Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I saw a bunch of hype around for this recent release, Everless, and although it hadn’t really previously been on my radar, I decided to pick it up since it was on sale. And since it was recent, I figured I’d try to be hip and/or with it by getting to it right away.
So let’s talk about that, shall we?
Everless by Sara Holland
A lot of people dig this cover. (My partner actually stopped to comment that it looked pretty cool.) I find it medium. I feel like it’s kind of busy, especially with the background black appearing somewhat brocaded in real life and with that addition of the cheesy text tagline, but like, subjective taste is also a thing (I tend to like simple covers) and this clearly captures what’s going on in the book, so props for that.
This book is like that flop movie where everyone pays for stuff with time from their own lives, only instead of being a dystopian future thing, it’s more of a fantasy setting. Our main character, Jules, is very poor and is worried about her father, who has been selling off all his time to pay their rent, so she heads off to work at the palace, Everless, even though that’s where they ran away from years ago.
This book has an interesting and shudder-y premise, which I would credit more if it weren’t an idea that’s been done already, but yeah. The imagery of people going to the time lender to have their blood (and years of their lives) extracted to turn into blood iron and exchange it for rent and food, well. It’s kind of horrific. The author does well to drive home how horrifying the excesses of the rich are and how much the poor have to go through just to live (for a very limited amount of time).
Buuut this book is just not as full of twists as it thinks it is, from my perspective. It heavily foregrounds from the first that the protagonist will turn out to have some relevant chosen one-ness (I mean, the cover also does that, so not a spoiler), and it really takes the whole book to get to what’s up with that, which is kind of tiring. Maybe it’s the kind of mystery I should care about, but like…it’s obvious from the jump that she’s important and what kind of power she may have, and most of why she doesn’t know why that is has to do with people just not communicating with one another for reasons unknown. At least two people who care about Jules just don’t tell her a dang thing and she’s the one with the most at stake, so it feels pretty tiring to wait for the info and for Jules to get to do some stuff.
Some people are into this book because the heroes and villains aren’t who Jules initially expects them to be, but I feel like Jules is pretty dang bad at processing information, to be honest. (She’s observant enough to see the details readers can pick up on to suspect something different, but she never makes anything of them.) As a reader, you will be given all the clues you need to figure out most of the people who are going to be not exactly as expected. (There is one instance that surprised me, but not…a lot?) This is maybe a problem of being genre-savvy, so I will admit to that. But because I was also slogging through this book waiting for Jules to encounter and understand her chosen-one-ness, it also felt like a slog when the book told me, “This guy is actually more good/bad/important than you think!” and then made me wait the entire book for Jules to realize it and for the relevant character to come out with why.
This is also a book where we don’t really get to know most characters beyond Jules, because she has about two scenes speaking to each named character who isn’t her, and the rest of what we know is what Jules tells us/thinks about them, which is obviously unreliable because of aforementioned lack of info-processing. (Also people just kept stuff from Jules or lied to her, so yes.) So we have to lean on how invested we are in Jules and her quest to figure out the secrets of her life, and honestly, Jules is a pretty nondescript character. She cares about her dad. She’s mostly nice and sympathetic to other people and grossed out by the excesses of the rich in a world where many are poor. She sometimes says or does something reckless. She has a crush on a nice, cute guy from her childhood. She has a lot of the most generic qualities of a YA heroine without the more specific qualities of a good one: no particular interests, long-term dreams, particular skills, ways of interacting socially…I don’t really know her, and as a result, it’s hard to get particularly emotional about anything going on? She’s really the reader conduit to Care About Stuff since every other character is so sparse, but I couldn’t get a grasp on who she was enough to get invested.
I mean, tl;dr this book was…basically a mystery book where the mystery was kind of obvious in the broad strokes (who was involved) and then sometimes indecipherable in the details (what’s actually going on), and it was hard to invest in it because I already knew the “endgame” for the main character, more or less, but I also wasn’t too invested in the main character and what would happen around her?
I think normally I would’ve considered this middling YA—a strong potential premise/setting with some issues with the way it created conflict and with character development—but ultimately, giving me so little reason to care about anyone left it in a less-than-that category. This might be for some people who like when books are mysterious and don’t mind when things are still a little hazy by the end and who like more-unique fantasy premises? For people who are more patient than I am and less interested in character, for sure.
Have any hyped-up books let you down lately? Are there any books you’ve read where you thought a lot of the “twists” came off as obvious and you got a little tired waiting for them to happen? Am I just incredibly harsh? (Probably.) Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!