Thursday, 31 December 2015

Darkness Echoes by Various Authors (Echoes Anthology, #1) - Book Review - Indie

3.5/5 Stars

All of a sudden, again, there is more demonic laughter.




-- Quote from Hallowed Eve by D.B. Nielsen


Edition: Kindle
Pages: 499 (Roughly, depends on your edition and whatever device you're reading it on.)
Chapters: -- (There are six parts to the novel, each with their own varying number of chapters.)
Publisher: J.S. Marx Publishing

Book Links: Goodreads

A list of the six short stories inside this anthology along with their authors:

Book 1: Till Death Do Us Part by L.A. Starkey
Book 2: Witch Moth by Kelly Hall
Book 3: The Coming of the Skin Walker by D.E.L. Connor
Book 4: Lantern by Chess Desalls
Book 5: Cloak of Echoes by C.K. Dawn
Book 6: Hallowed Eve by D.B. Nielsen



Ready for another themed anthology? I hope so, cause Darkness Echoes has another neat collection of eclectic shorts primed to be devoured. Not too long ago I read Echoes of Winter, a Christmas and wintry book of short stories by the same group of authors. It is the second collection, so I'm finally catching up with this bunch, the first (I'm usually great with chronology).

Centred on the dark, deadly days surrounding Halloween, Darkness Echoes aims to thrill and chill. While it certainly does the former with its magical and mysterious instalments, it comes just a little short in the chill category. The stories are too light and bright to really convey their dark, and the romance aspects that cloud Echoes of Winter are just as strong here.

But let's get on with it. I'll keep this review in much the same vein as my review for the winter anthology: Each short will get its own star rating and a mini-review.

Book 1: Till Death Do Us Part by L.A. Starkey - 3.5/5 Stars

Jennifer has fallen for her childhood best friend Zach, and with graduation impending, and Zach's birthday on the horizon, she's running out of time to profess her feelings. Intent on dragging Zach to a haunted mansion for Halloween, Jennifer has a plan of action. Unfortunately, the mansion and their destinies have a far more dire direction in store.

Yet again Starkey nails the humour she imbues her cast. The jokes and wit are often hilarious. I think that's the strongest component of this short, the cast's chemistry. It's perfect and solid, with a truly familiar feel that lets the reader enjoy character interactions that bit more. Jennifer and Zach's is especially great, making the romantic elements a little easier to swallow.

For the most part I love the mystery and odd occurrences, and while they don't hit that spooky mark, they come damn close. It's the end and resolution that drag everything down. The chaotic reveal is cluttered and hard to follow, with some questions answered only to ask more in their wake. You leave feeling oddly disjointed, as if you missed something important.

Book 2: Witch Moth by Kelly Hall - 4/5 Stars

Dominic and Dahlia Dane have been exiled from their coven and forced to serve their hundred years punishment on the darkest of paths. But the siblings are mirror images of one another. As Dominic does his best to fight the evil nature ready to consume them, Dahlia revels in it. And when his sister targets someone close to his heart, Dominic might have to severe their family bond once and for all.

There's a short in the next anthology that follows these characters, but thankfully both stories stand well on their own. We predominantly read with Kitty, who meets and befriends Dominic and Dahlia. While I feel Kitty is the weakest character and her friendship with the siblings is a little too quick for my liking, the enigma that is the brother and sister duo is intriguing as hell. 

The world is magical; the characters, for the most part, are excellent; and the ending is solid and completely satisfying.

Book 3: The Coming of the Skin Walker by D.E.L. Connor - 2.5/5 Stars

When warriors Walking Bear and Nine Fingers rescue amnesia-ridden Lina from the clutches of the immortal Skin Walker, all hell breaks loose. The three must journey through darkness and danger to reveal the evil's weakness, before everyone they love is consumed by the villain's fire.

It's hard to judge this part of the novel, really, really hard. It doesn't fit, not at all, and the startling departure is hard to swallow. The structure is choppy and very sudden. It feels like there are paragraphs of information missing from the plot. The instalove and cast chemistry is too forced to be convincing, and the lovey-dovey scenes overtake the story.

The Native American influences are fantastic, but overwhelmed. The story does get progressively better, and the action helps somewhat with the shaky structure, but after completing it I'm not quite sure it belongs in this anthology.

Also, is this a part of a bigger series? That would explain some of the disconnect.

Book 4: Lantern by Chess Desalls - 4/5 Stars

Tori just wants a normal Halloween: Candy, some thrills, and time with her grandmother. But when she stumbles upon a lantern that only lights for her, Tori is dragged into something her imagination could never concoct. 

Lantern has the strongest start with the most intriguing mystery. The lantern begins a mission that is both interesting and creative. It can come across as kind of ridiculous and beyond belief, but the fun and magic is wholly rapturous. 

We don't get all the answers we want, but the warmth and writing make this a wonderful short.

Book 5: Cloak of Echoes by C.K. Dawn - 4.5/5 Stars

Emma has empathic abilities, powers that strengthen when her mother dies in a mysterious car crash. Alone and abused by people's emotions, Emma's life is forever altered with the appearance of a stranger she can't fathom. As shadows collect against her, Emma will be forced to trust the new guy in her life, or lose it altogether.

I love Cloak of Shadows the most. It's well put together and follows a solid structure that's easy to understand. The magic is on point and the world building is rivalled by none in this anthology. The instalove is a little jarring, but the overall story is superb.

Book 6: Hallowed Eve by D.B. Nielsen - 4/5 Stars

Evee is forced to accept her role as Soul Guardian, a mystical being whose destiny is drenched in darkness. As the magical world opens up to her, she's pulled under the influence of a coven of witches and Hunter Ben, as a stand takes place against incredible evil.

Hallowed Eve is the smoothest short. The writing and use of the present tense helps push the plot forward. It's a fresh style in the anthology after so many similar stories. The mythology is dense, sometimes to the point of utter confusion, but if you can persevere through there's a rewarding and adrenaline-infused ending. 

Overall - 3.5/5 Stars

Darkness Echoes doesn't fully hit the mark; there are high points, and extremely low points. All of the stories suffer in the same way: Too much time and too many paragraphs are used to describe the romantic elements in too much detail. It's prevalent and exhausting. 

The styles are often too lyrical as well, with metaphors upon metaphors used to describe a simple scene.

But it's truly enjoyable if taken at a slow pace. There's a gem in each of these shorts that just needs a little bit of buffing. I'm looking forward to more themed anthologies.

Next Instalment: Echoes of Winter

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