Echoes and Empires

Echoes and Empires

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Book Review

Everyone knows that magic is illegal … and evil. But when teen Josslyn Drake is accidentally infected by a smoky magic that allows her to step into the memories of a deadly warlock, she has a decision to make. If she stays, she’ll likely be arrested. But if she runs, the magic could corrupt her soul.

Plot Summary

Everyone in the Regarian Empire knows about the danger of magic. Josslyn Drake knows better than most.

Not only did an evil warlock kill the 17-year-old’s father a year ago, but Joss has been front and center as Queen Isadora herself has moved to stamp out every glimmer of magic and its foul users. In fact, the queen declared that any found witch or warlock should be instantly killed without trial.

That, however, is only the beginning of Joss’ involvement with this wizarding element. For while attending the Queen’s yearly Gala, and trying to suppress bad memories of her father’s death from the year before, Joss wanders off and into a crime in progress.

She steps alone into a display room littered with antiquities and pieces of valuable art. But the room’s floor is also littered with fallen Queensguards. Standing among them is a tall, somewhat handsome young man with pitch-black eyes.

“Make a move, make a sound, and I promise you’ll regret it,” the man growls softly in her direction. Then he picks up a small gold box. But as he turns toward the door, one of the fallen guards grabs his ankle, causing him to tumble and drop the box.

It all happens so quickly that Joss barely has time to do more than gape. But then the gold box slides toward her. Its lid swings open. And something like golden smoke swirls up and all around her, hitting Joss with enough force to knock her out cold and completely off her feet.

When she comes back to her senses, the black-eyed young man is gone, Joss’ best friend Celine is by her side, and everything seems to be back to normal.

But it isn’t.

Soon Josslyn realizes that she was hit with a very powerful blast of magic, an enchantment that thereafter will allow her to step into the memories of one Lord Zarek Banyon: the very man blamed for killing her father.

Those magical memories are painful. But no matter how hard she fights against them, she can’t stop the smoke from clouding her vision and showing her unwanted remembrances, called echoes. But worse still: These echoes force a dire decision.

If she stays in the Regarian city of Ironport, her new secret will inevitably come out. She’ll be arrested for using magic, even it’s manifesting against her will. And no matter how much the Queen likes her, Joss may even be killed. But if she runs—seeking some sort of help to remove that unwanted magical burden, seeking perhaps, that black-eyed thief—there’s no telling what kind of terrible things may befall her.

She may even lose her soul. The corruption of magic is said to do such things.

The fact is, however, no matter how Josslyn wrestles with the choices, it won’t really matter. Her tangled destiny is already swirling before her.

And forbidden magic can sometimes seem to have a will of its own.

Christian Beliefs

None.

Other Belief Systems

Though magic and magicking are both strictly forbidden in Regar, it’s a huge part of this story. As mentioned, the gold smoke thrusts another’s memories upon Joss, turning her eyes from blue to gold. And through those memories, she begins to piece together a greater mystery.

This world’s magic, however, isn’t so much about casting spells as it is the ability to manipulate the “elements” around them—a special skill you’re born with. We see someone use that to heal a bad wound. We also hear of “death magic,” an ability to manipulate life forces. We meet two people who have been brought back from the dead through the use of this dark ability: It’s considered extremely dangerous and rife with horrible penalties.

We’re told of one skilled but evil witch who uses a knife to carve symbols into someone’s body. These symbols not only force him to do her will, but give him increased strength and agility.

One character has the monstrous ability to suck the lifeforce out of others, leaving behind a shriveled corpse. We’re also told of dark magicians that use blood from animal sacrifices to “supercharge” their elemental magic.

Authority Roles

Joss meets some adults who are kind and caring. But many she encounters in her journey are hardened and duplicitous—especially those in any position of power or authority. One important person, in particular, appears perpetually loving on the surface while actually being deceptive and power-hungry.

Joss has memories of her deceased father, who loved her dearly and treated her well.

We also meet one individual who is assumed to be vile and wicked, but who really isn’t. Instead he’s painted this way to serve a nefarious purpose.

Both Joss and the black-eyed thief, Jericho, are antiheroes of a sort. They’re self-focused and manipulative. (Joss is focused solely on her social standing, fashion sense and her ability to get what she wants when we first meet her.) But with time, both grow into becoming better people who show a newly acquired inner strength and kindness.

Profanity & Violence

The story uses the s-word at times along with “h—,” “d–n,” “a–,” “a–hole,” “p–s” and “d-ck.” That collected foul language isn’t used often, but it does pop up in tense story moments.

People tend to drink to excess in this world, and several get quite drunk. That includes the 17-year-old protagonist, who speaks of her love of wine and uses a cobbled-together alcoholic drink to numb her senses. Joss and others deal with hangovers and headaches after a night of drinking.

There’s quite a bit of thumping and pummeling in the story mix, along with more bloody interactions. Joss remembers back to the bloody night her father was killed, for instance. Others are stabbed and shot—bleeding profusely. An innocent woman’s throat is cut open and she’s left to bleed out in front of a loved one. People have their lifeforce painfully drained. Each time a golden smoke memory is visited upon Joss, her nose bleeds. And when she fights to stop those magical happenings, she’s racked with pain.

Those imposed memories also show Joss a great disaster when fires raged through a city and hundreds died in the flames.

Sexual Content

Though they start as enemies who must endure one another, Joss and Jericho come to understand each other better as time passes. And eventually they begin to flirt and develop feelings for each other. Joss and another young woman happen upon Jericho bathing in a lake. They make note of his chiseled upper body (he’s waist deep in the water).

People kiss.

Discussion Topics

None.

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Additional Comments

Morgan Rhodes is a New York Times bestselling author of the very popular Falling Kingdom book series. That alone will grab young readers’ attentions. With Echoes and Empires, she’s written a twisting adventure filled with intrigue, politics, romance and magic. And the book lauds teens who seek out truth and long for justice in a politically tangled world.

That said, parents of younger readers should note that there is some foul language in the mix here along with plenty of violence, drinking and some dark raised-from-the-dead magic.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose