ECHO by Lorena Glass
MyInk Books / February 2015 / YA / 4.5 Stars
Following the death of her soulmate, Karissa Sheffield determines to find him again regardless of what she may have to do. With a few handy devices, one of which is a time-cutter and another is a can of Mace, she sets out on an adventure that will take her almost 1600 years into the past to the ancient Roman empire. One would think that her true love would be closer than that – after all, what happened to cause the man to have so much time between incarnations? However, Lorena Glass creates such a fascinating world with intriguing characters that it takes a long time before the reader realizes Roman soldier, Adregin Valyis could or would be reborn during that immense length of time.
Karissa brings an interesting skill set to the mix. Most people don’t speak conversational Latin and couldn’t survive in a time without medicine or emergency rooms. When Adregin is injured, she has to sew him up, borrowing a needle and thread from her landlord. The lack of indoor plumbing would be enough to send me to the nearest vortex or exit to the 21st century. An intrepid time-traveler, Karissa has no doubts that she’s where she’s meant to be, with the guy she loves whether his compatriots like and accept her or not.
The descriptions and the setting add an aura of authenticity to the story. The Roman empire may be falling, but Karissa knows what’s coming. She holds to the prescribed Time Traveler creed of not sharing the future with the natives. This provides yet another example of her abilities or preparation for the trip – most people wouldn’t know the details of the ancient world, i.e. the names of the various emperors or the specifics of their political careers.
While it isn’t totally clear who arranged Karissa’s journey to the 5th century or why, again these questions don’t really impede the flow of the story which totally engages the reader. The deliberate pacing suits this book although at times the sequence of events does seem a bit slow. In most stories, the characters reveal what happens and how they personally feel about it which provides the reader the opportunity to connect with them. Some questions remain unanswered in this particular book, such as how Karissa knows where and when to find her soulmate or how Adregin knows how to locate her when they are separated. What connects them? Since this is obviously the beginning of a series, hopefully the answers will come in their own time.
In Echo, a fair amount of the book is told in omniscient viewpoint and this may distance the reader from the protagonists. The disconnection may often be seen in literary fiction so it won’t prove unfamiliar to more sophisticated readers, but may prove off-putting occasionally for genre or category aficionados who prefer the literary tenet of “show, don’t tell.” The dialogue really advances the plot in the last half of the book and Ms. Glass utilizes it to great effect. Her use of humor will also spark laughter, especially when Adregin and Karissa argue.
In conclusion, the historical background with its rich details provides an intriguing backdrop to a fascinating story. The well-developed characters that revolve through this tale have sufficient depth to engage readers. More physical descriptions would have helped us view the ensemble cast as well as additional sensory details, such as the use of smell, taste, sound in various scenes. Still, Ms. Glass creates a world that will undoubtedly encourage most readers to visit and stay a while.
Review provided by Shannon Kennedy for her column Shannon’s Space for the May 2016 edition of The Book Breeze.