Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell. New York : Tor, 2022.

Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell

Romantic fantasy novels provided a gateway back into reading for many adults during the pandemic.  Can romantic science fiction novels persuade reluctant readers to dip their toes into a genre that is often seen as obscure and complex?  Give this approach a try with Everina Maxwell’s Ocean’s Echo.  While the novel’s plot includes genetic tampering, psychic abilities, chaotic space, and interplanetary coups, its heart remains rooted in its protagonists and their growing life together.

Tennalhin Halkana is the nephew of the Senator.  He has grown up in the limelight pretending to be perfect while constantly being reminded in private that he is the family failure.  Tennal, as he prefers to be called, is a “reader,” a person born with neuromodified genetics allowing him to read minds.  This is seen as a dangerous, distrust-worthy trait in Tennal’s society where “writers” or “architects,” those able to control minds, are prized instead.  Tired of this prejudice, Tennal strikes out against his family, living a life of decadence and escapism while he can.

Surit Yeni is the perfect soldier.  He has every military regulation memorized.  Literally.  However, he is also the son of a notorious traitor and a secret architect, unwilling to disclose his power just to rise through the ranks.  More annoyingly to the military, Surit has a strong moral compass.  When given orders he knows are wrong, he finds a way to follow those orders to the letter of the law…all while dodging the intended meaning of his superiors.

Thus, when Tennal is captured, forced into the army against his will, and told to “sync” with Surit, a soul-bonding process between reader and architect that would take away Tennal’s free will, Surit refuses to go through with the procedure.  However, he also refuses to leave Tennal alone and vulnerable, knowing that the military could simply find another architect ready to bind Tennal for life.  Instead the two men strike a plan to fake the “sync,” pretending to be able to read and influence each other’s minds until they can smuggle Tennal to another star system where he can be free.

Tennal and Surit, however, are not the only people in their universe.  Soon, they find themselves caught up in even larger and more insidious military machinations that force them to their limits.  Linked together through extreme circumstances, Tennal and Surit start to find themselves through loving each other, but what will this mean when their worlds are torn apart?  Beaten, broken, having only each other, can the pair find a way to save their galaxy as well as themselves?

Rebecca Mincher is the Children’s Library Assistant at Graham Public Library. Contact her at rzimmerman@alamancelibraries.org or 336-570-6730.