I enjoyed the second book here even more than the first. As usual, spoilers ahead.
The first book left a large volume of unexplained content, and at first, it seemed like that was just going to grow throughout the second book. I was worried, becausing explaining all of it in the trilogy’s finale would be pretty ambitious. Happily, partway through this book, Islington drops some bombs that tie together large swaths of the unexplained material, almost to the point where you think, “well, what else is left”?
Then you start to remember asides and plot lines that weren’t concluded by the reveals, and start to recontextualize them in the newly understood reality, and it’s all very exciting – Islington has demonstrated that he can tie things together well, so you’re actively looking forward to how it all concludes!
Islington shows in this book that he can do what the writers of the TV show Lost couldn’t and George R. R. Martin hasn’t: create a vast and complex world with almost too many characters and entangled interests to keep track of at once, but resolve things in a rolling fashion so that it never gets out of control.
There are a number of parallels between The Licanius Trilogy and Game of Thrones, most prominently a Northern barrier protecting the nation from a horde of vicious monsters. But in An Echo of Things to Come (only the second book!), not only do you see that barrier, but “Winter” kind of “Comes” already. The barrier intermittently fails, letting monsters in. Main characters get stuck on the other side of the barrier. Another main character sacrifices herself to reconstruct the barrier. Foreshadowed events actually happen, and it remains interesting.
The time travel elements play nicely with a character’s memory loss and gradual regain. “What if someone killed his future best friend before he was friends with him who traveled back in time to deliver an emotionally hurtful message, kept his friend’s ring after sticking his head on a spike, lost all his memories, met and befriended the best friend without remembering that he had already killed his future self, walked past his future skull on the spike together with him without remembering it was him, then remembered killing him, then shape shifted so that his friend wouldn’t recognize him and taught him how to use his powers with the help of his ring, also in the past?”, asks Islington. And then he somehow made that make sense and be compelling. And there’s still many open questions, but I’m excited for the third book to resolve them in a satisfying way.
Themes of doing what is right vs doing what is necessary for the greater good continue. Breaking Bad style, “I’m doing this for my family”, thoughts are present. The meaningfullness of meaninglessness of free will, and whether choosing matters if outcomes are predetermined, persists.
Two different characters are granted the power to make anyone do whatever they command, and their reactions to the power are drastically different in engaging ways.
One notable flaw is the lack of trauma these characters build up. Someone watches their mom get stabbed through the heart by a zombie, then takes like 2 mins to cry before dumping her body on the funeral pyre and more or less moving on. Battles where many good friends and family are murdered in front of people seems to mostly get taken in stride, the surviving characters sleeping soundly afterwards. Whatever, it’s fantasy.
Overall, excellent book, better than the first, and I look forward to the next and final one in the trilogy.