Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: falling, disfiguration, vomiting, body horror, violence against birds, suicide (both discussed and depicted)
Sam Avery’s boyfriend, Nick Grevers, is an avid mountaineer who goes into Alps one season and an accident occurs. Nick’s climbing partner Augustin perishes while Nick returns with supposed amnesia and a face completely bandaged up. In an effort to give his boyfriend closure and healing, Sam races against time and nature while supernatural madness unfolds. While Nick might have left the mountain behind, it certainly back with him.
Echo taps into several sources of primordial dread, like losing the one we love in ways less permanent than death, tall men who are slightly too tall, and sleep deprivation demons.
This book reads like a multi-layered sandwich of mystery and homage. I really enjoyed the tone of Sam’s narration, especially juxtaposed with the more straight-forward account of Nick’s final climb with Augustin. The love the two men hold for each other permeates the page as the horrors try to do everything in their power to get in their way. Much how climbing seems to be an intensely personal endeavor, this seems to be Sam’s approach to saving his boyfriend from the mountain which should have claimed him.
The way Heuvelt makes a mountain the villain worked really for me. It’s a blend of atmospheric horror and folklore that really sucks the reader in, with incredible contrast to the facts, figures, and photo evidence that come with every day life. There are moments where reality feels wonky not just for the characters, but the readers as well. The use of direct address during key scenes helps maintain grounding, but wow, does Heuvelt master the feeling of unease and disconnection from the world around.
My favorite thing about this entire work is how the ending loops perfectly back to that chilling banger of an opening. I can’t say anything else, not that too much of it would make sense out of context, but for people who like clever narrative structure and mystery are in for a treat.