Book Review: Empire of Dirt (The Echoes Saga, #2) by Philip C. Quaintrell

Book Review: Empire of Dirt (The Echoes Saga, #2) by Philip C. Quaintrell

Cover art illustrated by: Chris McGrath

Empire of Dirt by Philip C. Quaintrell

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Echoes Saga (Book #2 of 9)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy

Pages: 480 pages (Kindle Edition)

Published: 27th November 2017 by Quaintrell Publishing (Self-Published)


Empire of Dirt is better than Rise of the Ranger in practically every aspect, and it seems promising that the steady increase in quality within each book is unstoppable now.

It is frankly incredible how fun to read this series was. Empire of Dirt is the second book in The Echoes Saga by Philip C. Quaintrell. And just as a brief reminder, although The Echoes Saga is in total a nine books epic fantasy series, it is also an epic fantasy series divided into three sets of trilogies. This means that Empire of Dirt is technically the middle book of the first—out of three—arcs of The Echoes Saga. And it did not disappoint at all. Quaintrell took everything good about the first installment, and he polished or expanded upon them in this sequel. Empire of Dirt definitely does not feel like a filler installment of a series.

The story in Empire of Dirt continues from where Rise of the Ranger ended. War continues to ravage Illian, and our main characters from the previous book will have to fight, survive, and rekindle the light of hope in the presence of overwhelming darkness. There are several reasons why Empire of Dirt is better than its predecessors. The first is that there weren’t any dull moments in this novel. In my review of Rise of the Ranger, I mentioned that the first 40% of the book felt a bit rough here and there, and I stand by this statement. But I also said the section felt necessary, and personally speaking, I’ve been proven right here. The first half of Rise of the Ranger introduced more than eight POV characters to follow; whether this introduction was done nicely or unsatisfyingly will be different depending on each reader. However, if you continue to Empire of Dirt, I’m confident that most readers will start to notice the payoff from this relatively rough section. The pacing in is fast-paced, and it is also filled with enough intrigue and depth for the series so far to have a lasting impression than being a simple fun-and-done read.

“You’re both young, so I understand that hope still plays a part in your thinking, but trust me, hoping doesn’t get it done. Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and keep fighting…”

Have I mentioned that it can be refreshing to read an epic fantasy series consisting of—mostly—main characters above 30 years old? If this is a criterion of what you’re looking for in your epic fantasy reads, then you’re in luck here. Almost all the main POV and supporting characters in the series up to this novel are above 30 years old. And speaking of characters, the second main reason why Empire of Dirt is better than the already good Rise of the Ranger is influenced deeply by the character development of the cast. Seeing Asher’s budding relationship and friendship with Faylen, Nathaniel, and Reyna from the first book was great already, but I enjoyed the book further when Asher met the people he befriended during his decades of adventures. Doran Heavybelly, being one of them, is a dwarf appearing for the first time in Empire of Dirt, and this character—despite not having a POV chapter—was pure joy and entertainment. Quaintrell didn’t just develop the returning characters, but he also made sure the new characters introduced here could stand as impactful.

Tauren son-of-none or the White Owl is displayed in the beautiful cover art of Empire of Dirt illustrated by Chris McGrath, and the action scenes in his chapters were bloody and exhilarating. The Arid Lands is one of the main settings of the narrative, and Tauren’s role in it is crucial. His battles against the Arakesh were incredibly well-written, and I enjoyed finding out how his story and Asher’s gang intertwined with each other even though they were in different parts of the world for the majority of the book.

And then there’s, of course, Galanor and Gideon Thorn.

“I have to do something, Gideon. I have to save someone. All I’ve ever done is take life and fight and then fight some more… If the elves are left as they are, they will be nothing but killers for eternity…”

Look here. I enjoyed reading Galanor and Gideon Thorn’s chapters in Rise of the Ranger. But I totally didn’t expect I would find them to become my favorite characters in the series so far. Yes, the third and the biggest reason I enjoyed Empire of Dirt more is because of Galanor and Gideon Thorn’s complicated friendship. Their friendship felt utterly real and powerful, and I loved the themes of redemption and the willingness to do good exhibited in their character development and chapters. Oh, and a few more important things to note: Dragons, Dragorn, and more dragons. Dragonrider is a common thing in classic fantasy, but in my opinion, this is rightfully deserved because it will never get old. The feeling of riding a dragon for the first time, or maybe flying and plummeting from the sky at an unbelievable speed like a stone discarded from the sky, always feels exciting. Then there’s also the extraordinary bond between humans, elves, dragons to consider. They just felt powerful to read when it’s done well, and it is done well in Empire of Dirt. It wasn’t only Galanor and Gideon’s friendship that became one of the highlights for me, but also Gideon and Ilargo’s, and I’ll leave that for you to find out for yourself.

“You must have faith and trust in Ilargo. As long as you are together, the sky is your realm too.”

Lastly, the last reason. And this is related to Galanor and Gideon’s story: world-building and lore. As I said, the first book felt like a prelude to everything to come in The Echoes Saga, and now we’re finally starting to get to the main course. The revelations on the Dragorn, The First War, and the complex hierarchies between humans, elves, and dragons were interwoven seamlessly into the narrative. We also get to learn more about Atilan, Paldora, and Naius. I am so impressed by all of these. Quaintrell’s close-quarter combat scenes were vivid, and his prose felt more well-polished and compelling than before.

“When given a common cause, humans are capable of a great many things.”

Empire of Dirt is a big needed step-up from Rise of the Ranger. I’m confident to say and put my faith in Quaintrell as a reader just from reading two books in the series so far. The characters were likable, stakes of the conflict have been raised, the magic and battles were bloodier and bigger in scope, and the chances of The Echoes Saga becoming one of those series that never stops getting better with each book is almost fully confirmed for me now. I am so looking forward to reading the next book, Relic of the Gods, two or three weeks from now. I doubt I can stay away from this series too long now, and I cannot wait to find out how the first story arc in The Echoes Saga will be concluded.


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