By Marty Mulrooney
Ecko Endgame is the third and final book in the Ecko trilogy by Danie Ware. Following on from Ecko Rising (“a hugely enjoyable genre mash-up that promises great things to come”) and Ecko Burning (“a massively entertaining sequel that fulfils much of the grand promise of its predecessor”), Ecko Endgame sees blight sweeping across the Varchinde, the Kas rising from Rammouthe and anti-hero Ecko finally facing head-on the true reality of the fantasy world he quite literally fell into.
If the peeling layers was a thing, she hadn’t even gotten close. Ecko still had shit he wasn’t gonna give up – the stuff Mom’d given him, the stuff he’d sold his soul and sanity for. His enhanced adrenaline spiked, making his skin shiver; his ocular telescopics spun almost without him thinking… and he was watching the figures as they came into the hall.
Ecko Endgame begins a short time after the events of Ecko Burning, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s changed. The blight has progressed rapidly as winter has come to the Varchinde. The grass is dead, with crops and trade following close behind. The plains’ cities are in chaos. Order is lost, criminals rule the streets at night and people are dying. Those who are still alive are slowly starving to death, making them question their loyalty. It’s the perfect opportunity for the Kas to rise from Rammouthe and destroy everything.
As always, Ecko lurks moodily in the background of imminent disaster. Yet now, stripped of his stealth-cloak, his footware, his flamethrower, even Lugan’s fucking lighter… he feels more lost than ever. He’s done everything he can to defeat the program and win the game, but it still hasn’t been enough. His inner monologue is even more pissed off than usual. Yeah, so this is what I’ve sunk to. Rodders goes to London an’ gets cool-dude-street-assassin; I stay the fuck here an’ get a wool sack an’ pants made outta hair…
Battle shouts and fury seemed to reach her ears through a seethe of tension. From somewhere, white light flashed savage. She was closer than she’d realised to the top of the hill – but she was caught, the reserve on one side and the responding cavalry on the other. Drums thundered. Tumult raged in all directions.
Here, she was the eye of the storm.
“Come on then,” she said, her voice low. “Amal died, you won’t last much longer.”
The great ruin of Tusien plays host to the epic final battle, the last stand. Ecko Endgame is essentially split into two halves, the first dealing with Rhan having to abandon Fhaveon and flee across the Northern Varchinde with every remaining fighter he can muster. The second is the ‘final level’ that Ecko has been desperately hoping and searching for. Of course, there are moments where we join other characters in other places, but to reveal who or where would be to rob the narrative of its bite. Rest assured, nobody is forgotten from the previous books.
In fact, even more so than in Ecko Rising, Ecko often becomes a supporting character in his own story. This isn’t necessarily a criticism per se. After all, Ecko largely feels the same way, especially now that Roderick ‘the Bard’ has returned from London wearing black Converse with a voice that can part the heavens, no doubt due to the ‘mechanical mess’ of his throat. However, it does have an impact of the focus of the story, especially when the lingering question has always been – is this all just inside Ecko’s head?
Rhan, Amethea, the Bard…
He swallowed, blinked.
But he couldn’t manage the goodbye, it was too much.
As he’d once done on London’s South Bank, a world and an eternity away, he stepped over the edge.
It’s a question that hasn’t been forgotten and it’s addressed beautifully during the stunning denouement. Danie Ware can write sword-and-sandal fight scenes with the best of them and her world building is second to none… but it’s during the final moments and pages that she truly comes into her own. Some of the ambiguity is admittedly infuriating, but who said a ‘good’ or even ‘great’ tale needs absolute closure? This is obviously a story that means a great deal to Ware and she tells it – and ends it – on her own terms.
It isn’t the best book in the trilogy – Ecko Rising will always have the edge simply because it pulled us into the void and left our heads spinning right alongside Ecko. Yet Ecko Endgame does something much more elegant and ultimately, risky. It answers the lingering ambiguity of three books with one final head-scratcher. Sometimes, we need closure. Other times, it’s best to leave some wiggle room. The final sentence ends with a smile – this reviewer would be willing to bet fans of the series will be left smiling too. Ecko will echo on.
8 OUT OF 10