Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Originally released as Audible original audiobooks, Sharon Shinn’s Uncommon Echoes series is now available in trade paperback editions.  With trademark Shinn romance and wholly original magic, Uncommon Echoes will be a must-read (or must-listen) for Shinn fans. The three novels stand alone and feature new characters, but contain somewhat intertwined stories and familiar faces from the other tales.  Roughly chronological, they could be read in any order, although the first two books spend more time grounding the reader in the world and its unique (or not…) magical attributes.  Highborn nobles in the Kingdom of the Seven Jewels are graced with “echoes,” exact physical copies—like supernatural clones—who shadow them and copy their every move. Believed to have been bestowed by the goddess as decoys to protect the nobles, the echoes are connected to their “originals” by a powerful psychic bond and treasured as status symbols: the more echoes you have, the more elite you are.  But the echoes themselves are merely soulless copies, with no sentience of their own.

…Until they aren’t.  Uncommon Echoes explores the lives and loves of three women and their echoes who break the mold, against the background of a kingdom on the brink of civil war.

Echo in Onyx follows young noblewoman Marguerite Andolin (and her three echoes) as they travel to the royal city to try to win the hand of the prince and calm brewing political tensions.  But disaster strikes on the journey there: Marguerite is assaulted by someone close to the royal family.  During the attack, both the attacker and one of Marguerite’s echoes are killed.  Feared she’ll be branded a murderess if she shows up minus an echo, Marguerite and her loyal lady’s maid hatch a desperate scheme: Brianna will impersonate the missing echo until she and Marguerite can safely escape from the royal city. But when Brianna attracts too much attention from a handsome inquisitor, their masquerade leads to catastrophe and threatens to upend the kingdom.

In Echo in Emerald, we pick up the tale of Chessie, a street urchin who makes a brief appearance at the end of Onyx. Chessie lives with her two best friends and roommates, Scar and Red, hiding the truth about exactly who this threesome really is.  Scar and Red are Chessie’s echoes, but Chessie has the unique ability to shift her consciousness between their bodies, allowing her to live three secret and distinct lives.  Chessie gets a job working with the serious and warm-hearted Dezmen, a nobleman in town investigating an assassination attempt on the prince. Even as Dezmen’s curious (and steamy) gaze lingers too long on Chessie, Scar, and Red, she tries to keep her own past a secret—even from herself.

The saga concludes in Echo in Amethyst.  Revolutionaries plot to overthrow the royal order in Camarria, and unhappy noblewoman Elyssa—and her three echoes—are right in the thick of things.  Angry and unloved, Elyssa has long taken out her frustrations on her echoes, who cannot protest.  But the abuse has sparked one of the echoes to consciousness, and behind Elyssa’s back, Hope gradually brings herself more and more to life. She inadvertently catches the eye of Prince Jordan—the very same prince whose marriage to Elyssa is being negotiated. Amid rising political strife, Hope’s awakening may be the biggest risk of all. What will happen if anyone discovers that she’s more than a mere echo?

It appears that Uncommon Echoes is complete at three books—but Shinn has surprised us before (sneaking an extra volume into her Twelve Houses series), and the concept of the Seven Jewels of the Kingdom (with only three of the jewels now spoken for) leaves the window open for future stories in this world. Perfect pandemic/election-time/name-your-own-stressor reading, Shinn’s fantasy series will have you racing to re-read all her other books again once you’ve sped through these.

Echo in Onyx, Echo in Emerald, and Echo in Amethyst, are available here at Amazon in paperback, eBook, and audiobook.