Title: Tournaments Of The Thaw
Series: The Thaw Chronicles
Author: Tamar Sloan & Heidi Catherine
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Climate-change Fiction
Release Date: 4th June 2021
BLURB from Goodreads
Four teens. Seven tournaments. One survivor.
The Outlands are a deadly place to grow up. In a world devastated by global warming, resources are scarce. Humanity and kindness are even scarcer. The struggle to survive is a deadly war. And a bitter one.
Because great riches lie just over the waters. There’s one place that has everything the Outlanders could ever want.
But to seize power, they’ll need to unite the factions. And choose a leader. Only the strongest will succeed. The one person who can do what needs to be done—attack Askala and share in their riches.
The Tournaments are announced. Deadly games where there can be only one winner.
No one expects siblings to enter…let alone two sets of twins.
Lexis and Raze. Born to rule, trained to win.
Winter and Gray. Born to poverty, expected to lose.
In a world where survival comes first, there’s no room for mercy. Loyalty. Or love. And yet four teens are going to have to choose what matters most.
Let the Tournaments of Thaw begin.
I have read and enjoyed every book in this series so far mostly centred around the people of Askala. I had previously read a prequel, but this prequel is now the beginning of this book rather than being separate book & novella. Having read the prequel I was looking forward to reading more about the Tournaments that were going to decide who would lead the Outlanders to battle against the Askalan people.
This one concentrates on the different tribes or people that exist in the Outlands. The people that try to survive in the Outlands are not as civilised and do not truly understand what the Askalan people are creating or how or they are trying to live the way they are doing. The Outlander’s thought process is they need to build an army to take what the Askalan people have cultivated to use for themselves. They think the Askalan people have an easy life and have a plethora of resources such as trees and plants to be used. The Outlanders think the Askalan people are wasting the trees and the assets on their island. This is why the current leader of The People Of Cy have organised and are hosting the Tournaments. Each different tribe/group of outlanders have travelled to represent themselves in this extremely important Tournament, whoever wins will become the leader of the Outlands and lead an army across the acidic ocean to take Askala from the Askalan’s.
A large ring has been made with five lines gouged out separating the small areas assigned to each group/tribe entering the Tournaments. Each group of people must provide their own food, water & shelter. They may also barter for what they need. Evrest stands in the ring stating what is to happen during the Tournament. He explains there will be seven rounds designed to test the skills and abilities of a future Commander. The only rule is that there are no rules! For the first round to end, someone must have been killed. Whoever makes that kill will be given immunity in the next Tournament. Whoever loses, by having one of their own killed will be excluded from the Tournament meaning the weakest group will not have to suffer more deaths. It soon becomes apparent that once round one is over there are only two options, to be killed and die, or kill others in order to survive and win!
The representatives from The People Of Cy are the offspring of their current leader Evrest who has trained his twins Lexi and Raze all their lives. Raze is mute, and he carves things in to wood. Raze’s world rotates around Lexis he always knows where she is. Without her nearby, the constant jittery feeling he has grows. It’s that clamped feeling he felt around his throat when he was child, stopping any words that wanted to say. When the feeling gets really bad, it hurts and it’s really hard for Raze to breathe or think. When Raze stays beside his sister Lexis, he is always ready to protect her, it keeps him focused, it keeps him calm. It’s surprising that the twins Lexis & Raze are so caring and emotionally attached to each other as they haven’t been shown much love, there were no hugs or shows of affection for them as they were growing up. The only kindnesses they remember from their younger days were that Ivor taught them to put stones in the broth to fool yourself into thinking the pot is full of broth to eat, which is more of a survival tactic than kindness really. The one form of human contact they had is when they were young and cold at night trying to sleep, Hester would lie by them to help to keep them warm. These twins have been treat as, and trained as warriors to be ready for this Tournament. There will be one victor in the ring at the end of the Tournament and in Evrest’s mind and those of his people expect it to be Lexis. Raze is to help his sister win the Tournament and be ready to lay his life down whilst protecting her and enabling her to win!
Then there’s the twins, Winter and Grey, they represent The People Of Fairbanks or “The Ghosts” as their opponents cruelly refer to them during one of the trials. Despite being the male twin Grey is the softer hearted, naïve and overly trusting. At the beginning it is Winter who is determined to enter the Tournaments, berating her brother saying why shouldn’t they enter they have as much right as everyone else. When Grey see’s his sister is determined to enter with or without him, he decides to tag along. Winter soon realises both her and her brother are way out of their depth and could well die during this Tournament, in fact according to the rules the victor is the last one standing, meaning one of the twins must die for the other to win! Winter tries to back out, but is told in no uncertain terms by Evrest that once a competitor has entered the ring they only leave when dead or as the last one standing. Anyone trying to sneak away and escape will be hunted down and killed by the many warriors Evrest has posted around the Tournament area.
The others competing are The People Of Never are used to travelling and are widely known as the nomads in the Outlands, they were the first to arrive to set up their camp at the side of the Tournaments ring. They are dangerous looking and wear tattered strips of fabric sewn together as clothes and each have a roughly made wooden weapon. Next are The People Of Rust who get their name from living by the blood-coloured ocean. They have light coloured hair too as it is bleached that way by the acidic sea. One of the “Rust People” seems to take a liking to Winter which whilst he seems harmless, Grey refers to him as “Rusty” and doesn’t trust him and by the end of the book certain things Rusty says and does seem to point at some hidden agenda relating to something maybe even larger and more important to him than the Tournament and his own people. Finally, the last tribe/group are The People Of Cragg who have travelled the furthest. These people are described as looking like they, are molded from the same stone that form the jagged hills of their home. Their leader is called Cragg and is tough, cold hearted and determined to be the winner of the Tournament.
The Tournaments are brutal, testing the strength of mind and body of each competitor as a group and as individuals. Though these individual Tournament Tests have been designed by Evrest leader of The People Of Cy, neither Lexis nor her brother Raze know what they are.
I really do not want to reveal any of the details of the particular test/trials and spoil the way they unfold within the plot but I have to say there are quite a few surprises about what the actual trials are and who seems to cope with them best. The Tournaments prove the ruthless, callous, violent nature of the people of the Outlands but it also reveals slivers of kindness and hope for a better way of life in the future. Evrest becomes more and more irate as the Tournament progresses and doesn’t go the way he wishes. Anyone who steps out of line faces his wrath and that usually means death!
We do get a little general background on these people taking part in the Tournaments as I have talked about further up in my review but there is more to learn about them in the rest of the book, over the course of the trials and perhaps for some of them (whoever survives) later in this series. It is interesting to see each tribe through the eyes of the other, tribes/groups. We mainly get to view the other tribes through the eyes of the People Of Cy, Lexi, Raze and Evrest and a little from the People Of Fairbanks, Winter & Gray. I enjoyed discovering the similarities between the two different sets of twins. Neither set of twins had great parents who bestowed any caring acts or love on them. Bothe sets of twins have determined kick-butt females, Lexis And Winter with the quieter, perhaps more soft hearted half of the twins being the males, Raze and Grey. Though the males come across quieter they are both fiercely protective over their twin sisters. Winter and Grey may appear to be the most naïve set of twins, in fact the most naïve and possibly ill prepared for their battle ahead. However, the trials don’t all consist of might over mind. Winter and Grey end up adopting a one round at a time approach. More of a battle to survive than a battle to kill and win.
It also becomes apparent as the book goes on that both sets of twins feel some sort of kinship to each other.I ’m sure you can tell I adored both sets of twins in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed hating the cruel character Evrest and after reading the ending of the book I am even more suspicious of what Rusty is really up to and what he is hoping to achieve.
I love the writing styles of Tamar and Heidi, they fit together so well, I loved the description of the Tournament ring that Evrest and his people made, it made it so easy to visualise. Lines gouged into the soil, making distinct areas for the tribes to stay in when not fighting in the ring. The really poignant and kind of poetic description of these areas comparing them to flower petals that surround the ring, the flower of death. The only thing I wasn’t overly keen on was the different groups of people being referred to as factions, it immediately made me think of Divergent, where as I suppose I could say the descriptions of different talents, habitats, and clothes the “groups of people” had, could remind me of Hunger Games but it didn’t as they were described and made different enough that I didn’t immediately think of it. I preferred to think of the different groups of people as tribes as I thought it felt more original and fitting to this series.
I have tried to set the scene without spoiling the reading experience for anyone. So much goes on in this book! Yes, there is the actual Tournament but then there’s the smaller off shoots and glances at the relationships between each set of twins. There’s the way Raze is resigned to his role in the Tournament, as his sister Lexis is, but then they begin to think about what has been ingrained in them as they have grown up together and trained. Does it really have to play out the way they have been told it will. Then there’s scenes in the book between Raze and Winter who are kind of thrown together at times when Grey is trying to secretly meet and impress Lexis. This book is about so much more than the fighting in the Tournament itself. It makes you realise that life can change and adapt, it doesn’t have to be what you have been told it should be. I could go on and on about this book, it’s a fantastic book in itself but having part of The Thaw Chronicles makes an already brilliant series amazing!
My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that I found that the ending was a little odd, and really has me wondering where this story will go next. I was sad to see the set of twins go their separate ways. It left me feeling a bit confused and a tiny bit disappointed too.
Summing up I love this world built by Tamar and Heidi and I am looking forward to more. Despite being the first book in The Tournaments of The Thaw it is bk 9 in the whole series and it answered a few questions and confirmed some inklings and theories I had. I don’t know what is going to happen next but I am eager to read more and find out.