the same way reading about Cat in The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Cassandra Rose Clarke’s characters are complex and multi-faceted; even when they are being frustrating, you can’t help but connect with them.

Furthermore, everywhere you look is another reminder of what Hope City once was, a bright and shining testament to humankind’s triumph over the elements, now reduced to a faltering system run by corrupt gangsters and two-faced politicians who are out only for themselves. If you have ever played Bioshock, Hope City reminded me a lot of where that game takes place, a beautiful-utopia-turned-crumbling-dystopia under the sea. There’s a feeling of isolation from the rest of the world and a sense of helplessness that emanates from the population, really complementing the dark mystery plot as well as the fatalistic and cynical attitudes of the protagonists.

The resulting effect of this eclectic hodgepodge is something truly amazing: A sci-fi novel infused with hard-boiled noir vibes featuring wonderfully flawed characters in one of the most mind-blowingly unique settings I’ve ever seen. I found this book simply irresistible. ( )
  stefferoo | Mar 8, 2016 |
I have read everything by Clarke (and with the exception of The Wizard’s Promise) really enjoyed all of her books. This book was masterfully written and incredibly intriguing but also moved fairly slow. It’s a book that needs to be read slowly and carefully, but the description throughout and the creativity of the setting is amazing.

The book takes place in the Southernmost city in the world; Hope City, Antarctica. Hope City started out as a domed amusement park but when the amusement park shut down the residents were trapped there...only those who can afford an expensive mainland Visa ever get to leave.

The story follows four main characters and the story alternates POV between these four. The first character is Eliana, who is a PI desperately working toward saving for a visa to leave Hope City. The second is her boyfriend Diego, who is the right hand man to Hope City’s top gangster. The third is Marianella Luna who has a dangerous secret that she needs Eliana’s help to keep safe. And the fourth is Sofia, a pleasure android from Hope City's amusement park days that has begun to evolve.

Hope City is starting to wear at the seams. Power outages are becoming common and Eliana is desperate to leave. However to get the money to leave she needs to take on cases and Marianella is offering too much money to refuse. As Eliana works with Marianella she gets drawn into the dark underworld of factions and secrets that her boyfriend Diego has been part of from the beginning. Little does everyone know that Hope City may be at the whim of the androids that run it.

I absolutely loved the setting here; the idea of Hope City is unique and Clark’s absolutely phenomenal description makes it so that the reader can smell, taste, and hear the city around them.

The switching POV worked great for this novel. All of the characters are interestinng and I loved reading from all of their POVs; there were never any sections where I was bummed to be reading from one character's POV or another's.

The story is mainly a mystery and it was a mystery that was incredibly well woven and wonderfully unveiled. There is also quite a bit of science fiction in here because of all the robots and androids throughout the story. I really enjoyed the story as a whole.

My main complaint is that the story moved a bit too slowly and I found my attention wandering at points. I also felt like things weren’t wrapped up all that well.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s a well done story about a domed city on a world of ice and cold. I really loved the setting and the unique set of characters that tell the story. There was some excellent mystery here as well. I would recommend to those who enjoy a good sci-fi mystery. ( )
  krau0098 | Jan 30, 2016 |
I have not read anything by this author before. Instantly I was transported to Hope City. I got a clear picture of what the city looked like and could feel the icy, cold of the Artic. I think I would go out of my mind living in a place like Hope City during the long winter months. One I don't like winter and two having to ration my supplies all winter and worry that if the power went out how long would it be before everything started to freeze, is not my idea of a good life.

Right from the beginning I connected with Eliana and her boyfriend, Diego. They are a good couple but at the same time they could be like fire and ice. Marianella and Sofia are another story altogether. It did take me a while to slowly build up to them. In fact for the first third of the story, it was a blur what I read about them. It really was not until Marianella's secret was revealed and this happened later in the story that I than became intrigued by her and Sofia.

As I was reading the story, however it did feel like there were two sides of the story...Eliana and Diego and Marianella and Sofia. Yet the second half of the story was stronger and where I felt that all four of these characters stories came together and became one. ( )
  Cherylk | Nov 28, 2015 |
Dark, gritty and inventive, I was drawn to this book by it’s premise--robots and humans living together uneasily under Antarctic domes. Throw in a ruined amusement park, exploitation by “mainlanders” back in South America, and the fact that the robots are evolving and there was no way I could resist. The world-building is fantastic, but what kept me from loving this story more is the writing style. The author is known for her YA books, but for my taste she tried too hard to make this an “adult” book--though it may be that I just don’t enjoy noir fiction.There’s not a scrap of humor--no ironic self-reflection by any of the characters and no moments of comic relief--which for me gave it a sort of wooden melodramatic tone that kept me more disengaged from the characters than I would have liked.

I read an advanced review copy of this book supplied by the publisher. Review opinions are mine. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Oct 27, 2015 |
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To Kevin Lund: surprise!
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The old clock tower in the center of the city rang out eight times, and that meant the last ship to the mainland was leaving for the winter.
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