Rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster Tennalhin Halkana can read minds. Tennal, like all neuromodified “readers,” is a security threat on his own. But when controlled, readers are a rare asset. Not only can they read minds, but they can navigate chaotic space, the maelstroms surrounding the gateway to the wider universe.
Conscripted into the military under dubious circumstances, Tennal is placed into the care of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a duty-bound soldier, principled leader, and the son of a notorious traitor general. Whereas Tennal can read minds, Surit can influence them. Like all other neuromodified “architects,” he can impose his will onto others, and he’s under orders to control Tennal by merging their minds.
Surit accepted a suspicious promotion-track request out of desperation, but he refuses to go through with his illegal orders to sync and control an unconsenting Tennal. So they lie: They fake a sync bond and plan Tennal’s escape.
Their best chance arrives with a salvage-retrieval mission into chaotic space—to the very neuromodifcation lab that Surit’s traitor mother destroyed twenty years ago. And among the rubble is a treasure both terrible and unimaginably powerful, one that upends a decades-old power struggle, and begins a war.
Tennal and Surit can no longer abandon their unit or their world. The only way to avoid life under full military control is to complete the very sync they’ve been faking.
Can two unwilling weapons of war bring about peace?
📕 sci-fi/fantasy with a dash of paranormal
📘 excellent world-building
📙 complex characters and relationships
📗 well paced, great plot
When Tennal’s life of debauchery gets a little too much attention, he is conscripted into the army. He’s a very talented reader – one who can read the minds of those around him. He’s about to be forced to sync with an architect (One who can write ideas/suggestions to minds) against his will when he is paired with exactly the right architect. Lieutenant Surit is opposite to Tennal in many ways. He is a rule follower, thoughtful, a planner and he needs a promotion to assist his family.
When Surit finds out that Tennal is being required to sync against his will, he refuses and the two of them begin a deception that may save or condemn them both.
THE GOOD BITS
I have waited a while for Everina Maxwell’s second book and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed. If any of you go into this expecting it to be a “romance” you may find it a little lacking. I loved that the romance/ connection existed but wasn’t the entire focus of the novel. I may be unique, but I love when the characters just happen to be queer and the novel continues on around them.
There are some interesting themes explored in this book, not the least of which is the consent factor as it plays into a word in which some people are gifted with telepathic abilities. Maxwell has filled in many of the gaps from the first book set in this universe – explaining far more about readers and architects and their importance in the world. I enjoyed the world building and felt as though I had a much more complete image of the Iskat Empire in my mind after finishing the book.
The relationship between the main characters is realistically paced – so don’t go into this expecting a quick romance. This story is much more nuanced than a romance. There is a lot of political intrigue, a potential war and all of the ethical issues that arise from people being synced against their will.
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book (from the author’s website): (SPOILERS) consent, boundaries and self-esteem in a science-fiction world where mind control and mind merges are possible. Major content warnings include mind-control/sharing, coercion, and mental health struggles including self-neglect and prominent self-destructive thoughts. Minor warnings include chaotic eating habits, and some drug and alcohol use.
I received an ARC of Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.