NEFARIOUS ECHOES is the fourth book in the completed THE LIGHT OF DARKNESS SERIES by Catrin Russell. There I was, thinking Anaya had finally found her place but the beginning of the book plunges the reader, along with our championed female MC headlong into the next disaster, continuing seamlessly from the ending of the previous book, The Resurgence of Light. And for once, it seems beyond the priestess’ powers to cope on her own. Old alliances are split, old friends become enemies and new connections are formed.
Nefarious Echoes also introduces a host of new characters. After the upheavals in the previous book, one would expect an interval of rest for frayed nerves but Russell drives the plot relentlessly onwards. At times, I wasn’t sure if I could take any more. And I mean that in the most positive sense of the word. Too vivid are the scenes, playing out in my head as if they were happening around me. I had the feeling as if I was watching on a big screen in a 3D movie theatre with surround sound.
The emotional plunges were so deep that you would wonder how your heart has not yet shattered. The storytelling is superb, the characters practically leap off the page and the fast pace of the story, that nevertheless doesn’t lack all the necessary details, moves the plot forward, be it through political strategizing, interpersonal relationships, elegantly written steamy romantic scenes, new ways of light healing, battling or witty banter. Far more than a handful of times, I was leaping out of my seat, I was so invested in the story throughout.
I felt for and with the characters, from good over morally grey to downright evil, they were all multi-layered personalities which made them so realistic. And that goes for humans and demons alike. It was easy to embrace new characters and fall in love with already familiar ones that were moved to a more prominent position in this new instalment.
There were new parallel strands of subplots that seemed separate from each other at first but then, over the course of the book, got artfully interwoven and connections became finally apparent, leaving me stunned more than once at the unexpected developments, even though not all mysteries were resolved – old and new. Then again, we have two more books to read in the series and there must be something left to be said or there wouldn’t be two thick tomes yet.
There is another great battle episode further towards the end. Now you would think, a good high epic fantasy tale lives off these martial highlights and they have definitely served well in the previous instalments, providing much exciting action and suspense. But this one is different. This is quite literally the “Mother of all Battles” and once you read it for yourself, you will understand the intended pun.
I have been raving and gushing about the author’s previous books already and, o ye of little faith, was unable to imagine how this story could rise to even greater heights in this book. However, let me assure you, it does! I bawled like a baby, tears streaming down my cheeks while sobs wracked my body. I clenched my teeth so hard at the suspense that I had to take painkillers for the resulting headache (but it was all worth it, so don’t let that put you off!). At times, my heart broke and then it opened wide and flowed over with love, being so deeply touched. I don’t like to include any spoilers but for this book, I had to put at least a little, which is right at the end and marked, so you ought to stop reading further down before you haven’t read this book yourself.
There are a myriad of examples I could give to show you the author’s great storytelling but this is already turning into one of the longest reviews I’ve ever written. And yet, I feel it is wholly inadequate when trying to do this book justice. The events are often unforeseen, surprising with many twists and turns, so don’t spoil your own reading experience when it comes to the spoiler section below. You’d rob yourself of a wild adventure ride that I embarked on while reading.
So I will leave you with vague assertions as to plot and characters and the advice to make sure you’ve also read the prequels you can download for free when signing up for the author’s mailouts. They are also available in print (and grace my special bookshelf). Reading them is not strictly necessary but it will give you some deeper insight into the backstory of Edric’s past and the beginnings of the priesthood and their fight against demons, thus providing you with an enriched experience when reading the series proper.
Some characters that were less prominent in previous instalments were given more of a central platform here and even the king makes an appearance. My new favourite characters have grown on me in just this way, providing the kind of frustration you get from a superbly constructed slowburn romantic subplot, intelligent wit that triggers belly laughs and the strongest urge to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with them in perilous situations. All of this and more in this one book.
A last piece of advice I’d like to provide you with is a list of items to keep handy:
a bottle of something strong
tissues – lots of them – a play sword
and free hands to hold your belly or massage your jaw.
a healthy smoothie to combat an extended book hangover may come in useful as well
What a ride! I’m looking forward to reading Books 5 and 6, Wake of Sins and The Thousand Year Divide next! (Text below contains spoilers!)
After asking the author’s permission to go into more detail because I will burst otherwise, I am going to comment here on some highlights that are spoilers, so I advise you to only read this part AFTER you’ve read the book!
My favourite character of all now is Kaedin, former knight in the King’s army and a high-ranking priest for the last twenty-five years. Together with the incomparable Lillith, mother of Samael and former matriarch, this pair has conquered my heart by storm. And their developing romance is a slowburn that gave me the female equivalent of blue balls. And dayummm, is Kaedin hot!
Of all the sexy men in this series, this one stood out to me the most as he is confident but not arrogant or overbearing. He knows what he wants and doesn’t let Lillith walk all over him but gives her a run for her money. He speaks with conviction and has a presence and charisma, cultivated over decades in leading positions, that the younger characters still somewhat lack. He is not without flaws, as are none of the characters who make them so real, but he stands and lives by his convictions.
Lillith, in her own right, is the strongest woman in the entire series. She is used to giving orders and people following them. She is unafraid of opposition, yet not reckless in her diplomatic relations. And Kaedin is the only person who manages to keep her off-balance. Their interaction and banter had me laughing out loud more than once:
“Where are your guards?” he asked.
He gave her a flat look. “You left them out in the rain?”
“They won’t melt, Master Reed. Stop questioning me on the subject.”
And shortly afterwards, Lillith admits:
“You are too good to trifle with me, Master Reed.”
Do we detect a hint of insecurity in her otherwise impregnable armour?
On a more serious note, we learn of the spiritual origin of the two species, humans and demons, so beautifully explained to Anaya by the shaman that it brought tears to my eyes:
“Different races?” he chuckled. “My child, you still have much to learn. It is humans who have always believed there to be a distinction between humans and demons, yet truly, there is not. We were created equal in the Spirits’ images but individually blessed by them.”
Anaya blinked, her silence telling.
“Humans received the gift of light; potency, courage, yet also warmth, comfort and healing,” he continued. “Demons, however, were blessed by the darkness; power, self-sacrifice, independence, and endurance.”
“What are the Spirits?”
And there is more after that which is so deep and there is so much metaphysical truth clad in the guise of this epic tale’s context and concepts.
There is so much more, I could go on for hours. The aforementioned battle alone took it so out of me, that I felt like I had run a marathon with survival-training style hurdles thrown in at regular intervals. Emotionally. Suffice it to say, when you read this, you will know what I mean and there won’t be a single page that you’ll find lacking. This book is just… WOW!
Books by Catrin Russell
A KINGDOM SCARRED SERIES
DARKNESS DIVIDED SERIES
Deathfall Wraith (Prequel 1)
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Catrin Russell is a Fantasy and Romance author from northern Sweden. Her books are all written in English and are mainly part of the Epic and High Fantasy Genre. However, she does use influences from Dark Fantasy, and a touch of Fantasy Romance.
Growing up outside a small town, basically in the middle of nowhere, Catrin eventually moved to Stockholm, where she studied computer game development and design. Meeting her soon-to-become husband online, she lived outside of London for the best parts of a year, before finally settling down in Piteå, back in Sweden. Since then, three children and two dogs have joined the family.
With a background in design and holding a degree as a registered nurse, she writes novels in medieval settings, with plenty of action and romance. She often brings moral struggles, or highlights issues in society, into her writing. Another subject that is often highlighted is mental health.
Catrin also creates concept art, bringing her characters to life on the screen, and her own cover designs, much of which can be seen on her social media pages.