Ecko Burning by Danie Ware
Ecko Burning is a direct sequel to Ecko Rising. Beware! If you haven’t read the first book this review may contain potential spoilers. Just sayin.
The Bard is gone, and with him Ecko’s only possible way home. Told the grasslands are diseased and the blight is spreading, his companions demand his help. Together they seek weapons in a ruined city where both nightmare and hideous truth await them.
Ruthless and ambitious, Lord Phylos has control over Fhaveon city, and is using its forces to bring the plains under his command.
Back in London, the Bard is offered the opportunity to realise everything he has ever wanted – if he will give up his soul.
As the blight spreads, Phylos’s brutality escalates. When the people’s anger finally erupts, the force of the violence threatens to destroy everything.
At the tail end of 2012 I read Danie Ware’s debut, Ecko Rising. I’d heard lots of good buzz surrounding the novel but nothing could have adequately prepared me for the marvellous mash up of science fiction and high fantasy that it turned out to be. The sequel is now upon us and the good news is that it’s just as good, if not better, than its predecessor.
Ecko begins book two still firmly stuck in a reality not his own. Used to bustling London streets, he’s still unsure about the fantastical realm he has found himself in. Part of him wants to believe that this strange new world holds a place for him while another voice in his head remains convinced that this is all some elaborate virtual Rorschach test.
I love Ecko, he’s a wonderful creation. His worldview, irrespective of which world he happens to be in, is always slightly skewed. Add to that his naturally sardonic attitude and you have a protagonist who is consistently readable. Ware constantly explores Ecko’s fragile mental state and this makes for some truly eventful moments. You never know quite what way he is going to jump next. Unpredictable doesn’t even begin to cover it.
One of my favourite characters from book one also returns. Rhan’s continued journey is that of the damaged hero, lost but seeking some form of ultimate redemption. The aftermath of events in Ecko Rising have left Rhan all but destroyed. He has finally reached rock bottom and can go no lower. Like Ecko, Rhan is filled with many failings and much self-doubt. Can Rhan finally manage to overcome his own weaknesses and become the hero that he used to be? I’ve said this before and I’ll mention it again, I adore flawed characters. There is something fascinating about watching someone unravel as their own actions slowly break them apart. It’s in this that Ware’s writing really excels. You genuinely feel like you are getting under the skin of all of her characters.
The major villain of the piece, Lord Phylos, initially comes across as a self-appointed saviour of the people, but as the plot unfolds he reveals his true colours. He attempts to orchestrate a bloody revolution on the streets of Fhaveon to further his own devious schemes. When his carefully constructed plans are suddenly pushed to the fore there are some nicely shocking revelations. The inevitable showdown between Phylos and Rhan is marvelously tense stuff.
One of the things I really hoped for, after reading Ecko Rising, was that future books would cover more about what’s going on back in London. The goods news it that Ms Ware has read my mind on that score. There are a couple of interludes dotted throughout the main narrative of Ecko Burning that follow the Bard as he finds himself on London’s unfamiliar futuristic streets. His meeting with Ecko’s Mom is a particular highlight and leaves him fundamentally changed forever. A fantasy character thrust into a world of advanced technology acts as a perfect counterpoint to what’s going on elsewhere in the story. It’s always struck me that blending together differing genres successfully is one of the trickiest tasks, but this author handles it with a natural aplomb.
This novel proves, if proof were needed, that Danie Ware knows her stuff when it comes to crafting genre fiction that manages to be action packed one moment and thoughtfully insightful the next. She has successfully expanded on the dizzying promise shown in book one, and I’m already excited about the prospect of where Ecko and friends will end up next. Bring on book three, immediately if at all possible?*
Ecko Burning is published by Titan Books on 25th October. If you’ve read and enjoyed Ecko Rising I can’t recommend this sequel highly enough. Well worth seeking out.
* I’m sorry patience is not always my strong point. I need to know what happens NOW dammit.