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Echo North

Review

Echo North

ECHO NORTH is a fantasy book written by Joanna Ruth Meyer. Meyer also wrote BENEATH THE HAUNTING SEA but since I have never read it, I can’t use it for context in regards to ECHO NORTH. I can, however, compare it to a similar book, ICE by Sarah Beth Durst. Both are based loosely on the Greek myth about Eros and Psyche and other regional fairytales. More specifically, they’re both based on East of the Sun and West of the Moon which is a Norwegian fairytale similar to the Greek myth. In this case, While ICE was more literal in its use of this story as inspiration, ECHO NORTH was more figurative and used it as more of a starting point to work from.

The main character of our book is named, unsurprisingly, Echo. Her mother died giving birth to her and her only family is her father and her older brother. As a child, Echo selflessly tried to free a white wolf from a trap; but when she accidentally hurt it, the wolf scratched her face in a panic. This left ugly scars on her face, prompting everyone in the village to call her a devil child and scorn her existence. They say that the devil “claimed her face” and will one day “claim the rest of her.” (For those of you that don’t get it, we in the book business call that “foreshadowing.”)

"I loved this book. I was fully engaged the entire time and I hated to put it down....While the main villain was cartoonishly evil, every other main character felt genuinely human with interesting motivations as well as flaws."

Echo’s father eventually remarries a local widow when Echo is in her late teens. His new wife hates Echo and don’t worry, Echo hates her too. Unfortunately, Echo’s father, being a truly wonderful man, has his own fatal flaw: gullibility (he’s just too nice). He fails to realize that his new wife is a gold digger and ends up in debt and has to sell his little bookstore to stay ahead of the debt collectors. He eventually has nothing left to sell, save for a few rare manuscripts and books. He goes to the city to sell them and goes missing, leading to some brewing tension between Echo and her stepmother. Echo and her stepmother --- who is a very unkind lady, let me tell you --- get into a spat that ends with Echo’s admission letter from university burning in the fireplace and Echo herself storming into the woods.

While in the woods, she finds her father and --- surprise --- the white wolf that scarred her all those years ago. After making a deal with the wolf, someone from the village finds her father and she is spirited away to The House Under the Mountain. This house needs a new caretaker --- Wolf only has a year left --- so he is going to show Echo the ropes, so to speak. This house is portrayed as a living, breathing entity and that is one of the best things about it. It also tries to kill all the occupants at midnight! Lovely, I know.

Once there, the Wolf has her make several promises. One of the promises is the same promise as the one from the myth about Eros and Psyche, but the other isn’t one I have context for. At the house, Echo spends most of the time in a magic library. It’s a pretty awesome library. In this library, Echo makes some friends! Unfortunately, if I tell you anything about them save their names --- Hal and Mokosh for those wondering --- I will be entering the realm of the forbidden spoilers, so I can’t give you much more information about them. Knocking out the archetypal fantasy tropes roster we have an evil queen, an evil stepmother, typical fair folk deal making shenanigans, and a whole bunch of curses! It’s in the fantasy genre; I don’t know what you were expecting, people.

I loved this book. I was fully engaged the entire time and I hated to put it down. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have faults, such as some pacing issues. The book felt like it was running towards the climax before it slowed down. It was the opposite of a problem I tend to have where the book is slow walking towards the climax and only speeds up after. While ECHO NORTH is a good book, it doesn’t offer anything new to the genre. What the book did do well was amazing characterization. While the main villain was cartoonishly evil, every other main character felt genuinely human with interesting motivations as well as flaws.

This is a very good beginner book to the fantasy genre. The magic is cut and dry and if you pay attention you can easily understand the type of world this is set in. I would recommend this book to people just starting out in the YA universe. Heck, as a seasoned veteran, I myself thoroughly enjoyed this book. This book can be enjoyed by anyone who likes fantasy and YA, so please read this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by Caitlin L., Teen Board Member on January 29, 2019

Echo North
by Joanna Ruth Meyer