Read an excerpt of Chapter 1 of Ghosts & Echoes here
My Thoughts: This is an urban fantasy series with a very human heroine. Human but for a special ancestor, which leaves Sylvie with a secret voice in her head that tells her what to do to survive. Otherwise, she is normal, and has to use human means to track down problems in the Magicus Mundi, the supernatural world that most people don’t know exists. She is the one people come to if they want strange problems solved. It’s a very specialized P.I. service, and one that barely covers the bills, but Sylvie knows a lot about the dark magics and woo-woo that exists in the world. Due to this expertise, she gets two new cases that no one else would be able to figure out. Adam Wright, a Chicago beat cop finds Sylvie through a dream – he has a ghost inside him and wants the ghost out. The other case is a series of robberies, where the thieves seem to be able to walk through walls and doors. Sylvie uses a mix of legwork and special contacts (mixed with a bit of threatening) to solve these cases.
In the first book, Sylvie struck me as an angry heroine. There are reasons for this – it’s because of what was happening around her, and because of her own particular genetic legacy. In Sins & Shadows, this worked for me within the story and I wondered how Sylvie would grow over the series. In Ghosts & Echoes, this anger is still there, and yes, it still works when her anger is due to her frustrations in being one step behind in stopping the evil around her, but there were times when her attitude rubbed me the wrong way (and more than it did in the first book). I’d noted before that Sylvie is perfectly willing to be rude for someone’s own good (like preventing her assistant from being in danger), but maybe in her home territory, I wasn’t expecting her to be like this to everyone. I do think that she tries to hold herself back, but when she is pressed for time, she doesn’t have the patience for niceties. Somehow her lack of empathy towards people who weren’t her friends and family felt more pronounced in this installment, and I found it more difficult to empathize with her.
This darkness extends to Sylvie’s cases. Both of them turn out to be related to her personally. The ghost that is possessing her client is someone Sylvie knows. One of the thieves that are robbing local stores is someone Sylvie knows. Her moral dilemma here is who deserves her loyalty more – the people that she loves, or her clients who need her help. Her choices aren’t easy. There was a balancing game, and I think that the consequences reflect real life: it never goes as planned. There is definitely a high amount of emotional charge in this story because of Sylvie’s conflict and the personal slant of her cases. I really identified with Sylvie’s frustration in dealing with the people involved. This is all good, I want to be involved in the characters lives and to be emotionally connected.
The problem I had with Ghosts & Echoes is that I was ultimately unhappy with how dark it became, which is a very personal reaction. I understood what Sylvie was trying to do and from a logical point of view, I’m not really sure how she could have changed how things turned out, but from a visceral point of view, I like to end a story feeling like although there is bad, the good outweighs it, and in Ghosts & Echoes I’m not sure I liked where the scales stopped. There was a resolution and I’m sure it’s a resolution that worked for many readers, if not most, but I was left feeling unsettled.
Overall: A really well-written and gritty urban fantasy. I recommend this series for UF fans who want a realistic story and don’t mind a flawed and abrasive heroine. I would put this book in the “like” column for the writing and world building alone, but my emotional reaction to the overall plot (more bitter than sweet for me) puts it in the “OK” column. I’m wavering between my heart and mind on how to rate the book.
I want to know what happens next to Sylvie, but I’d be reluctant to read Book 3 if I find out that the story continues to be this disconcerting.
A review on Amazon suggests that there is a third book coming out but I haven’t seen any news about it’s title or publication date. Thanks to Scooper, I learned the third book is Gods & Monsters, out next month.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
Literary Escapism – positive
Fantasy Literature – 5/5