Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
I was at the Pubic Library, foolishly judging books by their covers again, when I picked up this gem. If anyone also knows where I can pick up the dress the model is wearing, that would be greatly appreciated ;)
Everneath tells the story of Nikki Bennett, who six months ago willingly traveled to the underworld as a sacrifice of sorts. While there, she was used to 'feed' Cole, an immortal, in a ritual called 'the feed' that occurs every 100 years. During each feed, the immortals each feed off of one human's emotions, draining them until nothing is left. Afterwards, Nikki chooses to return to the surface for 6 months, knowing that after that time has passed she will be forced to return to the underworld- this time forever. During those six months she struggles to make peace with Jack, her ex, and with her family, all the while searching for a way to defeat the inevitable.
I truly enjoyed Brodi Ashton's debut. She brilliantly incorporates both mythology and flashbacks to Nikki's present day universe. While I did find some of the flashbacks to be more worthwhile than others, none were disruptive to the flow of the story and I enjoyed Ashton's writing style generally. While she could stand to offer a bit more description in places, her flow and pacing were impeccable. I also enjoyed how she played with the myths, giving them subtle and interesting twists for the reader to think about and enjoy.
In Nikki, I found a strong protagonist who has a very real sense of morality and a backbone that is refreshing. She is also someone who is flawed and makes mistakes, but who also constantly seeks to learn from them and avoid their repetition. Like most people, I really related to that. While the romance angle is played heavily, I did feel that Nikki is her own person who is ultimately determined to make her own choices. While the other characters did not grab me in quite the way she did (possibly due to the fact that the story is told in the first person) Cole is also fascinating as a character. Jack, while at times slightly generic, is likable and commendably loyal.
The themes in this book are also strong, and if they are not all that unusual, they are still well done and worthwhile. Ashton's examination of the nature of sacrifice, heroes, and what makes us truly human are all thought-provoking and under her direction never seem stale. I also appreciated that she did not seem to think it was necessary to hit the reader over the head to make a point.
So, why four stars out of five? The truth is simply that, while I thoroughly enjoyed the book, there wasn't anything that blew me away. In keeping with this, there were two major 'twists' in the book that I spotted coming literally a hundred or more pages before they were revealed.
I also felt that there were some unexplained gaps in the story. Some of these were clearly intentional and came as a natural result of the fact that the story is told in Nikki's voice and there is a lot she doesn't know. However, I couldn't figure out why there needed to be a 'feed' at all when the immortals like Cole can just feed off anyone's emotions any time. Why totally empty one person? I also never understood what debt was left to be paid and why the girls who were fed off of had to pay it. Was draining them of their emotions and lives not enough for some reason?
Overall, I do recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult paranormal or romance stories, and to anyone who enjoys mythology. It is a fun, fast read that will give you a lot to think about. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel!