Saturday 30 December 2017

Everless (#1), Sara Holland

I have a sense the whole world is coming to an end, collapsing into that single moment
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries. No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself. 
* * * 
3 / 5 

Everless is about a young teenage girl who loves her father with whom she lives in poverty, occasionally venturing into the woods to hunt to earn some extra money. Sound familiar? By changing a couple of words I could be describing The Hunger Games, Red Queen, A Court of Thorns and Roses, or many other books based on a similar premise. What makes Everless stand out is a really cool premise: time is currency, extracted and bleed from an individual to turn into a coin. To pay off one's debts, one flirts with death as they bleed away their future. Literally.
"Time is for burning, girl"

Jules Ember lives in poverty and her father owes time to the debtors. Having just turned seventeen, Jules thinks to extract her own time to pay off her debts - she's young, she'll have plenty of time to save herself, right? But her father isn't having that, so Jules picks another equally bad possibility. She returns to Everless, a massive estate home to the rich aristocrats the Gerlings as a servant, where she and her father lived years ago until a dangerous event occurred which forced them to flee. This is where the book bore a great many similarities to Gilded Cage by Vic James: a mansion and obscenely rich family, servitude, two sons who aren't quite what they seem but aren't great people. The beginning is enjoyable, but other than the really cool blood/money/time premise, it only really retraces well-trod YA ground in a well-written manner. 

Whilst at Everless a sequence of events is put in motion involving the two Gerling sons, Jules' childhood crush and his fiancee, Jules' father, some devious royal plots, and a legend: the legend of the Sorceress and the Alchemist who were responsible for the citizens of Sempera having time in their blood. I wasn't all that invested in the middle chunk of the book, it didn't have that much going on that I could connect to emotionally: Jules sneaks around, makes some foolish mistakes, gets drunk and bonds with the fiancee of the Gerling heir. It's satisfactory reading, but there was no real spark there for me, no hook. Jules is an acceptable character, but I felt her fairly typical of the genre: driven by love for her family, has an unattainable crush, has some solid female friendships, but generally seems a touch dim. 

"Fox," said Snake, curling slowly around her friend's heart "It's time we face the truth"

It is the last third or quarter, perhaps, of the book that really amazed me. All of a sudden there's tension, there's intrigue (with a massive twist that I only got half-right!), and the romance hooked me in. The ending packs in punch after punch and Jules really began to shine here! The book cleverly weaves in this myth, the Alchemist and the Sorceress, which comes to a climax in the final few pages. On the ending alone, Everless is an easy four stars, maybe even five, but the fairly cliche beginning and the plodding middle drag it down - I hope to see, as I did with Gilded Cage, an amazing sequel that takes these strengths and builds on them.

Everless' best quality is it's interesting premise (though it did leave me with a lot of questions - do people have a set amount of time, say 80 years? Or is everyone born with a different amount of time?), and I look forward to reading the sequel!

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book.  

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