Author: Sara Holland
Genre: YA Fantasy
*Thank you to the publishers, author and NetGalley for sending me an advance copy of the book*
‘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. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. 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.
I’d seen several ARCs of Everless splashed around Instagram for a few months before its release, along with some good reviews, so I snapped up the chance to read it when I saw it was available on NetGalley for review. Everless was such a close 5 star read for me, but a few minor issues I had with the book knocked off half a star to leave it with a very impressive 4.5 stars. This review does contain a few small spoilers, so look away if you haven’t read Everless yet.
I often find it takes me a while to fully get sucked into the story of a book, but Everless is one of those novels that draws you in from the first chapter. It did start like most other YA Fantasy books, with a girl hunting in the woods, looking for something to take home to her starving family. But it diverged from the masses as soon as the concept of time as currency was introduced. Throughout the duration of the book, I found the story to be engaging, full of adventure, and moving at a great pace. I never really got stuck in a slow-moving chapter: there was always something to read on to. The story was unique to me, but my sister told me the plot sounded like a movie she’d watched last year called ‘In Time’. This didn’t detract from the story, but perhaps takes away some points for novelty.
The characters in Everless were beautifully developed. I loved Jules and her relationships with both her father, and her best friend, Amma. They had a realness to them that you won’t find in a lot of YA literature. In fact, her reaction to the death of her father was one of the most real portrayals of a grief period that I have read.
Although I found a lot of the relationships in the book to feel genuine, that of Jules and the Gerling brothers seemed very forced. I found the fact that she still loved Rowan, despite not having seeing him since she was a child to be very bizarre (ten years had passed and she was still hung up on her childhood crush). Jules’ hatred towards Liam felt completely over the top, but perhaps I could understand it more than I could for her feelings to Rowan. There was also a somewhat forced potential love triangle that never really developed between the three. It wasn’t at all necessary, and I think it really detracted from the book, which, until then, had managed to avoid most of the overdone YA tropes.
Holland writes characters with the knowledge that they’re either baddies-pretending-to-be-goodies, or goodies-misconstrued-as-baddies. This made it fairly obvious as to where the ‘shocking’ character reveals would be, and took away a lot of surprise from the book. It came as no shock that Liam was good all along, as Holland just couldn’t convincingly write him as a bad character with the knowledge that he wasn’t. The same goes for the other character reveal (which I guessed pretty early in the book – check my Goodreads notes for that one). Although this did detract a little from the ending, I don’t think this lack of surprise even came close to ruining the book for me.
The land of Sempera was beautifully constructed, to the point where I felt that I was alongside Jules, seeing everything she was. From the elegant grounds of Everless, to the desolation of Briarsmoor, Holland used the perfect combination of descriptive, yet not overly flowery language to tell her story. The author perfectly writes action, romance, friendship, and dialogue: I never felt even slightly lost in the writing, as it all seemed to progress so logically.
I really enjoyed Everless. With the exception of the love-triangle-that-never-was, Holland manages to keep the book very comfortably within the YA genre, without reverting to the tropes that have become so commonplace within YA literature. The book is packed with adventure, intrigue, and beautiful writing. Just don’t expect any huge surprises.
(Just a side note, am I the only person who found it hilarious that she named a town Ambergris – the common name for whale vomit?)