Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
Nick and Sam would always joke about what would they do if one of them was horrifically injured beyond recognition, would they stay? They never expected it to happen. When Nick is rescued from a remote are in the Swiss Alps, he claims not to remember what happened, his climbing partner is missing presumed dead, and Nick’s injuries leave him unable to speak, wrapped up in bandages and a stranger to those who love him.
Echo has one of the creepiest openings ever, and it really got under my skin. It starts with Julia alone in a cabin, waiting for Sam to drive through a snow storm to reach her. But she’s not alone…what happens to her you have to wait until the end to find out. I loved HEX, so I was intrigued to see if Thomas Olde Huevelt could scare me a second time, and he certainly managed that.
She also knows, triggered by some primitive survival instinct, that she cannot turn on the light. In the light, the people in the stairwell will no longer be visible – and not seeing them, while knowing they’re there, is worse than seeing them.
The horror genre has not always been kind to disfigurement. At first Sam can’t cope, he was drawn to Nick for his good looks and he feels like that person is lost. It must be a shock for all involved, and the narrative gives him time to realise he’s being a dick and you do see a loving relationship between them. The passages from Nick’s perspective shows that he both understands but is scared and alone, fearing what is underneath the bandages. At first you think that’s a metaphor, but in time you find out what his mask is holding in.
All I have to do is bring my fingers to my face: I can’t recognize the shapes I feel anymore. The shapes behind the mask. Can you imagine how terrifying that is?
The chapters all start with a quote from a horror story, and in parts the journal style entries are reminiscent of classic horror. Nick himself has a trauma from the past, a cabin fire and his own demons to face, which mix up in his feelings of Sam and the Maudit. It’s pointed out on one occasion that if their French was better, the name of the mountain might have been a hint.
The pacing does struggle somewhat, a saggy middle which makes you wonder what else is there to tell. Nick’s account of what happened on that fateful expedition takes too much time going into technical details, like what rope he’s using. All the while they are aware of some malevolent supernatural force, yet descriptions of the terrain take precedence in his writings.
Made me nauseous. Nick in the basement, absorbed in his obsession, the gothic novel cliché incarnate. Only thing missing was Augustin’s ghost floating around doing the revenge thing cuz he got tossed into the glacier.
I did think the whole idea of a mountain possession was an interesting and unusual one. In the second half there are more accounts of the medical effects, and I liked the mix of modern science with the Gothic haunting elements.
The alpine choughs are depicted as death birds, come to peck out the souls of those lost to the mountain. I wasn’t quite sure about how they were kept in the village considering how it all plays out. Maybe there were just a few too many ideas mixed in.
Overall, I’m glad I read Echo, even if I was left feeling like there were creepy people standing on the stairs…
A haunted mountain, a descent routed by birds. We all tell stories when we can’t face the truth.
The English translation of Echo is published by Hodder in the UK and will be available in hardback and ebook editions on 3rd February. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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