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ECKO RISING by DANIE WARE

PB, 522 pages, Titan Books

http://danieware.com/

Danie Ware’s debut novel, like its eponymous star, is not quite what it appears to be…

Ecko has been taken, upgraded, turned into something both super and EckoRising_cvrsub-human.  Beneath a veneer of cynicism and wise-cracking, deep down, he wants to be a hero.  Catapulted into a fantasy world of centaurs, golems, fallen angels and pubs that vanish at dawn and re-appear where their owners need them to be, Ecko gets his chance.  But is it a game, a glitch in his programming, or real life?

The cover looks like SF, and the novel certainly starts off that way.  But it’s more of a light veneer of SF over a world that is resolutely fantasy at heart.  If you like your SF hard you may be disappointed, but if you’re a fan of Fantasy and SF, the mash-up works well.  Danie Ware paints subtle parallels between the stagnating land of the Varchinde, fallen into a monotonous cycle of trade, and the London of the future, with its apathetic populace held in thrall to a dictator, plugged into video games and blind to the horrors of the world outside.  Both worlds need shaking up, need monsters to fight and heroes to fight them.  Even heroes in unexpected guises…

Ware’s origins as a gamer and fan are obvious; her enthusiasm for all things nerdy is apparent throughout the book (There was a particular nod to Lord of the Rings that had me grinning), but this is no colour-by-numbers D&D ripoff – even if a Bard, a warrior and a werewolf are having a drink in the bar when Ecko literally drops in….  It’s bigger than that, and smarter.

Ecko Rising isn’t flawless.  Some of the prose needs polishing, and Ecko can be by turns brilliant and irritating.  The narrative jumps between viewpoints rather quickly, particularly near the end, when I really wanted to be looking through Ecko’s eyes.  But it is a strong, competent debut, and the ending leaves no doubt that it’s the beginning of a longer series that will see more paths cross between stifling London and the Varchinde grasslands.  What this means for both worlds is left for the reader to speculate…

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