Recent Listening: Echo in Amethyst by Sharon Shinn

…. Also General Winston’s Daughter, because I just read that one in paper.

But first, the final Echoes book!

Lady Elyssa despises her echoes – the creatures who look just like her and copy her every move. But it’s only the echoes that mark her as a high noble, someone elite enough to marry the king’s youngest son, Jordan. She can’t get rid of the echoes, so instead she amuses herself by torturing them when no one is looking.

But there’s something Elyssa doesn’t know: Her casual cruelty has brought one of the echoes to life. And this echo, Hope, is learning to think and speak and act on her own. And there’s something else Elyssa doesn’t know: Hope has witnessed her secret meetings with revolutionaries bent on starting a war and overthrowing the king. And Hope has made friends in high places – very high places.

And there you have the set-up for this novel. With each novel in this trilogy, Shinn has done something quite different with the echoes. It’s clear that echoes can develop in very different ways, depending on their original and also on random events that impact their situation. In the first book, one of the echoes in particular seemed to be acquiring some volition and personality; in the second, the echoes had zero personality of their own but served as extra bodies for the consciousness of their original (very cool!), and now here in the third book, poor Hope develops full personhood while still being completely subject to Elyssa’s will.

This is a slooooow-paced novel, especially at first; and it takes place concurrently with the events of the first and second books, which can create some impatience as we wait for certain important events to take place so that we can find out what happens after the time covered by the first and second books.

But fundamentally, none of that matters. This story is, at its heart, a character study. There’s just a little bit of romance; the romance is important, but really not the focus. This book completes the overall plot arc of the trilogy, but that really isn’t the focus either. The focus is squarely on Hope and her development into a real person, and then on her coping with her extraordinary situation.

Interestingly, I am not sure Hope can be called the protagonist of this story, though no one else is the protagonist of this story either. This isn’t like Gillian Bradshaw’s Magic’s Poison series, where it takes a couple books to realize who the protagonist actually is. In Echo in Amethyst, there really is no protagonist in the most typical sense of the term. Neither Hope nor anyone else is really driving the action; the action is just happening around them, while from time to time someone tries to shove events in one direction or another. Or you could say that divine intervention drives the story, in the end. Certainly not Hope, though.

I enjoyed it a lot, so it’s not like the slow pace or even Hope’s inability to break free of Elyssa ruin the story. They don’t. Sharon Shinn’s beautiful writing and, of course, the portrayal of Hope as a character, make listening to this story a real pleasure. But the story is constructed in an unusual fashion, and you may enjoy it more if you know that going in.

It’s tough for me to sort out the books in this trilogy. I know Sharon Shinn’s own favorite is the second. I can see why, but I’m leaning toward the first as my personal favorite; followed very closely by the second; then this one. But they’re all good. I’m sorry there’s not going to be a fourth, as I’m really quite interested in the future of the kingdom and especially in Hope’s future with Jordon. I’m sure she’ll have a wonderful life, especially compared to her earlier life, but I am dying to know whether anyone ever guesses, well, never mind.

Now, General Winston’s Daughter.

This book actually makes an interesting comparison with Echo in Amethyst, because the viewpoint character, Averie, is not really the protagonist. And neither is any other character. Events are driven by action that takes place unseen, driven largely by characters the reader never even hears about — you just surmise their existence. Averie herself is completely unaware of these larger events until right at the end.

Not only that, but the romance is kind of in the background in this one as well, with the more important relationship being the one that gradually ends as Averie slowly comes to the realization that she has fallen out of love with her fiance and can’t marry him.

Not only that, but though the story reaches a conclusion, there is way more room ahead of Averie than there was in her past. It’s a bit like being left with Hope at the end of the Echoes novels: I want to see how her life unfolds after this. That’s exactly how I feel at the end of General Winston’s Daughter.

So, the two books turn out to be remarkably similar in some big ways.

Both are quite readable and enjoyable, but I do think Echo in Amethyst is superior because Hope is fundamentally a unique and interesting person, because her situation is also unique and interesting (as well as awful), and because of the more complete worldbuilding offered by the full trilogy in comparison with the standalone novel.

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2 thoughts on “Recent Listening: <em>Echo in Amethyst</em> by Sharon Shinn”

  1. Thank you for recommending these books! I listened to them almost constantly the past few days. My favorite is the second book as well and I look forward to their coming out in print. She’s such a terrific writer–I reread Blood as well. I look back on her language session scene in Heart of Gold as one of the best written passages in a book ever. I wasn’t as fond of the Gillian Bradshaw’s Magic Poison series–to me nothing tops her book Island of Ghosts. Looking forward to your new book!!

  2. Alison, it is REALLY HARD to top Island of Ghosts! That’s one of my all time favorites! And now I need to go re-read the language session scene from Heart of Gold.

    Glad you’re enjoying the Echoes trilogy — I sure did, and I’m sorry there’s not a fourth book as well.

    I’m happy you’re looking forward to Door Into Light! Thanks!

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