Trigger Warning: The book reviewed here depicts sex, rape, heavy amounts of gore, and regular use of profanity. Slavery, abuse, and torture also serve pivotal roles in the plot. If you have any sensitivities toward such subjects or otherwise take offense to them, proceed with caution.
Warning: This review contains spoilers for the first book, Sister of Echo: The Making of a Villain (Part One). Do not continue reading unless you have read Part One.
Today I’m reviewing Sister of Echo: The Making of a Villain (Part Two), the second installment in the Sister of Echo: The Making of a Villain series by Ameel Koro.
When we last left the world of Sister of Echo, Alina’s secret identity as a vampire had been revealed to Corina and Cotiso, and Alina’s jealousy had driven a wedge between her and Sinna. At the beginning of this new adventure, the company is trying to leave Artucia when soldiers stop them to take Corina and Alina back to the arena for another round of slave fights. The questions on everyone’s mind: Why are they being dragged into another competition? And by whom?
Little do Alina and her friends know, the competition has been arranged to force Alina’s return. Cordillia, the richest woman in the city and leader of Artucia, believes that she knows what Alina is. She longs to meet the young woman, show her off to the other nobles, and reunite Alina with their kind. But is Alina what Cordillia thinks she is? Are Cordillia and her children really what the readers are lead to believe? When mysteries start unraveling, what will become of Alina and the rest of the company?
Over the following 210 pages, Koro throws readers through a series of twists, losses, torture, and just as many new questions as answers. We travel deeper into the social construct of slavery, Dacian religion, and a world of mythical beings which you can’t begin to imagine. With vivid imagery, a compelling plot, and heart-pounding action, it’s almost impossible to put this installment down until the very end.
I’m happy that, despite some minor reservations, I continued with the second book of the series. Sister of Echo: The Making of a Villain (Part Two) far exceeded my expectations based on Part One. Koro utilizes the social hierarchy and religious beliefs of the time more to the story’s advantage in regards to world development, character development, and plot. The characters of Alina and Corina also gain more depth with Alina becoming a more realistic person and Corina growing more emotionally complex.
Unfortunately, new elements introduced in this book overshadow much of the premise set by the first book, which left me with a lack of resolution. Alina’s jealousy drove her away from Sinna by the end of Part One, but Sinna still plays too little of a role in this book given how “in love” the two supposedly were. In fact, I am given serious reason to suspect that Alina may not have actually had real feelings for Sinna at all, but this suspicion may have been by design. Even Corina questions Alina’s love for Sinna, and Sinna’s ultimate fate remains a mystery. Could Sinna still be Alina’s happy ending? Or is that just an illusion? Oddly, this question of Alina’s true feelings made me more interested in the relationship than when they acted lovey-dovey in the first story.
Other characters also get too little time on the page in this book. Tati and Cotiso, while in the first few chapters of the book, seem to fall away with their fates revealed only in dialogue. Other characters, including Tsuri, receive such treatment, although I did not have such an objection with them because they did not serve much a role in the first place. I feel that Tati and Cotiso deserved more of an ending, and Cotiso’s ending deserved more of an emotional impact. Tati, at least, had an effect on Corina. Still, too many of these events take place off-screen, so to speak. Even much of the torture, with the exception of the introduction to Cornel and his “experiments” on Alina, appears to the reader in exposition.
The amount of exposition aside, the imagery improved significantly with this book and even as the novel progressed. Things get dark and gory quickly, but that’s one of the things I liked about this book over the first. With “The Making of a Villain” in the title, one expects things to grow dark and bloody. A lot more action appears in Part Two as well, allowing for more displays of Alina’s powers and the powers of her foes.
Most importantly to me, however, is the character growth which Alina and Corina experience. We see much more of Alina’s heartless side in this installment, and much more of Corina’s twisted and, strangely, vulnerable sides. While I started to hate Alina as a person, she actually seemed like a real person. The naïve, innocent pretty-girl act in the first book made her a rather flat character. In this book, we see just what Alina will do to stay alive and, in a much different way than in the first story, how ignorant she is to human interactions. I understand her and I pity her but I also hate her, which is the sign of a good character; I have conflicting feelings for her, as I would with someone like her in real life. On the other hand, I began to like Corina even more. She is still crude and self-centered, but she also displays sparks of true human emotion underneath that crusty exterior.
Sister of Echo: The Making of a Villain (Part Two) is not a perfect book. I identified several proofreading errors throughout the e-book. I also wish that Koro would ease up on the exposition, especially since readers would be able to infer much of it from the action and visual cues. Some of the more modern elements of the language, such as the “yeah” which persisted throughout the first book, have been corrected. Still, the writing maintains a modern element which I can’t quite identify and, honestly, don’t know how to fix. It may be the (what I consider to be) overuse of profanity throughout the story, or it may be a personal writing taste. The number of exclamation marks in the narration also annoyed me. I’m OK with exclamation marks used prudently in dialogue; in the narration, it can border on a slapstick feel.
Overall, I really recommend this book for lovers of epic fantasy. Koro introduced me to a species of mythical creatures that I never would have imagined myself, and I’m eager to continue to the next book.
Be sure to check back for my next review, Sister of Echo: The Making of a Villain (Part Three).