Published by Page Street Publishing Co. on January 15, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, Romance
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Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: If she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.
In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear, and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up, otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.
Such a beautifully written story, and truly a tribute to classic favorites such as East of the Sun, West of the Moon and Tam Lin; Echo North is a captivating, magical fairy-tale following a young girl, Echo, and the enchanted house she finds herself imprisoned in. I ended up picking this book on a whim because of its gorgeous cover and intriguing blurb, and I was not disappointed. Echo is a flawed heroine that you root for from page 1 to finish, and the setting was so enchanting, you’ll find yourself hesitant to escape from it. With gorgeous storytelling and elements of old favorite fairy-tales, Echo North brings in a gust of West Wind that will satisfy your craving for a good fantasy read.
We begin the story with a girl, beautiful and loved, whose life gets turned upside-down when the white wolf she tries to save betrays her and scars her instead. From there on, she’s hated by the villagers, and none more so than her spoiled stepmother. When the white wolf reappears into her life as a teenager, however, she is given an ultimatum: to save her father (who went missing for a month), she must stay with the wolf for one year. Being the selfless person she is, she agrees. And from there, our magical adventure starts.
No matter how much you might deny it, Echo Alkaev, you are extraordinary. You have been since the moment you were born.
The pacing of the book was really well-done – I never felt hurried, nor did I feel like it was dragging. Each page is laid tight with plot, emotion, and characterization, making this an incredibly easy read. Echo, the girl in question, finds herself bewitched by the magical house – as do readers. The mysterious wolf, who can talk, is protective of her, but also unwilling to give up his secrets. Echo also discovers book-mirrors, where she can hop into stories and see other readers, making for incredible adventures throughout the book. Along with these fun elements are water-plants, mysterious rooms that are forbidden to guests, and an enchantment that Echo is determined to break. Talk about a fun time! There’s not much more to discuss about the story, but I thought the twist at the end was really intriguing and although it created more questions for me personally, it was a fun way to tie everything together.
As beautiful as this book was written, there are some things that could have been executed better. Echo is a character that readers will easily empathize with. She wished she didn’t have those ‘ugly’ scars of hers, and hid herself behind books. It wasn’t until the journey towards the wood, and with the wolf, when you see her spirit and motivation increase. Her character growth was just astounding, and I appreciate it a lot. Overall, she was a great character to hear the narration from. The wolf, however, remains as mysterious as ever and is always crying. Literally, ALWAYS crying. I understand that he is sad, but this character was probably the most passive deuteragonist I’ve read about. To be honest, this book could have been retitled “How Echo went North to Save the Wolf,” because that’s the basis of it. So there we go.
Another thing is that although Echo North presents itself as a fairy-tale, there are wayyy too many elements of other, well-known tales. This makes me very nostalgic reading it (throwback to my faves) but also made the story quite predictable. While Echo North is fun on its own, I can’t really say it’s an absolute stand-out. It draws on heavy Sleeping Beauty themes (which might as well be East of the Sun, West of the Moon to be honest), and the winter wonderland atmosphere reflects tales like Spinning Silver (which Jeann and I adored, and you can find our respective reviews here and here), Wintersong (review here) and The Bear and the Nightingale (review here). The book-mirror subplot is reminiscent of basically the same thing in The Book Jumper (review here) and the mash-up quality of the storyline even reminds me of Kingdom of Ash and Briar (review here). And yes, while this may be reflective of my own love for fantasies (truly, exposing myself), I do think the story had potential for more creativity, especially in regards to characterization.
I love you, stranger I met in a book.
Echo North was gorgeous, through and through, and Echo’s character was a delight to read about. I would highly urge readers looking for a new fantasy to fall into to pick this one up. If you’re not patient of fairy-tale like stories, however, this one might not be for you. Either way, it’s the perfect book to curl up next to during a snowy day to keep warm.
Trigger/Content Warnings: abuse, blood, mild violence
Rating: 3.5 out of 5