Book Review: Ecko Rising by Danie Ware

Review by Prof. Jenn

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What the heck did I just read?!

No, seriously, what? We started out in a lovely cyber-dystopia, like a well-drawn update of the worlds of Neuromancer or Snow Crash. But we’re not in that world for long enough to break it in before we’re transported to a lovely Fantasy realm which manages to be Tokien-esque without being derivative.

Now, as interesting as this may sound, it really is just too jarring on multiple levels:

1) We’re not in Ecko’s POV hardly at all when in the dystopia–we see him from another character’s perspective. Which means that when Ecko is transported to the new realm, we don’t know enough about him to care about his culture shock, nor do we ever see our erstwhile POV character (the one we actually connected to) again. Until one brief scene at the very end. The big revolutionary break-in that goes awry for Ecko we don’t completely understand–what is this powerhouse that we’re supposed to hate? What exactly is Ecko trying to do?

2) We don’t get a chance to understand the futuristic world enough before we’re kicked out of it. We also don’t get enough of the Fantasy world to let us know what the threat to it means/is–we don’t get told what’s going on, who’s who, etc. Except that there’s a traveling tavern for some reason that even those that live there don’t know. Believe me, I’m not asking for info dumps, not at all, but what I do need is something a little more than just the Viking Swimming Lesson.*

3) Though it is slightly amusing to hear Ecko pop-culture referencing (he wryly mentions that his adventure even starts in a tavern, like all D&D quests do), we again don’t have enough familiar to us to let this be part of the action. Of course, part of that is no doubt that Ecko himself is plunged into this world with no warning, and even thinks the world is his own construct that he, Matrix-like, is caught in as he’s trapped somewhere in his “real” world. But again, the “real” world wasn’t familiar enough to us first before we were yanked out of it.

Having said all this, there’s a lot fascinating and/or good about Ecko Rising. The Banned characters are pretty great–sort of a McKinley-esque horse-people that are part Rohirrim and all bad-ass. The fighters and philosophers are all diverse as far as gender, which is refreshing and fun. The relationships that we do get to know at all are realistic and compelling. And Maugrim is pretty gosh darned scary. The vivisection and the madness is squicky-keen, and once we actually get to know Ecko a little more, he’s a compelling character too.

And the story ends on a cliffhanger, which tells me we’ll (hopefully) be getting more of all this explained to us in the next book. It’s just kind of a long book to have so many loose ends still blowing in the wind.

Bottom Line: Ecko Rising is recommended, with reservations.

*One hard push into the deep end.

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