Published February 8th 2022 by Tor Nightfire  (first published May 7th 2019) N ATURE IS CALLING—but they shouldn't have answered. Travel...

Book Review || Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt


Published February 8th 2022 by Tor Nightfire 
(first published May 7th 2019)

NATURE IS CALLING—but they shouldn't have answered.

Travel journalist and mountaineer Nick Grevers awakes from a coma to find that his climbing buddy, Augustin, is missing and presumed dead. Nick’s own injuries are as extensive as they are horrifying. His face wrapped in bandages and unable to speak, Nick claims amnesia—but he remembers everything.

He remembers how he and Augustin were mysteriously drawn to the Maudit, a remote and scarcely documented peak in the Swiss Alps.

He remembers how the slopes of Maudit were eerily quiet, and how, when they entered its valley, they got the ominous sense that they were not alone.

He remembers: something was waiting for them...

But it isn’t just the memory of the accident that haunts Nick. Something has awakened inside of him, something that endangers the lives of everyone around him…

It’s one thing to lose your life. It’s another to lose your soul.

FROM THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING SENSATION THOMAS OLDE HEUVELT comes a thrilling descent into madness and obsession as one man confronts nature—and something even more ancient and evil answers back. 

Nick Greeves wakes in the hospital bandaged and with no memory of what occurred to his climbing partner, Augustin on the Maudit in the Swiss Alps. Broken both physically and mentally, Nick's Adonis face is now craggy and sharp. Nick's boyfriend, Sam, is also trying to come to grips with knowing that Nick will never be the same in spite of surgeries to fix the defect. He's attempting to be grateful that Nick is still alive, but it's challenging with Nick's continued silence about what happened on that mountain. With Nick's face wrapped like a mummy from a tomb, Sam is desperately trying to get Nick to let his guards down.

Our story doesn't start that way though. It starts with a terrifying encounter with Sam's sister, Julia, as she wakes in the middle of the night seeing shadow people standing at the bottom of the stairs. Every time she takes her eyes off them, even to blink, they get closer...and closer. Whoo. Easily one of the most terrifying intros I've read.

There's no denying that Echo is dark and unsettling. The first chapter only solidifies that fact with its shades on the stairs waking nightmare. It can't possibly continue that momentum so what Thomas Olde Heuvelt presents instead is a character-driven narrative. He gets us completely invested in Sam and Nick's strained relationship as we attempt to empathize with both sides. It's difficult at first to like Nick as a character. He's reserved and withdrawn, even from Sam who despondently loves him. Echo toys with our emotions in the relationship between the two. It's romantic and heartbreaking and we can only watch as it plays out.

Told in bits and pieces from diary passages, manuscripts, and notes, we eventually get the story of what happened on the mountain and thus to Augustin. Echo is a lengthy novel with an excess of technical climbing information. While that lends credence to the story, I think it could have benefited from a good editing chop. The pacing also falters at times. We get that great opening, some creepy moments, and then not a whole lot of anything in the middle. The ending, however, sees it all crashing down around us.

Having been less than impressed with the follow-through of Hex, I was reluctant to pick up Echo but I don't regret it. It's not an in-your-face fright but a steady, steep (if you'll excuse the pun) climb to the peak. A complex building of pressure with imagery both brutal and beautiful.  There's a fantastic tie-in of folklore and small village superstition, especially with the birds. I don't want to give anything away as this is one that needs experiencing but sometimes the abyss stares back.