I really liked Everina Maxwell’s debut Winter’s Orbit, so I made sure to get Ocean’s Echo as soon as it came out. I saved it for June as school is out and also Pride month. Ocean’s Echo is not a direct sequel which is sort of too bad but fine since I already knew that, but it’s definitely got some parallels. Basically an order vs chaos pair are forced together and must work through their personal and public problems; this worked out quite well the first time, and it’s fine here too. But.
My biggest problem is with the chaos side, Tennalhin Halkana. He’s totally into the self-destructive bad boy thing, and he knows it, his family knows it, and I can see it, but there’s no really backstory about why. Obviously, he’s got a bad kind of situation in his life, namely he’s a ‘reader’ and can read minds and his family (namely politically powerful auntie) is trying to force him to join the military and ‘synch’ with someone who is an architect. Architects are neuro-modified (so are readers) to be able to control minds, and a synched pair would be permanently connected, thus putting Tennal under his architect’s total mental control, in theory. Rebelling against this makes sense, but this is only really a threat about 20 pages into the novel; why then has Tennal apparently been into the wealthy bad boy thing for years leading up to this? I need more of a reason to root for such a jerk; to be fair, Tennal himself knows this, in fact he says that an ex of his plus her two current partners are still less of an a-hole combined that he himself is. Again, I get that he’s got damage, but a little more info on where that comes from or got started to hope he wins.
Surit Yeni, the architect, at least has some backstory that explains his total emphasis on rules and regulations and ordered perfection. The premise of the story has some promise, at least as a political space adventure intrigue kind of thriller. The romance is fine but I don’t really like one half of the main couple, so that kind of takes away from that part. At least Tennal comes through for Surit in the end, but it really does feel like Zin, Tennal’s younger sister, does more on that end than Tennal himself.
The world of the story is different enough that it’s interesting, especially how one indicates one’s gender preferences and identity (the type of stone in your jewelry). The politics and ethics, and even the suggested history and big reveals about what that history might have actually meant or been in some instances is really interesting. Surit also gets some character grown or maybe change is the better word, and it works for him by giving him a little hint of chaos under all that order, kind of like the evil/good between Crowley and Aziraphale in Good Omens (more so in the Amazon series than the book, but still there in the original). However, that would make Tennal more the Crowley, and that doesn’t work so well because Crowley has a little complexity and also motivation for why he is the way he is. The other reason the analogy doesn’t quite work is that Tennal definitely tries to make himself as unbearable to Surit as possible at first, and Crowley and Aziraphale seem to sort of ‘get’ each other from the start.