I am not sure if it is worth mentioning that Everless (2018) is marketed for a teen audience. Well it is, and I am not a teenager but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. There have been many discussions about the current trend in Young Adult (YA) literature featuring more adult topics. I guess that is the distinct difference between ‘young adults’ and teens – some subjects and language are simply not appropriate and some books can be read by those of all ages. I feel as though it is safe to say that this book is pretty much okay to read for anyone over the age of 11. This is not a criticism; in fact it is a great compliment. Sara Holland has written a fairy-tale that is of the highest quality fantasy. She has written a story that keeps you reading and keeps you invested in the character’s lives. She has created a world that is beautiful and dark and magical and full of tension. In terms of this so-called ‘teen fantasy’ Sara Holland has written a masterpiece. Her story-telling is remarkable.
It all takes place in the kingdom of Sempera, where the rich and the royals (as in most places) rule the land and its people. Those in charge are beautiful and never seem to age, and they never seem to age because they are in fact living not on borrowed time but stolen time. In this world blood is taken from the local people and turned into ‘blood iron’ and this is in turn made into coins that the royal family consume and add to their time. The Queen of Sempera is rumored to be thousands of years old, and in the meantime the people’s lives are becoming shorter and shorter.
Our protagonist is Jules Ember, the daughter of a blacksmith. Both father and daughter lived in the palace of Everless when Jules was growing up and is the home of the princes Roan and Liam Gerling and their many servants. Jules spent her whole childhood in the palace until one day years ago an incident occurred forcing them to leave and find a home in the neighboring village of Crofton. In the villages surrounding Everess it is not uncommon for the tax collectors to visit and take blood from the villagers old enough to be taxed, and every time they are taxed a little more ‘time’ is taken from them.
Ten years later Jules, against her father’s wishes, returns to Everless to work as a servant in the palace during the wedding preparations of her childhood friend Prince Roan who is getting married to the beautiful Ina Gold, the Queen’s heir. She plans to earn enough blood iron to chase away the tax collector for a little while, and then return home after the wedding. Her plans to remain incognito fail and she is suddenly forced to return to the past that kept her in love with Roan and hating his brother Liam. She befriends several of the servants and becomes a part of the very world she despises.
As more and more tragedies occur Jules begins to wonder whether it is all worth it being inside the walls she once loved, and now hates. The stories she grew up hearing about a mysterious Sorceress and an Alchemist seem to haunt her every move, and the Queen’s presence fails to bring any comfort especially when her father finds out her secret and follows her to Everless.
And there is also the pesky little habit she has of being able to pause time….
Jules must find out the secrets of her past, and that of those around her, which proves rather difficult when no one appears to be who they say they are, including Jules it seems….
All in all Sara Holland has written a really fun old-fashioned fairy-tale and I look forward to the duology’s conclusion in her next book, Evermore (2019).