I went ahead and purchased A Symphony of Echoes after I’d gotten about halfway through its predecessor, because I was certain I would want to read it. In a rather unusual move for me of late, I moved from one book directly into its sequel, with no time between.
A Symphony of Echoes picks up not long after Just One Damned Thing After Another. This time, Max manages to accidentally bring Jack the Ripper back from Victorian London, travel to the future to rescue that version of St. Mary’s and serve as its head, thwart the plot of one villain from the future and then travel back to Scotland to thwart the plan of another by ensuring the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots.
If that sounds like a lot, you’d be right. If it sounds highly episodic, you would also be right.
The first book showed some of this, but it still managed to have, on the whole, a cohesive book-long plot. A Symphony of Echoes doesn’t, and it’s the book’s biggest flaw. Each of these episodes could have worked as a standalone novel, but instead they’re strung together, and the book vacillates wildly between exposition, rising action, climax and denouement. None of the episodes really gets the time it deserves (the piece with Max in the future probably fares the best), and it makes for a really disjointed, bumpy narrative. I wish it had been smoothed out more, because the potential is definitely there.
That being said, oh my GOD this book is worth it for the dodo hunt chapter alone. That one made me giggle. (I desperately wanted a Thursday Next tie-in, actually – felt like it would’ve been appropriate).
Speaking of plot and transitioning to character, I have had it with the fluctuations in Max’s relationship with the Chief. That relationship goes literally everywhere in this book, and it’s not fun to read. It felt forced and melodramatic, and though it was one of the few threads to span the entire novel, I could really have done without it.
On the flip side of that coin, I will take every moment of Max/Petersen friendship that Taylor will give me. It’s lovely to see a friendship like that between male and female characters, where there is no sexual tension, just simple care and kindness and understanding.
I wish I had more to say, but there’s just not a lot of meat to this novel. What’s there is…OK, I guess, but it’s not really a novel – it’s a collection of short stories trying to be a novel, and it would have been better to just organize them as short stories or pick one of the plots and focus and expand it. As it is, I felt very lukewarm about this book (other than that GODDAMN AMAZING DODO HUNT). It didn’t completely put me off the series as a whole, but it definitely didn’t make me want to read the third one right away. I’ll get to it in time, and I hope it’s better than this one.