• Bella Dean Joyner

Book Review: Echoes by A.M. Caplan

Hello dear readers! It has been a while, if my to-be-read pile is any indication.

I actually purchased Echoes in September, based entirely on the cover. If you've ever driven down a two lane country highway, windows open to allow a stifled summer heat tinged with the cool breeze of twilight to caress your cheek, the weight of the world heavy on your mind, this cover will speak to your soul.

Echoes, first in series by A.M. Caplan, is for sale on Amazon on ebook for $2.99, on paperback for $9.99, and on Kindle Unlimited.

This trilogy - Echoes, Dead Quiet, Reverberation - seems to be Caplan's debut works. And quite the bar she sets!

The novel opens with a distracted Hannah Cirric, ordinary in every sense, driving down that same country road that you've been down, the weight of the world heavy on her shoulders, an urn with human remains falling from the passenger seat onto the floor.

All it takes is one moment, and things aren't so ordinary anymore.

She thinks she killed him. The man-sized dent in her bumper and the stranger with a caved in chest and bone-exposing lacerations on his face make it a safe assumption. But when Hannah leaves his side to wave down the arriving police and response teams, he disappears, along with every trace of his existence.

Months follow, and Hannah spirals into the murk of depression, guilt, and loss. With hope that the stranger wasn't as hurt as she originally thought, that maybe he walked away in a daze, she scours the forest, the river, and the scene of the accident, her obsession causing her complexion to wane and deep, dark circles to form beneath her eyes.

She finds him.

But he isn't dead.

Nor is he really alive.

Asher has lived for thousands of years, dying over and over only to reincarnate immediately, leaving no signs of his previous death. Never aging, he acquires vampiric qualities of beauty, speed, and strength, all without the need to drink a single drop of blood.

But he exposes her to a danger she's never known before. Will either of them escape?

I struggled initially with the read. There are a few grammatical errors, a few storyline inconsistencies. There are dream sequences that aren't set apart, that look like entire repetitions of chapters. But a fourth of the way in, Caplan hits her stride. Her word usage is unique and well-structured. What once appeared to be a slowly progressing story revealed itself to be an emotional evocation - the despair of loss, loneliness, and anguish - that helps fully develop Hannah as a modern phoenix.

Caplan's character development is rich and well-executed. I found each person I encountered to be believable, dynamic, and easily invested in. Asher, timeless and immortal, retains some of the idiosyncrasies of his original time period but has not failed to adapt to modern society in a way that makes his presence awkward, unlike Darcy Coates' main male character in the Black Winter Series. The other immortals have embraced modern technology, seamlessly integrating themselves in with mortal humans.

Caplan does incorporate some of the usual tropes, but these do not detract from the effectiveness of the series. For instance, Asher and most like him are uncommonly wealthy. It makes one beg the question, what would these stories be like if death did not erase the poor financial choices or circumstances of one's original existence? Why is it that every single immortal novel has to involve someone with unlimited funds? I suppose when you live that long, you're bound to get something right somewhere along the way.

I did not find the two other novels in the trilogy to be as slow paced as the first novel. Honestly, had the second novel started in the same manner as the first, I wouldn't have made it through the book, but I am forgiving in my assessment of the first because I recognize that she was worldbuilding for the reader, creating an atmosphere to both bury Hannah and resurrect her.

Along with a very unique premise and unusual "monsters", Caplan manages to skillfully incorporate a series of twists within the plot that you think you see coming, that make you hesitate, that keep you turning the page and staying up probably much later than you should. I found myself, multiple times, saying "Damn, didn't see that coming", but even when I did see it coming, the suspense was so organically built that you still felt the surprise, the turmoil, and the ultimate relief.

Over all, I would highly recommend this series. Caplan is definitely an author that will stay on my "to read" list.

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