Echoes of a Giantkiller by E. Jade Lomax
When I first read this book I can’t tell you what I was thinking about because 100% of my attention was focused solely on what was happening in the pages before me.
Beanstalk was essentially an adventure story about friends meeting and bonding while at school. Despite Grey’s precociousness (he is an exception at 15) let’s liken the Academy to University years–if University years included extra curricular monster slaying and world saving. Echoes of a Giantkiller allows our heroes to stretch their legs in a much bigger (and much badder) world. No longer heroes-in-training, their experiences in Rivertown at the end of the last book have earned them special dispensation and they are now officially a ‘baby league’ headed off to the mountains to follow wherever Laney is being taken.
The mountains, where Jack’s past as Giantkiller is more a reality with every step. The mountains, where mages like Grey are stolen and sold and made slaves to the machines that Mayor Graves and his daughter run from their town.
The mountains, that end up holding secrets that trail sticky fingers over our four friends and leave them forever changed.
Echoes goes deeper into what the first only touched: what it means to be a hero. But it’s more then that, it delves into questions of identity–who you are, who you think you are, who you want to be. Who you were and who you are to other people. As Lomax peels back the layers that make up and hide our heroes, we discover how little we really knew them in book one. And, as a side-note, how lovely it is to go back to read the first book after this one and see all the little hints that Lomax as dropped, things that were easily accepted or dismissed that are suddenly, stunningly important. I have to give the author some crazy respect here, because having just finished Remember the Dust, I can tell you that there are probably no less than a dozen more that I will go back on my next re-read and find again.
In this book, each of the characters find themselves torn between different aspects of themselves, except, it seems, for Rupert (and ha, what a joke that is to write now, as Rupert of course has his own twisted journey to travel). Some have some rather conflicting loyalties and each of them are, sometimes rather desperately, trying to help reconcile their pasts with their present.
This series is that it tugs on one of my favorite tropes of all time: found family. But more than just a rag-tag bunch who has banded together, each of the characters has come to the story with their own rather complicated pasts and motivations. And despite the relationships they formed in the first book they have each held a significant portion of themselves back from the others. They are, in a way, just fragments of their whole selves.
As a reader, you know more about each of these characters than they do of each other–Lomax doesn’t bother to hide some of the biggest secrets from us. But there is an even greater tension created because of this: we know. We know but the others don’t. Jack doesn’t know Grey’s secret. Laney doesn’t know Jack’s. How much, really, does Rupert know or guess because he watches so closely? Another great thing is how each discover the secrets–it’s not always all at once and everything’s out in the open. There are layers here too.
Each of the characters are incredibly flawed in ways that make them very human and very, very relatable even though the world that the series is in is not our own. Lomax, thankfully, doesn’t take the easy way out–the drama and tension that comes from these secrets is dealt with in a very real way; there is no drama for drama’s sake to be found here. Watching this story unfolds reminds us that no matter how much we know someone, there are depths we may not yet understand. And shows how, in the end, family really is bound closer not by circumstance, but by choice.
Where Beanstalk ended with an invitation, Echoes ends with a sharp jump off a cliff. But somehow, even watching the mountainside rush by, you can’t seem to mind the drop.