Everina Maxwell’s Ocean’s Echo returns to the setting previously created for her Winter’s Orbit SF novel. While this book refers to the earlier one’s setting, overall it does not require an understanding of the previous piece.
Tennel is the nephew of an official, can read minds, and is a known troublemaker. His aunt forces him into the military, with the intention of getting someone with mind control abilities to take over permanently in what is called a “synch.” Surit is ordered to do this, but the fact that the other man doesn’t want it is a preventative, as such forced connections are illegal. As the oddities of the situation deepen, they determine that lying might be the best course of action, they might need to do this very thing to prevent catastrophe.
It should be noted that with the concept of psychological violation at its core, this book is significantly darker in concept than Winters Orbit. Particularly given the risks of war and society-wide upheaval exist in both, this one change is a disturbing little element that will undoubtedly bother some readers.
The timeline of the setting doesn’t entirely work if one assumes a traditional 365 day year. On page 385, it is noted that the first people with these mind reading and mind control abilities were created artificially 20 years before. In spite of that ideas about them seem very entrenched in the society, and there are a great number of adult aged people born with these abilities as a side effect of previous generation’s experimentations. Indeed the lead character Tennal is mentioned as being 20, suggesting he would have had to been conceived during the experiments. This is not really mentioned, even if his age is noted. This timeline issue at best is going to cause an itch for some readers who noticed the problem, and at worst will cause them to put the book down and see it as fatally flawed the minute they read those words. It is only made worse by the fact that adding an additional 20 years to the time span would have made the whole setting hold together better, and still allowed for the first generation to be around.
The romance is understated for much of the book, with Tennel a natural flirt and a bit promiscuous. Surit is more buttoned down and nervous about the situation, and both vert slow to realize their growing feelings for one another. The romance moves more slowly than in Winter’s Orbit, and that makes sense given the situation is more tense and intimacy a more delicate matter as a result of the respective differences in plot.
Ocean’s Echo is a quick read, breezy without feeling condescending. While there is one major flaw that exists in the narrative, the high quality of the writing and storytelling could make that easier to set aside. The world building remains quite fun, the plot has a suitable amount of mystery and intrigue, and the romance is top-notch. Anyone who enjoyed Everena Maxwell’s previous book should read this one.