I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
TITLE: Echoes and Empires
AUTHOR: Morgan Rhodes
PUBLICATION DATE: January 4, 2022
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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Falling Kingdoms series comes the first book in a brand-new duology about forbidden magic and dangerous secrets, for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Margaret Rogerson.
Josslyn Drake knows only three things about magic: it’s rare, illegal, and always deadly.
So when she’s caught up in a robbery gone wrong at the Queen’s Gala and infected by a dangerous piece of magic—one that allows her to step into the memories of an infamously evil warlock—she finds herself living her worst nightmare. Joss needs the magic removed before it corrupts her soul and kills her. But in Ironport, the cost of doing magic is death, and seeking help might mean scheduling her own execution. There’s nobody she can trust.
Nobody, that is, except wanted criminal Jericho Nox, who offers her a deal: his help extracting the magic in exchange for the magic itself. And though she’s not thrilled to be working with a thief, especially one as infuriating (and infuriatingly handsome) as Jericho, Joss is desperate enough to accept.
But Jericho is nothing like Joss expects. The closer she grows to Jericho and the more she sees of the world outside her pampered life in the city, the more Joss begins to question the beliefs she’s always taken for granted—beliefs about right and wrong, about power and magic, and even about herself.
In an empire built on lies, the truth may be her greatest weapon.
Setting the Scene
Review in 10 Words (or Less)
Mood Before Reading
Reading slump 😭
December 31, 2021 to January 2, 2022
Echoes & Empires is about Josslyn, the daughter of the former prime minister, who lives in a world where magic is strictly forbidden. She gets caught up in a theft gone sideways and the book is mostly about how she copes with what happens afterward.
I have mixed feelings about this book; I honestly think it was just an okay read. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing special, either.
Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me
To be fair, a lot of my issues with this novel start with me. Usually, I’d just dump this extra info under my “Setting the Scene” section, but there’s a lot this time and I think it deserves a proper explanation.
I’m a mood reader that was going through yet another reading slump in December when I started reading Echoes & Empires. And because this was set to be published in early January, I forced myself to read it before my NetGalley ARC expired. Did I mention I’m a mood reader? Yeah, that’s an automatic barrier this book had to clear and it didn’t do the best job of it.
I wasn’t in the mood to read it and the storyline and characters didn’t help. I thought of DNFing it because I had such a difficult time getting through the first few chapters. Thankfully, the novel did pick up a little after the halfway mark, but not before I may or may not have already desperately peaked at the ending. Which was, of course, a mistake. It ruined one of the major plot twists of the book and didn’t really help encourage me to continue reading.
It wasn’t just my mood that affected my reading experience of Echoes & Empires – my expectations certainly didn’t help. Let’s just say I made some assumptions about the story based on the synopsis and none of those assumptions turned out to be true. Needless to say, there is a direct correlation between my disappointment with this book and how its synopsis sells it.
And finally, I’ve been enjoying more upper YA and NA books lately – I’ve just been having a harder time connecting with and enjoying stories about younger characters. Echoes & Empires kind of skews younger YA to me. Both the writing and the maturity of the main character feel slightly more simplified and immature. Which is interesting given the ages of the characters – I’m pretty sure our female main character and her male love interest are around sixteen and nineteen, respectively.
If you plan to read Echoes & Empires, I strongly advise that you both A) don’t read the synopsis (or base your expectations on it) and B) don’t skip to the end. Learn from my mistakes.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled review
My weird personal issues aside, there are still some elements of Echoes & Empires I enjoyed and disliked that are more related to the book itself and not me, as a reader. Starting with our main character.
I think the main reason why I feel “meh” about the book as a whole is because that’s exactly how I feel about Joss. I don’t hate her, but I definitely don’t like her either. I enjoyed watching her grow a bit through the novel, but that’s about all I liked about her. She’s kind of shallow in both personality and how she’s written. To be fair, if I remember correctly, she’s sixteen, but I just wish she didn’t make being self-absorbed her main personality trait.
The world-building didn’t help either. There wasn’t a lot of it and when it was discussed, it was mainly your typical “magic is evil” speech. The magic wasn’t too magical, especially when it’s responsible for a lot of info-dumping about the kingdom. There just wasn’t really anything about it to make it stand out from all the other magical YA worlds where magic was banned, except for Jericho, the male love interest, and his relation to magic.
Now that, that, I can get behind. Not so much Jericho, because like with Joss, I don’t have any particular feelings about him. But how he got involved with magic is so fascinating and part of an overarching mystery I want to solve. I wish that was explored more instead of kept kind of on the back burner. Then again, looking back, Echoes & Empires kind of just feels like a long setup for its sequel, which will hopefully spend more time focusing on that topic.
I can’t believe I’m saying this after the rocky start I had, but I’m kind of excited to read the sequel. The second half was more interesting and I had a nice time seeing all the pieces of the slow beginning fall into place. And the cliffhanger at the end (which I spoiled for myself) was an interesting conclusion. Despite the fact that I didn’t particularly enjoy Echoes & Empires, it definitely makes me curious about what’s going to happen next. I may or may not read the sequel if I remember it.
Echoes & Empires is a nice quick read but nothing too special, except for the mystery surrounding Jericho, the main love interest, and his magic.