Echo by Lorena Glass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This opening novel of a planned trilogy is 2 parts romance, 1 part supernatural thriller, and 1 part historical fiction with the last 2 parts being the stronger half. In general, 2 eternally bound souls are cursed to repeatedly be separated and blessed to be reunited. Or potentially that, too, is part of the curse. Either way, there is no rest for the souls. The characters do not understand the true conditions that they fight against as seen with the very first narrator, Karissa.
The story opens on Karissa time-jumping from 2034 AD America to 460 AD Gaul as the Western Roman Empire is in its death throws. She understands neither of 2 objects that aided her journey: a time-cutting piece of technology, and a magic charm. We later learn that it is the charm that has bound her soul to Ian/Adregin/Evain. She thinks love is eternal and soulmates are real and reincarnation is a thing. However, the story shows that it’s a benevolent charm and a curse conspiring to keep the souls tethered, restless and forever harassed.
Karissa, who probably received the tech & charm from Ian wherever he’s originally from, uses it to find Ian’s spirit after he’s died. This takes her to Gaul where Adregin(Ian) is a Western Roman centurion. Luckily, in whatever form, the souls recognize each other.
Some clever construction emerges in the midpoint of this novel. The curse happens when an incarnation of Karissa named Iilassa kills a witch who has destroyed the charm. [A sympathetic elder creates a new charm for them, only–it’s probably the old charm.] The witch curses Iilassa/Karissa/?? and Ian/Adregin/Evain/?? for all eternity to restlessness and torment. The torment comes from nobody respecting the bounds of their relationship, family and neighbors not trusting them, and plenty of accusations of paganism and witchcraft–all factors to drive them apart or to keep them on the run. The elements of adversity can come in the form of anybody.
Sadly, death doesn’t bring peace to these souls, but reincarnates the soul with a drive to find the other to relive the torment.
The biggest wins here are seeing the diverse cultures: 460s Gaul, 590s Lapland, and 710s Cyprus. The historic events create the interest in the story. The constant adversity, including pirates and seducers, creates good tension.
The slow realization to the adversity makes the story painful at times. The near constant either bickering or prattling about love by the two protagonists is itself a form of torture. Hopefully later incarnations are a little surer of their feelings because the insecurities are numbing and undermine the story. Also, the near apologetic explanations of the tenets of Christianity throughout a book based on supernatural magic and a pagan curse are unnecessary.
The book ends on a jump to an unknown new destination which is promising. Hopefully, the emotional immaturity of the couple can be left behind as the adventure continues. Having time-jumping characters create a loop back to the original curse is a brilliant move, despite its enigma of what came first.
I received this novel directly from the author.
[Check out my other reviews here.]