A digital illustration of Babylon.
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Book Review: “Echoes of War” by John Paquin

Introduction

In his novel Echoes of War, author and writing coach John Paquin transports readers back into the time of ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. A whirlwind of Near Eastern religion, mythology, and history, Echoes of War tells the story of Daniel, a young man with an extraordinary past, present, and future. He battles alongside allies to stop an ancient evil, one that could change the world as he knows it.

Synopsis

In the ancient Babylonian city of Sippar, along the banks of the Euphrates River, a young boy with an uncertain identity or origin awakes in a temple of the Mesopotamian sun god, Shamash. He remembers little except his name: Daniel. Fortunately, the high priest Azra takes him under his wing, and Daniel befriends temple servants as he adjusts to life in his new surroundings. Things settle into a familiar rhythm.

A digital illustration of Babylon.
Digital illustration of ancient Babylon | ©Canva/jamoimages

Something dark, however, lurks beneath the temple’s tranquil existence. Someone desires power, and is willing to do anything to seize it, including murdering innocent victims. The reign of terror spreads, inciting chaos wherever it touches. Armies fall, kings perish, cities burn. Like the relentless and unforgiving desert sun, the enemy scorches everything in its sights. Resistance seems futile.

And yet, hope blooms, however faint. Daniel learns he possesses rare and extraordinary powers that can heal and harm in equal measure. It’s clear that there’s more to Daniel than his humble origins suggest. The question becomes, can Daniel – alongside nobles, princes, temple priestesses, and foreign allies – overcome a priest hellbent on domination? Or will they succumb and become mere historical footnotes?

Review

Drawing on Near Eastern history and mythologies, Paquin has concocted a unique formula infused with historical authenticity, respect for ancient religions, memorable characters, and a distressing but engrossing plot. 

An undercurrent of Machiavellian intrigue winds through the novel, offering readers insights on the muddled delineation between good and evil as well as what motivates villains to pursue dark ends. Why does the priest desire power? Just how high does he seek to ascend? And, what about the good guy – will his grasp of supernatural powers change Daniel from a mild-mannered young man into a devil? The good/evil boundary may seem pretty clear, but dig beneath the surface, and you may ponder the same questions as I did.

Paquin’s world is well-described and well-researched, filled with glittering palaces, vibrant temples, and historical figures. The characters that inhabit this world, real and imagined, glimmer with varying personalities. Dialogue tends towards modern-day parlance rather than an ancient reimagining. This may break immersion for some readers, but it did not for me, however.

Finally, don’t expect any truly happy endings in Echoes of War. In a way reminiscent of George R. R. Martin, good-aligned and neutral-aligned characters do not possess plot armor. Instead, they’re just as likely to lose their lives as survive. And yet, character deaths don’t feel meaningless, for the most part. Rather, they often serve to forward the plot or catalyze a different character to act.

On the whole, I’d recommend Echoes of War for teenagers and adults alike. The author crafted a novel with a linear but engaging plot, suitable for a wide audience. The inclusion of ancient Near Eastern religion and pantheon encourages readers to research more for themselves, a hallmark of excellent historical fiction. Paquin respects the historical record and even offers a twist on the story of the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, one I think readers will enjoy. Anyone interested in ancient history and religion or simply something different should find Echoes of War worth reading.

Thank you so much to John for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!


Book Summary

Cover of Echoes of War. A young boy wear black lamellar armor wields blue flames from his hands. Other figures stand behind him.

Title: Echoes of War
Author: John Paquin
Publisher: Noctua Publishing
Publication Year: October 2022
Page Count: 382pp

Featured image: Digital illustration of the city of Babylon (Canva/jamoimages)

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