Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell
Orbit, pb, £9.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
As a wealthy socialite, Tennal has no responsibilities and bounces from mistake to mistake, hiring his telepathic powers to criminals and escaping punishment because of his connections. But when he pushes things too far, Tennal’s aunt, a legislator, has him conscripted into the army. She arranges for him to be synced with Lieutenant Surit, a powerful architect who can keep Tennal under control. However, syncing a telepath and architect without both sides agreeing is illegal. Surit won’t do it even though it will ruin his career prospects even more than his mother being a disgraced general. But there are worst fates for Tennal and Surit being bound to each, and when a discovery in chaotic space leads to a coup against Tennal’s aunt, working together may be the only way for them to survive.
Ocean’s Echo is a stand-alone story set in the universe Maxwell created in Winter’s Orbit and is a queer romance with a backdrop of failed coups and political upheaval. I am a sucker for a good romance, and this one followed the typical odd couple “will they, won’t they” storyline. I devoured the book’s first half and enjoyed the foreshadowing that there was more to their pairing than Tennal and Surit knew. However, once we entered the book’s final third, there was so much getting together and breaking up that I began to stop caring, which was a shame.
This book is light on science fiction, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me. Sometimes technical detail can get in the way of the story. I could have done with more of an explanation of what chaotic space was and how things worked rather than just being told they do. I also could have done with more history about humanity ending up where it had. Ocean’s Echo comes from an established universe, as I’ve already stated, so the bits I was missing could have been covered in that. However, for something to be billed as stand-alone, the reader needs some context to help them understand the world they’re in.
Despite the bits that brought the book down for me, there were plenty of other things to recommend it. Tennal and Surit are well-formed characters that you root for from the beginning, and Maxwell’s writing is clean and tight. I also appreciated the telepathy element, with its separation of duties and power, and the rules that bind telepaths and architects. The ending was satisfying, ending some threads, starting new ones and carrying others over. In fact, what I did enjoy of Ocean’s Echo encouraged me to buy Winter’s Orbit. Recommended.