🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟Five massive stars to author Alice Ewens for her urban fantasy / sci-fi book Resonance (The Orpheus Files Book 1)!
Resonance (The Orpheus Files Book 1), by Alice Ewens
Find this book on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Resonance-Orpheus-Files-Book-1-ebook/dp/B097LTN8WT
A Wholly Original Story – Intimate in a World Full of Noise
I learned of this series through Instagram, where I follow author Alice Ewens. There, Ewens posted flash-fic scenarios with her characters. In these tiny snippets, I was sucked in by the clever banter between her characters and went on to order Resonance (The Orpheus Files Book 1) to learn if the engaging social media snapshots represented the brilliance of the book. They did.
Resonance introduces the reader to a cast of twenty-somethings who form around her main character, Orpheus (also called Nate). The story begins with Nate as a teen, a prisoner at Lingley Research Facility, who has a remarkable ability – the full details are teased out over time – in that his voice carries with it a hypnotic power. This strange ability is also related to a phenomenon in the woods at the edge of the military base where he is held, a vortex of unknown origin and terrifying energy. Nate is one of two teens who “resonate” with the vortex. He is tested, tortured, and abused. He’s nothing more than a lab rat. He’s alone – but growing stronger. And then Nate escapes.
The author delivers us into Nate’s life six years later, providing a brief overview of what happened between then and now. This is where Ewens begins to introduce the “supporting” cast of characters, although I would argue that some are more in line with secondary main characters. The first of these is Jack – a bass player in a local rock band (Nothing In The Cage). There is a nice build-up of back-and-forth between Nate and Jack before Nate meets the rest of the band: Shins, Sadie, and Junk (a roadie of sorts). The melding of the group is not necessarily seamless, but when they finally come together – with Nate singing over his Fender Strat – the result is not only rock and rock magic, it’s wildly dangerous. It’s uncontrollable energy. The authorities at Lingley are still looking for Nate, and with the band, Nate stepped right into the spotlight.
There are multiple points of views (POVs) provided in this book, and they’re easy to follow. It helps shape the story from different perspectives: Nate, Jack, a psychiatrist with regrets, and an officer of the law with a brother in trouble. Ewens, however, doesn’t rely on these many POVs to shore up backstory or plotline. Instead, these other character lenses allow the reader to feel the emotion and the complexity of what is happening around Nate. A life – even one mostly spent as a captive on a military base – touches many. Everything is connected.
Each character is meticulously crafted and believable. As a reader, you become invested in seeing this eclectic band of not-quite misfits win – just let them win for once! Although Jack was certainly a secondary character I connected with, Shins was a standout. Shins will surprise you.
A side note: The second teen who was held prisoner on the base with Nate is Amphion. Ewens did a marvelous job with that character arc in this book. It was not one I would have imagined, but it worked and produced a satisfying outcome.
Ewens’ writing demonstrates how to create a plotline that keeps the reader inside the story without resorting to pages of scene or character descriptions. With several lines, the reader can “see” what they are reading. Ewens does not slip into purple prose and easily gets her point across.
I think this must have been challenging as there are many scenes with non-human “beings” (real, imagined, and remembered), and Ewens needed to convey these creatures succinctly to keep the story flowing. I believe she did. For example, her conveyance of what it was like to interact with a “gas mask hazmat-suit-wearing shadow-like creature” helped me create a picture in my head: Like a TV show you are trying to tune into through white noise, or maybe even more accurately, like Star Wars’ Princess Leia asking Obi-Wan for help in R2D2’s projection. (But, in this case, the “projection” definitely interacted with the characters.)
To call Resonance complex does not do it justice. It is an intricately woven tale, with moments of bombastic battles and tight, almost desperate, intimacy. There is some slight steam, and it’s delivered perfectly. The author struck a balance between on-page and off-page physical interactions. Ewens respectfully revealed her characters’ needs.
Resonance inspires the reader to think about bigger concepts. What do we not yet know? Do scientists and governments have a right to people with unique abilities – for the greater good? How do we protect them? How do we leverage them – should we? How do we protect the “rest of us”? Does more of life live in the gray area than in black and white? What has science not yet revealed – or is it already there, and our brains are too small to see it? That’s just the tip of the iceberg introduced in Ewens’ book.
Ewens’ writing is flawless – not once was I pulled from the story. The plot is solid and designed to propel the reader forward, not stumbling, but eager to know what is coming next, how the band of friends will navigate the hell thrown at them, and how Nate, the young man with the extraordinary voice, will not only survive, but claw his way to a life of love, friendship, and acceptance. The ending leads the reader through a resolution that, although sad, is acceptable. It makes sense. Then author Ewens throws in an unexpected twist. Perfect.
While this book contains elements of fantasy, it bumps up against sci-fi, too. If forced, I’d categorize it as a new adult urban fantasy. However, lines often blur between categories these days. I would not want to pigeonhole this fabulous read.
If I could give this book more than five stars, I would. Congratulations to author Alice Ewens on an excellent first installment in her series. I’ve already downloaded the second book, Dissonance.