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Monday, November 7, 2022

Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell (Reviewed by Shazzie)

Buy the book here - U.S. | U.K.
OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Everina Maxwell is the author of Winter’s Orbit. She lives and works in Yorkshire, where she collects books and kills houseplants.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Ocean's Echo is a stand-alone space adventure about a bond that will change the fate of worlds, set in the same universe as Everina Maxwell's hit debut, Winter's Orbit

Rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster Tennalhin Halkana can read minds. Tennal, like all neuromodified “readers,” is a security threat on his own. But when controlled, readers are a rare asset. Not only can they read minds, but they can navigate chaotic space, the maelstroms surrounding the gateway to the wider universe.

Conscripted into the military under dubious circumstances, Tennal is placed into the care of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a duty-bound soldier, principled leader, and the son of a notorious traitor general. Whereas Tennal can read minds, Surit can influence them. Like all other neuromodified “architects,” he can impose his will onto others, and he’s under orders to control Tennal by merging their minds.

Surit accepted a suspicious promotion-track request out of desperation, but he refuses to go through with his illegal orders to sync and control an unconsenting Tennal. So they lie: They fake a sync bond and plan Tennal's escape.

Their best chance arrives with a salvage-retrieval mission into chaotic space—to the very neuromodifcation lab that Surit's traitor mother destroyed twenty years ago. And among the rubble is a treasure both terrible and unimaginably powerful, one that upends a decades-old power struggle, and begins a war.

Tennal and Surit can no longer abandon their unit or their world. The only way to avoid life under full military control is to complete the very sync they've been faking.

Can two unwilling weapons of war bring about peace?
FORMAT/INFO: Ocean's Echo was published on November 1st, 2022 by Tor Books and on November 3rd, 2022 by Orbit U.K.  It is 480 pages and is told in third-person from Tennal and Surit's POV. It is available in hardcover (U.S.), paperback (U.K.), ebook, and audiobook formats. 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I always planned to read WINTER'S ORBIT by Everina Maxwell, given how well it has been received by the book community. Somehow, it kept getting bumped off my TBR due to ARCs, or just because I picked up something else when I looked to reading a backlist book. When I saw the announcement for this book, I asked for an ARC immediately to ensure that I do not miss out on it.

This is a standalone book set in the same universe as WINTER'S ORBIT. I did not have to pay extra attention to understand any aspect of the story, and I love how accessible it is, for readers who haven't read the previous book, and I did not find any references in the story that I felt could be better appreciated by a reader who picks up this book with no idea that it is even set in the same universe as another, and I cannot emphasise this enough.

It takes place in a world where, as a result of some scientific experimentation, some people have the ability to read minds, and some others have the ability to control them, or write to them. Those who can read minds, aka readers, are considered security threats and can be kept in line by syncing them with those who can write. I have seen some buzz in the community that gives me the feeling that people expect this to be a romance with some science fiction elements peppered in, but I would strongly advise against that expectation. It has as much of a strong romantic arc as it focuses on the military, sci-fi and political aspects, and all of this is done wonderfully. 

This book contains the perspectives of two protagonists, Tennal Halkana and Surit Yeni. Tennal, who is a politician's disaster of a nephew, is conscripted into the military and is paired to be synced with Surit, who accepts the proposal in his desperation for a promotion and all it entails. When Surit finds out that Tenant did not voluntarily consent to this, he is unwilling to go through with the sync, and they decide to fake it until Tennal gets an opportunity to escape.

This is a book written with simple, but stellar prose. There was a particular part of book that described chaotic space that just gave me goosebumps and left me in awe. The author ensures that the reader is given a good sense of how expansive the world is, while the story happens in a very contained setting. There are multiple characters who come into play, and there is a lot of history that is discovered by the protagonists, and all of this is explored gently in a manner that does not overwhelm the reader. 

Now, Tennal and Surit's partnership is my favourite part of the book. Tennal prides himself on what he calls "obstructive fuckery" and Surit is a stickler for rules and regulations. It was just pure fun to see them interact and work through their differences as they were forced to be around each other, and slowly want to be around each other and influence each other's behaviour, in one of the best slow-burns I have read. It was honestly very hard to shake off the feeling that they were fictional characters, and I know I will not be able to shake off the feeling that they're real people for a while just because of how well-realised they are on the pages.

The central theme of the book is control and the lengths people go to, and narratives they construct to obtain it and hold on to it. This world clearly contains people who are power hungry and look to go to great lengths to gain more, and this is all nicely tied in with the ideas of reading and writing, and the politics that go on as the story unfolds. There are a few revelations that seem very natural and some others that explain the truth behind what Tennal and Surit know about their respective families, and in extension, the world they live in. 

CONCLUSION: I loved reading this book and I found it hard to stop smiling by the end of it. The conclusion is satisfactory, but I can also see how it can set up for another book in the same universe if needed, and that's definitely a prospect that excites me. Everina Maxwell has become one of my auto-buy authors, and I know I will put everything aside if I receive a review copy of any of her books in the future. I recommend this to every reader of speculative fiction as it is one thrilling inter-galactic ride they will not want to miss out on. 



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