3.5 out of 5 stars
This duology stars off quickly and cleanly, with a clever idea and likeable heroine. The eventual arc is a bit messy, but satisfying.
Jules Ember is a poor girl in a medieval town, taking care of an aging father who thinks he’s taking care of her… yes, that again. But it’s proven a good enough start to a thousand other stories, so off we go.
In the queendom of Sempara, time is literally money. Bound into blood by ancient magic, time runs in the veins of the people – and that is their currency. The rich have it all; the poor have little to less and then they die, spent as a dry bank account. The rulers of Jules’ town, the Gerlings, live as nobility in a palace called Everless, their lifestyles funded by blood. Jules and her father lived and worked at Everless, until a fateful event turned them out. Now, with no prospect but the return there or starve, Jules must face her past – and inevitably, the handsome young noble(s) therein.
Everless has a crisp start. The blood-iron idea is instantly compelling, Jules’ world easy to understand. The action gets going immediately. It reminded me a bit of the Court of Fives series in this way: not quite as good, but just as quick to burn. Jules is a typical heroine: resourceful, spunky, a little mouthy. The danger reads as real. Holland’s characters are well drawn: Jules’ childhood playmate Roan grown into a gorgeous almost-prince; his darker, meaner brother Liam lapping at the edges. Princess Ina Gold, who Jules (and you) wants to befriend immediately; mysterious Caro; the haughty Queen.
As the story moves, a larger mythology comes into play. Holland weaves its beginning into the story well: part fairy tale, part religion; is it true or not? Of course, it is. And after centuries, this ancient destiny is unfurling now, starring our cast. Predictable, yes, but you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t want it!
Everless ends well, and Evermore picks up the thread. Here’s where things get a little dicey. Strong through the first half, Holland adds more mythology around the middle of the second book. Hints at first, then right before the end, a whole new element of way-backstory – the story before the old myth our characters were so suddenly leading. It’s lumpy and not well explained, meant to paint some gold on the heart of our villain where none should be. Surprise “bad-guy-behind-the-bad-guy” tropes need to be pulled much sooner. Remember in A Court of Thorns and Roses, when Amarantha, or Tamlin, or even Rhysand (sa-woooooon), was the bad guy? But you still had thousands of pages to go? That is when this move works. Forty pages from the end, it’s a cold fish. Redemption for villains is tough to do well, and should be left for the Kylo Rens of the galaxy. (Fight me.)
Overall, I enjoyed the Everless series (and read it in just a few days). I’m on to Holland’s new book, Havenfall, with hopes that as a standalone novel, the ending is well underway before the book runs out of pages.