ARC Review – Ocean’s Echo

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell. I’ve wanted to read Winter’s Orbit since last year, but somehow it always gets bumped off my TBR due to ARCs or some other issue. Luckily, Maxwell’s second book is a stand-alone set in the same universe. So, I could read my ARC of it without needing to read Winter’s Orbit first. 🙂

Ocean’s Echo is a stand-alone space adventure about a bond that will change the fate of worlds, set in the same universe as Everina Maxwell’s hit debut, Winter’s Orbit.

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?

***Thank you to Tor Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This was my first book by Maxwell, but it definitely won’t be my last. The writing was beautiful and immersive, and the story had a great balance of science fiction elements and character development. It didn’t get too bogged down in the science, and the story had both a great plot and a focus on the emotional journeys of the characters.

The world-building was fantastic. The galaxy and its mysteries felt vast despite the civilizations and technology pertinent to the story being well-defined. The excellent writing made everything easy to understand and follow even when things got a bit complex or nebulous. There was just enough information about the wider galaxy to intrigue me and make me hope for more books set in it, but the story never lost its focus on the characters, relationships, and factions at the center of the current conflict. The histories of the characters, their powers, and the civilization were all fascinating.

The plot was full of intrigue, political conspiracy, and military strategy. There were plenty of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. The pace was a bit slow at the start, but I didn’t mind because the time was used to get to really know the characters and establish the basic foundations of the society that became necessary to understanding later plot points. There was plenty of action in the second half, and the entire story was full of interesting psychic powers, space shenanigans, and different military factions vying for power.

The center of the entire story, though, was the relationship between Tennal and Surit. Tennal was an absolute disaster of a human who sabotaged almost every relationship and thrived on total chaos. He was also a reader, someone with the power to read the minds of others. After being conscripted into the army because of all his messy behavior, he meets Surit, the Lieutenant who’s supposed to keep him in line by forming a neural link between the two of them that would allow him complete control over Tennal. Surit threw a kink in those plans because he is literally THE BEST boy with an incorruptible moral compass. They fake the sync and work towards an escape plan for Tennal, which doesn’t go as planned once they get embroiled in all the political posturing that threatens civil war. Their relationship was super slow burn and didn’t involve a ton of heat, but the gradual growth of the emotional intimacy and trust between the two of them was so good. It provided a fun and unique science fiction spin on several common romance tropes, including soul mates, forced proximity, and fake dating.

I also just want to mention that there were parts of this book that left me in awe. There was a passage that described space in a fascinating way that left me contemplating its vastness and its similarity to the human mind. The prose was just so beautiful I felt transported almost to another dimension through the words.

Needless to say, I definitely recommend this book, especially if you enjoy sci-fi stories and are looking for one with a low-heat, slow-burn queer romance. The plot, characters, and writing were all fantastic. This will not be the last book I read by Maxwell. Therefore, I rate the book 5 out of 5 stars.

3 thoughts on “ARC Review – Ocean’s Echo

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