Ocean Echo, by Everina Maxwell, is a pseudo-sequel to the very popular Winter’s Orbit from last year. It isn’t really a sequel, despite being set in the same universe, because it has zero overlapping characters. But Ocean’s Echo definitely embodies the same spirit as Winter’s Orbit. It’s another gay romance with two very different men thrown together due to circumstances where they have to pretend to like each other or calamity will ensue. Despite feeling very similar vibe-wise to its predecessor, I was impressed with how different Ocean’s Echo could be despite existing in the same space.
While Winter’s Orbit was more of a science fiction political thriller, Ocean’s Echo steps into the space of an action thriller (though you can never really escape politics in space). Echo follows two male protagonists, Tennel (who can read minds) and Surit (who can force compulsions on others). There is a lot of slightly contrived worldbuilding about the roles of these psychics (it was my one issue with the book) but suffice to say that people who can read minds are rare and hated by society and those that can force compulsions are common and seen as elite socialites and high ranking members of the military. Tennel is a very powerful reader and the nephew of the prime minister of the planet. He is on the run from drug dens to fancy parties, trying to avoid being conscripted into the military. He is eventually caught and told he is being forcibly bound to someone who can ‘write’ him (Surit, a master of compulsion) to keep him in line. Surit has his own complicated background but is also thrown into this situation against his will, so the two of them decide to fake the bond. Then everything around them starts to explode and the two leads must fight for their lives while hiding their fake bond.
Once again, one of the things I really like about Ocean’s Echo is its approach to romance—a strength it shares with Winter’s Orbit. The focus is on the sweet and heartfelt parts of love—not the passionate lusty parts—though both are present. Tennel and Surit feel like two very fleshed-out individuals with great chemistry and a lot of differences that complement each other. The leads are just fabulous in this story. Tennel is a rake with a million-dollar smile and a thousand witticisms up his sleeve. Surit is a clean-cut military man with an eye for detail and an extreme love of organization. Together they make an unstoppable team and it’s very believable that they are able to blast their way through any problems.
This book floats on by (get it, because of the ocean…) to a high score on the personalities of the leads alone, but it does have some other things going for it. The supporting cast is a lot of fun. Tennel and Surit end up as the de facto leaders of a small military squad and their interactions with the protagonists are delightful. The planet that Ocean takes place on is interesting, but I will say that I liked it a lot less than the one from Winter. This book’s setting felt comparatively messy and confusing at points and certain elements of the political structure felt like they existed to just be a part of Tennel’s backstory. Also, the plot is exciting but the final resolution felt a little lackluster.
Ocean’s Echo can be read as a standalone story, but if you liked Winter’s Orbit you will like this book as well. Maxwell has a real talent for romance and protagonists you can sink your teeth into and I will likely pick up anything she writes at this point. Ocean’s Echo was a fun cozy read and a great way to round up my 2022 reading.
Rating: Ocean’s Echo – 8.5/10
An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.