It worries me that I sense a pattern here, and it’s only book 2. Open with adventure, something bad happens, but not too bad. Second, bigger, adventure during which Max suffers a personal crisis, probably involving Leon. Third major adventure during which crisis one is either solved or rendered unimportant. End on quasi-hopeful/positive note with promise of more trouble next time. I don’t have a problem with the plot or the pacing in A Symphony of Echoes, but I worry that when a general pattern seems so obvious so early on in a series it means the series will get repetitive and dull shortly. There also seems to be something of a theme in each book, time-travel wise. First, it was Cretaceous dinosaur times. Here, it’s medieval England with visits to the assassination of Thomas Beckett, and the Early Modern era with Mary Queen of Scots just as she’s supposed to have a fateful encounter with Boswell.
One thing I do like is that some unanswered questions from the previous book are either solved or at least progress is made. It’s also fun to see more of characters that didn’t get as much attention in the first book, like Ian Guthrie and Mrs Partridge. I also liked the added twist of moving forward in time to the future. Meeting the future St Mary’s and the information that gets revealed as a result worked really well for me. The dodo hunt is funny, and I hope a future novel brings back info about what happens to the dodos that come back to future St Mary’s.
Something that annoyed me is that some of the plot lines introduced seemed to have no connection to anything else in the story; I speak here particularly of the Jack the Ripper bit in the beginning. Once it’s done, but not fully explained, it’s like the sequence forgotten and was there for no reason other than a mini-adventure to fill pages. It’s possible this is just a set up for a future reveal, but here and now it’s annoying. There has got to be something in the fact that the Historians find out that Jack is not really human, and that he manages to get into the pod and come home with Kal and Max, and that they have some kind of psychic sense that it’s not totally gone until it is (or is it?). If this part really is a throw-away or red-herring, that’s just not cool.
One word of warning though, don’t read the cast of characters list (labeled dramatis thingummy which my spell check recognized as a real word to my surprise) before reading the book. There’s a pretty serious spoiler in there. Thankfully, I wasn’t paying attention, and just skimmed it, but when I went back to it after finishing the book, I was surprised at the level of the give-away in one character’s description in particular. A new serious baddie is introduced in the story, but Max and co. don’t know this person is bad until some time later. Said character’s description includes a warning that they are not as they might appear.