Carolyn F. Cushman Reviews Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer and Cast in Oblivion by Michelle Sagara

Joanna Ruth Meyer, Echo North (Page Street 978-1-62414-715-9, $17.99, 391pp, hc) January 2019.

Fairytales, myths, and even a ballad mix in this lyrical young-adult novel about a young woman lured by a wolf to his magical house, where she finds herself trapped, forced to stay. Echo’s an interesting character: scarred on her face as a child by a wolf she tried to free from a trap, she’s grown up used to people treating her like some kind of monster. Her mother died when she was born; her father raised her and ran a bookstore, until he remarried a greedy woman who made the store fail. Her dreams of someday going to university over, Echo ran away and met the wolf, who offers a bargain: all she has to do is stay in the house a year, to free him from a curse, but she must let him sleep in her room at night, without ever lighting a lamp to look at him. Those familiar with “Beauty and the Beast”, the myth of Cupid and Psyche, or the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” will know that it won’t be so easy, but there are some interesting touches to this magical house, particularly the magical books, that give this a life of its own. Some elements may be too fa­miliar, but it’s mainly a sweet mix, right up to a confrontation out of “Tam Lin”. My biggest problem was not being all that fond of the wolf as a man, but at least he’s not a cipher like so many fairytale princes.

Michelle Sagara, Cast in Oblivion (Mira 978-0-7783-0784-6, $16.99, 537pp, tp) January 2019. Cover by Shane Rebenschied.

Kaylin’s newest challenge starts out as a dinner party she can’t avoid in this 14th volume in the Chronicles of Elantra series. Kaylin invited the Consort of the Barrani to dinner before she ended up taking the Dragon Bellusdeo deep into Barrani territory, which was seen as an act of aggression, and then she managed to rescue a cohort of Barrani whom many of their kind didn’t want rescued. It’s a political nightmare, made worse by the fact the cohort are now living in Kaylin’s house, and are determined to undergo the Test of Name, which, if passed, will make them Lords of the High Court, adding to the political complications. It turns out the Consort is more concerned with where the Test takes place: there’s some form of Shadow lurking under the Tower where the test is taken, and it holds those who fail eternal captives, and the Consort needs Caylin, and the cohort, to stop it – if they can survive. It’s a huge challenge, but Caylin’s faced some major foes before. What she’s really up against this time, though, is things she hates: politics, history, power, etiquette, and looking honestly at who she is. Most of this novel is talk­ing; even in the big final Boss Battle, armed with a sword, Kaylin uses words. It’s her magic, and some of the visuals conjured up are impressively dramatic, but it’s magic seemingly without rules, because Kaylin hasn’t learned any, preferring to act on instinct. It works for her, but it didn’t work so well for me this time.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the May 2019 issue of Locus.

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