by Alicia Wright Brewster
The countdown clock reads ten days until the end of the world. The citizens are organized. Everyone's been notified and assigned a duty. The problem is . . . no one knows for sure how it will end.
Energy-hungry Mages are the most likely culprit. They travel toward a single location from every corner of the continent. Fueled by the two suns, each Mage holds the power of an element: air, earth, fire, metal, water, or ether. They harness their powers to draw energy from the most readily available resource: humans.
Ashara has been assigned to the Ethereal task force, made up of human ether manipulators and directed by Loken, a young man with whom she has a complicated past. Loken and Ashara bond over a common goal: to stop the Mages from occupying their home and gaining more energy than they can contain. But soon, they begin to suspect that the future of the world may depend on Ashara's death. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
Echo has a really interesting concept; it mixes the idea of people who can control elements - earth, air, water, metal, fire and ether - with time-related stuff. The Elders have seen a vision that the world will end, and so they have moved everyone and everything back in time to try to prevent the disaster. Each time they fail, and each time they move the world backwards again. But they can only travel back ten days, and each time they do they get a little weaker, as they are only echoes of their former selves. Soon, they won’t have the power to alter time at all. Their chances are running out.
What a fantastic idea! Unfortunately, however, I didn’t feel that the plot and the characters quite lived up to this amazing concept. The story focuses on Asha, a teenage girl who discovers her powers for the first time and is suddenly flung into the council’s desperate attempts to save the world. We see training, a lot of talking, running around and fighting mages (people who have lost both their control of their powers and their humanity), and running from various groups of people who don’t like Asha very much. Naturally, Asha turns out to be very special, and centrally important to the end-of-the-world scenario. It’s a shame that Asha’s story, and in fact, Asha herself, were just a little dull. There were also points in which characters’ actions made no sense. I can’t really elaborate without giving away spoilers, but really... the council is formed of some very stupid people.
Having said that, the book is far from boring; it gives us quite familiar save-the-world superhero type fights, and typical young adult self-discovery and relationship issues. These aren’t the most original, but they are written well, and there’s plenty to keep the reader entertained. I did enjoy the story. I just felt that it could have been so much more. The revelation about why Asha is so powerful and important is very clever, and it ties into the time travel stuff. The fact that the end of the world may not have been inevitable at all, but could itself have been an echo travelling back from future timelines in the form of a vision of the future, is a brilliant idea. Did the council cause its own dilemma? It seems that way. I do love timey wimey paradoxes. I also loved the religious elements and the slight science fiction aspects of what was mainly a fantasy feel. Very intriguing stuff!
I felt that these aspects could have been explored more, and that the ultimate cause of the end of the world could have been something deeper or more interesting. I was actually expecting some kind of twist involving that, as it seemed to me unlikely that a group of mages, no matter how numerous, could destroy the whole world. It didn’t seem to fit, somehow, and the people’s extreme hatred of them was odd. Shouldn’t the mages elicit at least a bit of sympathy, as people who have been lost to their own powers? And how does this happen? And are they really the simple bad guys that they seem to be? I felt that this aspect of the book was too simplistic and under-explored. It made me a little uncomfortable to keep hearing how much various characters, particularly Asha, wanted to kill mages. At least Asha has an excuse for her feelings, but I still thought that she might have to learn that life is not necessarily that clear cut.
This is an interesting book that for the most part I enjoyed, but was also disappointed by. It has some very unique aspects and clever ideas, but unfortunately doesn’t explore them as much as it could, instead following a slightly dry and familiar plot. The characters often act frustratingly, but there is plenty of action and intriguing worldbuilding to keep the story going.
Thank you to Dragonfairy Press for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A quick note on the cover, as there currently seems to be an issue with it. A friend pointed this out to me, so I thought it might be important to provide a link to it. It should be noted that authors don’t necessarily have much input into their covers, and it hasn't affected my review of the story.