Author: Brodi Ashton
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Greek Mythology, Young Adult
Publisher: Harper Collins / Balzer + Bray (US) Simon & Schuster Childrens Books UK
Publication date: January 24 2012 / February 2 2012
Hardcover/Paperback: 370 pages
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld… this time forever.
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.
As Nikki’s time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she’s forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s…
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in a new series
How did I get this book: Review copy from the UK publisher
Why did I read this book: I am going through a phase of reading tons of Greek Mythology-inspired books. This one promised a Hades/Persephone retelling and I was really curious about it.
Welcome to the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans – called Forfeits – in order to remain immortal. Each Feed lasts one hundred years after which the immortal has enough energy to live on for another hundred years and the human, now sucked dry, proceeds to the oblivion of the Tunnels.
This particular story starts in the middle. The exact point when our protagonist Nikki wakes up after one hundred years of Feed alongside immortal Cole. Instead of behaving like any other good Forfeit and going ahead to the Tunnels, she decides to go back to the world of the living – where it has only been six months since her disappearance – to say her goodbyes properly. She has six months before the Tunnels come for her: six months to mend her relationship with her family and with her beloved boyfriend Jack (the reason she survived the Feed unscathed); six months to be convinced by Cole that she belongs with him as the Queen of the Everneath.
From the moment Nikki wakes up, the story proceed and alternates between past and present: the months leading up to Nikki’s decision to go to the Everneath with Cole form the past narrative; the months leading up to the moment the Tunnels will come for her, are the present narrative. This is an interesting decision and at least to start with, a positive aspect of the story as the narrative builds up not only tension toward the climax but it also presents a mystery on what could have happened to make Nikki become a Forfeit.
Everneath has strong ties with Greek Mythology: for all intents and purposes, the Everneath is the Underworld but this is not an exact retelling of the myth of Hades and Persephone although both are mentioned as previous King and Queen of the Everneath. For that matter, so are Isis and Osiris of Egyptian mythology fame. If there is another positive thing about Everneath is how this particular version of the underworld and its immortals is original and less convoluted than it could have been considering all the different mythologies it gets its inspirations from. There were several interesting aspects that worked well together including the construction of the myth about who are these immortals; I also loved the idea of the Daughters of Persephone, girls that have been groomed and raised to be Forfeits on the off-chance they could become the Queen of the Everneath. It’s cold, ruthless and emotionless ideal and all the more fascinating because of all that.
On the whole, Everneath was a very easy read and I enjoyed several things about it, as evidenced above. I also liked Nikki’s difficult relationship with her family, her friends and with Jack. Her attempts to make amends were heartfelt and her story leading up to the terrible decisions she has made reinforce the idea that people sometimes can make silly, stupid mistakes. The point is: whereas the majority of us can outgrow these decisions and learn from them, Nikki found herself stuck in a deadly situation.
On the down side there are the many (MANY!) inconsistencies, the contrivances and the melodrama.
For example, how convenient is it that the most important ashes in the whole of this universe and the most important clue to help Nikki are in the same city as our protagonist? How convenient is it that if you like the myth of Hades and Persephone, you can ship Cole and Nikki. BUT wait! If you like the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, you can ship Jack and Nikki.
Also, as soon as Nikki is back, we learn that after one hundred years in the Everneath with Cole, her emotions are (supposedly) gone. And yet, the narrative itself undermines this idea by being full of feeling. Nikki wishes for her emotions back because she feels so empty. She misses things, she feels bereft, she is lonely and apart. Take this quote, right at the beginning of the novel:
Cole bought himself another hundred years of life by draining me, and in the abyss left over there was no peace. Only an emptiness that made me ache as if my insides had been scrapped out.
This sentence is supposed to have been said by someone completely emotionless and I don’t know about you, but to me the sentence above is one of the most EMOTIONAL sentences ever. In fact it is so emotional as to be melodramatic.
The whole story is very melodramatic, actually. For the majority of the book Nikki and Jack pine for each other, and suffer and pine a bit more but don’t actually talk in a straightforward manner. There is an extremely frustrating lack of communication on all accounts: between Nikki and her family, Jack and Cole. You would think that someone who has only 6 months to live would be a little bit more conscious of time running by; and if the story started with a great sense of looming danger, it soon started to drag so much it diffused any real sense of danger or tension that should have been there.
And then there is the fact that the main storyline of Everneath is based on how Nikki survived the Feed basically unscathed and her survival relies on the fundamental idea that hers and Jack’s are an EPIC!LOVE!STORY!. But how can I believe that theirs is the Greatest Love of All Time when she spent most of her time when she was with him not believing his love, feeling unsure about it, and eventually mistrusting him so much she took the final step toward the Everneath? It is hard to believe in this couple’s love as something that will get them through hell – literally.
Another thing that deserves attention is how Cole is supposed to be thousands of years old but there is nothing in his behaviour or demeanour that even remotely suggests his age. He just seems like any dramatic, dark teenager. This is becoming a pet peeve of mine, actually: how characters that are supposed to be so old, behave like any other teenager.
For all these things Everneath is not really a bad book. I will even admit that when I first started writing my thoughts about is, I fully intended to recommend it on the grounds that it is definitely a step above many recent examples of Greek Retellings/PNR in YA. However, the more I thought about it and the more I considered the nature of this recommendation, the more I realised that recommending something on the grounds of “it’s better than a lot of books out here” is not really a good thing. It would be a recommendation on a “lowest common denominator” basis. And I’d much rather recommend similar works that I truly loved like The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, Fury by Elizabeth Miles and Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: The opening lines of the book:
I was picturing his face – a boy with floppy brown hair and brown eyes – when the Feed ended.
At first I didn’t know what had happened. I didn’t know where I was or why it was so dark. I knew only that the pain inside me – the feeling that I was being drained from the inside out – had subsided, and now everything was numb. Maybe I no longer existed.
“It’s over,” Cole whispered in my ear.
I wanted to answer, but my mouth wasn’t working.
“Nikki, try to open your eyes.”
That was why it was dark. My eyes were closed. I’d been squeezing them shut for I don’t know how long. The muscles around them had forgotten how to relax, so it was some time before I could pry them open.
When I did, they stung, like a fresh wound exposed to cool air. After a hundred years they had forgotten how to produce tears.
So, I am going through a mythology phase and already have a few books on my radar this year:
Any other 2012 suggestions?
Rating: 5 – Meh
Reading Next: Fracture by Megan Miranda
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