Sci-fi Novel Review: Echo of Worlds by M.R. Carey

This review is based on an eARC (Advance Reading Copy) provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Echo of Worlds was released on June 25, 2024.

Last year, I described the opening book in M.R. Carey’s Pandominion duology as being exactly what you want in an epic series-opener. It set up the world, introduced the key players, and put them in position for a thrilling, high-stakes finish. And that finish comes good in the final installment, Echo of Worlds

[Note: while this is officially a review of the second book of the duology, it is truly the second half of one larger story, and as such, I have tried to write the review in a way that avoids major spoilers and is comprehensible to a reader who has not read the first book—more succinctly, this is a duology review in disguise as a book review]

Infinity Gate introduces readers to the Pandominion, a multiverse-spanning empire whose constituent worlds feature intelligent creatures with ancestry from various corners of the animal kingdom, albeit largely anthropomorphic. It introduces the three main characters from three versions of Lagos—a scientist from our world, a human soldier from a far-flung alternate universe, and a teenager with leporine ancestry who grew up steeped in Pandominion culture. It also introduces the Pandominion to another multiverse-spanning empire, one made entirely of machines. It is no spoiler to say that conflict is inevitable, but the bulk of book one is spent on fascinating dives into the backgrounds of those three key figures and developing their connection to the conflict. In book two, all that’s left is saving the world(s). 

I am a reader who tends to enjoy character-driven setup much more than action-heavy payoff, and as such, Infinity Gate was very much my speed. For all that it sets up a conflict of staggering scale and introduces a multiverse, it is much heavier on the character development and relatively light on worldbuilding and politics. And with the quality of characterization on display, that was absolutely fine by me. 

In Echo of Worlds, however, the focus shifts significantly away from characterization and onto the plan to save the world. And as Carey remains an excellent writer, the book stays interesting throughout. It’s well-paced, with plenty of unforeseen difficulties preventing easy solutions, it stays true to the characters as established in the first book, and it pays off some of the mysteries of book one—like the identity of the narrator who uses first-person in the prologue before shifting to third for the remainder of the book.  

But apart from the identity of the narrator, there aren’t many more mysteries to pay off, and while the characters are all well-drawn, they haven’t reached the “I’d read about their grocery shopping” level that longer series sometimes unlock. Of course, saving the world is more interesting than grocery shopping, and there are enough unexpected obstacles and gut-wrenching choices that it doesn’t quite feel like a mere jump from action sequence to action sequence. But the fact remains that it is a book almost entirely dedicated to executing an intricate and dangerous plan. Engaging? Absolutely. But for a reader like me, not quite at the level of the first book. 

On the whole, it’s still a series I’d recommend, and given the minimal time gap between the first and second books, I imagine readers picking up the duology today will have an easier time than those who waited 15 months between installments. But for me, Echo of Worlds was good, whereas Infinity Gate was where the magic happened. 

Recommended if you like: epics. 

Can I use it for BingoIt’s hard mode for Dreams and Criminals, it also is Published in 2024.

Overall rating: 15 of Tar Vol’s 20 for the second book alone, 16 for the duology as a whole. 

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