3 out of 4 stars
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In the Crystilleries of Echoland, twelve-year-old Will Cleary sets out to solve the mystery of his twin sister’s decade-long disappearance. To do so, Will must enter the cold and snowy underground world of Echoland, where each person (Echo) is the mirror copy of someone (Sound) on the Earth’s surface. Because of his identity as the Sound of Echoland’s Prince, Will is drawn into a conspiracy to overthrow a false King and revolutionize a corrupt society from within. Along the way, Will makes new friends. These include his childhood companions and renegade Fortune Tellers Dea and Damian, Sound castaway Peter Patrick Peterson, Mongrel (half-Echo, half-Sound) Auralius, Echoes Valerie Valerian and amnesiac Tear, and even Will’s missing twin sister Emmy. Together, Will and his friends defy death in a remarkable series of adventures across Echoland and beyond.
Written for an adolescent audience, the Crystilleries of Echoland’s characters and storylines are both suitable and accessible for readers of that age. In Will and his friends, a pre-teen reader will find heroes who are like themselves going on adventures in a world that could only exist in the imagination. It is in this detail that Pellucid excels, as a combination of digital art and detailed descriptions succeed in creating a fully realized new world.
Sandwiched between pages of digital art, each chapter of the Crystilleries of Echoland is filled with descriptions of the complex world of Echoland. Unlike in our world, in Echoland the lines between states of matter – solid, liquid, and gas – are blurred. Thus both people and objects interact with their environment in strange and peculiar ways. For example, the people – Echoes – are semi-transparent; food is served as floating bubbles; gem-like Crystilleries project memories of the past. Even interactions between the worlds are peculiar. Echoes, who appear much like ghosts when they cross over into our world, are able to use the bodies of dead animals as hosts and thus gain physical presence here.
Beyond visual descriptions, the book also contains extensive detail about the underground world of Echoland. Histories, social and political structures, religion, even colloquialisms, all of these distinct elements are outlined in the narrative. One example of this is in Pellucid’s use of names. Each Echo, who nominally shares their Sound’s name, has a nickname as well. These names are generally descriptive, and follow themes. Thus, there are characters with water names like Dew, Tear, Bog, Crystal and Fluid, sound names like Auralius, and luck names like Fortis Fortuna. Even the villainous Fate Sealers possess themed names: Black Heart, Wither Heart, Evil Deed, and Evil Dude.
While the world of Echoland is a beautiful and complex environment with engaging characters, some elements of the story fail to impress. The writing suffers due to an unfortunate editing choice present throughout the narrative. It appears that Pellucid originally used long sentences in her writing. Then, in editing, she decided that it was necessary to remove the long sentences and replace them with shorter ones. However, the way that she chose to do so was to simply stick a period in the middle of the sentence. The end result: paragraphs that are disjointed, a multitude of sentences that begin with the word and, even sentence fragments instead of complete thoughts.
Beyond the editing issues, the Crystilleries of Echoland also suffers from plot bloat. This fact becomes increasingly noticeable in the latter part of the book as additional characters are brought into the narrative. With each new character that Will meets, a new side plot is added. Tear has amnesia and is in hiding for some unspecified reason. Auralius and his father, Mr. Drinkwater, are at odds and need help in reconciling. Dea and Damian – rogue Fortune Tellers – are at war with the leadership of their social caste/organization. Victor Valerian and his niece Valerie have a complicated history with the villainous Fate Sealers. Peter, Emmy, and the rest of the Sound Castaways are trapped in Echoland. By the time the story reaches its climax, there are so many storylines that it is nearly impossible to identify which one (or ones) is the primary one. In the end, several of these side plots end up unfinished or are given an unsatisfactory patch ending. Pellucid would have been better served to save some storylines for future sequels or eliminate them altogether.
Ultimately, the Crystilleries of Echoland is a good example of a pre-teen fantasy book whose story, characters, and world are carefully designed to fit the target audience. The main characters are well written and demonstrate age-appropriate behavior that allows a younger reader to identify with them. Meanwhile, the descriptive detail and collection of digital art make it easier for a reader to immerse themselves in the world of Echoland. However, the weaknesses in plot and grammar prevent a perfect score and thus lead me to give the Crystilleries of Echoland a rating of 3 out of 4 stars.
The Crystilleries of Echoland
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