Ecko Rising by Danie Ware

December 1, 2012

Ecko is an unlikely saviour: a savage, gleefully cynical rebel/assassin, he operates out of hi-tech London, making his own rules in a repressed and subdued society. When the biggest job of his life goes horribly wrong, Ecko awakes in a world he doesn’t recognise: a world without tech, weapons, cams, cables – anything that makes sense to him. Can this be his own creation, a virtual Rorschach designed just for him, or is it something much more? Ecko finds himself immersed in a world just as troubled as his own, striving to conquer his deepest fears and save it from extinction.

If Ecko can win through, he might just learn to care – or break the program and get home.

Imagine taking a character from a cyber-punk thriller and transplanting them wholesale into a fully fleshed out fantasy novel. Danie Ware’s debut novel, Ecko Rising, does just that.

Ecko is terrifically smart, more than a little inquisitive and great at what he does. So good in fact, that he is a trifle cocky about it. Does this make him a bit irritating/smug at times? Perhaps, but that’s all part of his quirky charm. Ecko’s journey is the core of this novel and it’s a voyage of discovery. He finds himself in a world totally different from anything he’s used to, where he has no idea of the rules.

Ecko is such a fun character, and such a palpable presence, that I missed him when he wasn’t in every single scene. That said there are some other fantastic characters that managed to hold my attention in his absence.

There is a warrior called Rhan who has been around for so long that he’s become rather complacent with his lot. He spends his time drinking, partaking in illegal substances and reminiscing about the good old days. Ware uses Rhan to great effect, deconstructing the hero myth and dragging him through the emotional ringer. It’s always fascinating to watch a character, particularly a flawed one, get metaphorically taken apart by the events in a plot. It is surprising how emotive his plight becomes. Initially, there was admiration of this near god-like hero, and then anger at some of his actions, followed finally by pity. Rhan has a couple of wonderful moments of self-realisation that are particularly well observed.

The other two characters that spring to mind are Triqueta and Redlock. It quickly becomes obvious that there is an existing relationship between these two. The writing very quickly establishes a sense of history between them both. This adds a welcome extra layer of depth to their characters. Redlock in particular is a joy, he spend quite a lot of time running around trying to decide what to attack first with his axes, how can you not love that?

The best thing about this novel is that, like Ecko, you very quickly start to buy into the fantasy world he finds himself in. Everything just feels so vivid and alive. In each new chapter you get hints about what is going on, but the full truth is never entirely revealed. Based on the final moments of the novel there has to a sequel (please let there be a sequel!).  Ecko Rising is a fantastic genre-bending mashup that will appeal to anyone who likes intelligent thoughtful writing, with just the right amount of action. Just wait till you discover the delights of The Wanderer. Yes, I’m being a tease, but you can thank me for it later.

In retrospect, 2012 really has produced an exceptional crop of debut novels. Ecko Rising has more than earned its place as part of that select list. Judging by the writing on display I expect many more great things from Danie Ware in the future. She is undoubtedly an author to keep an eye on.

Ecko Rising is published by Titan Books and is available now.

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