The Stranger: The Labyrinths of Echo – Max Frei
Max Frei is the pen name of author Svetlana Yuryevna Martynchik. It is also the name of the main character in The Stranger. Born an ordinary man on Earth, Max is stricken with strange, eccentric behaviors, such as sleep patterns and dreams that take him to distant lands. In one such dream, he lands himself in the city of Echo, which exists in a foreign dimension where evil magicians, superstitions, ghosts, domesticated cats the size of cows and pillows that supply cigarettes and other earthly goods are the norm. Here he learns the secrets behind his own personal mysteries and discovers that he has magical abilities. It’s not long before Max finds himself going by the moniker of Sir Max and landing a job as an investigator for the Department of Absolute Order.
During Sir Max’s many adventures with his investigative comrades he encounters many mad men and magical phenomenons. He himself is at one time a vampire then at another moment a man whose own spit kills with a venomous sting. His fellow investigators can kill with magical gloves, transform their physical form for deception, read thoughts and communicate through telepathy. Objects have feelings and memories often expose secrets that many do not wished revealed. The combination of fantasy and detective mystery make this a captivating read.
The city of Echo and the surrounding territories were written in exquisite detail. They are foreign in every way down to the extravagant clothing styles and the number of washing tubs in a single bathroom (the more the merrier). I enjoyed the lighthearted and playful banter between the characters. Even when death seemed imminent, I was never afraid because I knew Max would save the day in some strange and awkward way. I chuckled many times, and when the story came to a close, I was sad to leave. I too entered another dimension and needed to adjust to the many different customs in the city of Echo. As Max adjusted to his new life, so did I. While his love for his new homeland grew, mine did as well.
At time I was confused and did not completely understand how the magic worked and why or how something happened in the story. I would occasionally reread a section for clarity, and often was as confused as the first time. But this seems to have been done purposely. Max often does not understand what has happened either. There are many riddles not completely explained, but the story promises to reveal as Sir Max grows. Regardless of my occasional puzzlement, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and cannot wait to continue my adventures with Sir Max and follow him as he solves the mysteries of Echo.
–Sheilah G. Randall