An Echo of the Ascended – Ferran Book Two
by Mark Gelineau and Joe King
Fantasy | Novella | 102 Pages | Published by Gelineau and King in 2016
This book was received from Netgalley in return for an honest review
Rend the Dark was an impressive venture into the darker and more disturbing aspects of Aedaron, a multi-faceted world which has been compiled through varying genre perspectives in the Echoes of the Ascended series. With its sequel, Skinshaper, we are once again transported into the darkest reaches of this world where a veritable army of abominations lie in wait to repulse, disturb and delight fans of this darkly epic – and short – work.
Mark Gelineau and Joe King have, once again, hit the mark with this brutally fantastic tale which doesn’t shy away from taking its protagonists to hell and back, resulting in what has become my favourite Echo to date. Epic in its telling, horrifying in its creations, and bloody brilliant in its execution, Skinshaper sets the bar in this latest thrill ride from these masters of the fantasy novella.Barricades broken.
A mining town empty.
One survivor swings in a cage, waiting to die.
Following the death of his friend Hillion, and the terrifying events of Rend the Dark, Riffolk finds himself travelling in the company Ferran and Mireia, two Acolytes of Talen. As they wander from town to town, Riffolk’s eyes become opened to the dark and nightmarish creatures which pervade Aedaron. The Ruins, twisted abominations who seek the destruction of all that is good and pure, have once again taken hold in the land.
When Mireia’s powers draw them to a seemingly abandoned mining town, an encounter with a single survivor leads their small company down a dark path into the heart of the mine. But the vile horrors which await them in the shadows are going to be anything but easy to vanquish, not for a man wracked by his own cowardice and guilt, not even for those with the strength of Talen on their side.
From the world at large to the confines of the mine, Gelineau and King have carved out a cold and brutal world where humanity is neither the province of monsters nor of men. Where Elenor’s storyline depicts the wheels of justice in motion, Alys’ the divisions of class, and Roan and Kay’s the legacy of honour; Ferran’s storyline highlights all that is dark and terrible in Aedaron. Through horrifying descriptions and brutal action, Skinshaper is a short, sharp shock to the senses.
In a narrative which highlights the brutality and inhumanity of the Ruins, their wilfully destructive and grotesque natures are used to convey their absolute evil. This world of horrors, where the creation of abominations maximises both physical and emotional pain, once again reveals the darkest side of Aedaron and the inherent danger all our protagonists face. The Order of Talen, though a beacon of strength in these dark places, as yet seems small and incomparable to the sheer strength and determination of the Ruins, lending this novella a distinctly unpredictable feel.
The continuation of Ferran’s storyline however, if anything, brings us closer to Riffolk. He is our laymen and anchor point to this sub-series of novellas, asking the questions which allow us to comprehend the world and allow Ferran and Mireia, along with the Order of Talen, to retain an element of mystery. However, Ferran remains almost a closed book throughout Skinshaper, his enigmatic nature maintaining a level of intrigue which speaks of future revelations, whilst Mireia’s character is elaborated upon for an explosive conclusion which leaves the reader in great suspense.
Skinshaper is a small, self-contained adventure which has been brought to life by its detailed but terrifying world, interesting and complex characters, and a thoroughly gripping storyline. This novella, like its predecessors, succeeds in deceiving the reader by its length and, as always, is delivered with beautiful but concise prose. With eight Echoes under their belt, Gelineau and King have proven that their fast-paced and compulsive format is anything but tired, and have delivered an impressive round of sequels which have hit the mark every time.
With this fast-paced read, one which grips the imagination and disturbs with its terrifying creations, Gelineau and King have captured the spirit of its predecessor whilst elaborating upon it in spectacular fashion. Skinshaper is a powerful, if somewhat horrifying, addition to the Echoes of the Ascended series which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.