History is a symphony of echoes. every little action has huge consequences.
In the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches.
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3 / 5
It is rare that a sequel is quite as good as the original, particularly when the whole series of books rests on the premise “historians go back in time”, because obviously each book is going to involve going back in time to various events. A Symphony of Echoes was a solid book, but it didn’t capture the magic of the original.
People sometimes think St. Mary’s is just a charmingly eccentric bunch of amiable history nuts. And we are. But make no mistake, St. Mary’s has teeth.
My first complaint is that the book didn’t feel particularly focused. We start off with a cracker of a scene involving Jack the Ripper that felt like it was building up to something important, but was then quickly dropped. Okay. Then the crew hopped around in time between Victorian England, Thomas a Becket, the time of the dodo, and Mary Stuart in quick succession. Mixed in is a bunch of stuff about Ronan and Isabella Barclay. Whilst I thought it was cool that we got to see such a variety of times and places, I thought that the plot could do with more focus – there’s a lot going on in this book.
Two: Leon Farrell. He should be dropped faster than a hot potato. Max isn’t exactly the most rational and wholesome person ever; she’s volatile and a little prone to violence and rash decision-making. But Leon Farrell can be straight up cruel. They bring out the absolute worst in each other and I hated that a lot of the drama in the book came from their tumultuous relationship. Just kill him off already!
The whole city was waking now. Every dog in the city was yelling his head off. You could tell St. Mary’s was in town.
Thankfully, I love a lot of the other characters. Tim Peterson is a wholesome lad, Kalinda Black is an interesting eccentric historian, Dr Bairstow has that loving fatherly vibe going on, and Guthrie always come through for the team. I also adore the writing style – the whole book is so deliciously quotable. It’s got those poignant lines, thoughtful titbits, but also witty and banterous conversations that made me laugh out loud. The nature of the time paradox is handled well and the book throws in a bunch of moral quandaries at Max, some of which made me put the book down and breathe because some of the decisions she has to make are truly tough.
A Symphony of Echoes is a solidly enjoyable sequel with action, drama, sweet moments, a tight-knit team, and unguessable plot points. A true adventure.
My thanks to the author, the publisher, and Netgalley for an ARC of this book.