Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Series: Everneath, #1
Published: 2012, Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: PurchasedGoodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble
“I’d like you to ask yourself, Who loses hope first? And who never gives up? Because it’s not the supernatural abilities that set mythical creatures apart.” She leaned forward. “It’s the decisions the human characters make, in impossible situations, that have us still talking about them centuries later. Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”
I bought ebook versions of both Everneath and its sequel Everbound on a whim when they were on sale. Even though paranormal romances are among my least favorite types of books, I’d heard good things about this series. I was also just plain curious. If anything, this reading experience has further cemented my belief that while there are good books found within the paranormal genre, they’re by and large just not for me.
Nikki Beckett lost her mother months ago due to an accident with a drunk driver. Since then she had constructed some semblance of normality once more. But when she found out her mother’s killer was acquitted and her boyfriend Jack may have cheated on her, she was desperate for an escape from all her negative emotions, so desperate that she agreed to accompany her new friend Cole to a place called Everneath and allow him to numb her pain by feeding off of her emotions.
After having spent one hundred years with Cole in Everneath (equal to six months of Surface time), Nikki is changed. She’s lost the majority of her memories, except for this one persistent image of a boy: Jack, her boyfriend. As her one hundred years in Everneath end, Nikki is given the option of going straight to the Tunnels of Everneath, essentially becoming a human battery for the rest of her life, or else delaying the inevitable by returning to the Surface for six months before then being sentenced to the tunnels. Nikki chooses the Surface and the opportunity to regain her memories about Jack, possibly the only thing that allowed her to survive those one hundred years in Everneath. But Cole believes she’s special, different from all the other humans he’s fed off of over the centuries, and will do anything to convince her to return to Everneath on his terms.
The basic premise of Everneath ensures that the reader will feel at least a little bit of anxiety. After all, Nikki’s made an inescapable bargain with demons, more or less, who will eventually return to reclaim her. The story alternates between Befores (detailing the events that led up to Nikki’s decision to join Cole in Everneath) and Afters (counting down to Nikki’s return to Everneath). Normally these types of stories make me a bit anxious.
As the time flies past, however, I found myself feeling peeved by Nikki’s (lack of) agency, rather than simply anxious for her predicament. Emotionally, Nikki is a mess. She was a mess before traveling to Everneath, and, surprisingly, all those problems she hoped to escape are back with her when she returns to the Surface. And they’ve multiplied. It takes Nikki a while to realize that she actually doesn’t want to return to Everneath, and then the book is little more than a mad dash to escape fate. I suppose I can’t fault Nikki for acting like a teenager, but my experience reading this does show me how much of a difference it makes that I’m not the intended teen reader here.
At this point, it seems almost a prerequisite for a paranormal romance to feature a love triangle. Everneath certainly fits that bill as Nikki must come to terms with her feelings for Jack and for Cole. First there’s Jack, Nikki’s best friend for years and the one who helped her cope with her mother’s death. He’s been the object of her (seemingly) unrequited love for a while, until suddenly he admits that he also has feelings for her. Things are going well until a misunderstanding at a spring training camp for the football team and cheerleaders causes Nikki to believe that he’s cheated on her. And. of course, from the beginning Nikki has suffered from feelings of inadequacy compared to Jack.
Then there’s Cole. Blond, cocky, and mysterious, he is Jack’s polar opposite in many ways. Because of Cole, I consider Everneath to contain a love triangle, although it seems pretty clear that Nikki does not harbor romantic feelings for him. He was there and able to take away Nikki’s pain, and so she uses him. But there never seems a question of whether Nikki will love Cole instead of Jack. Rather, the question seems to be whether Nikki will choose to accept loving Jack and the consequences that entails, or whether she will choose the more emotionless life that Cole offers. Although Nikki believes that Cole is incapable of love, he’s clearly the harborer of unrequited feelings here, not Nikki.
So this story includes a triangle of complex feelings, but perhaps this doesn’t quite qualify as a traditional “love triangle.” That’s a small grace.
Although the story has both explicit and implicit ties to Greek mythology, Ashton’s use of mythology felt somewhat inaccessible and confusing at times. There were mentions of both Greek and Egyptian versions of the afterlife, of the Persephone myth, of Orpheus and Eurydice, and more. There’s even some Hindu myths thrown in the story. It seems as though Ashton attempts to clarify the juxtaposition of myths through Cole, having him inform Nikki that all of humanity’s mythology is based off of different interpretations of Everneath.
Fine. I can accept that. After all, most of our myths and legends have similarities and probably were adapted from one specific source. The tales presented in Everneath, however, just seemed a bit...off. I know my Greek mythology fairly well, yet some of the explanations about myths had me scratching my head. Who, exactly, is like Persephone in this world? The Everlivings like Cole? The Forfeits like Nikki? And what roles do the Shades and the Queen have in all of this? Really, it all boils down to the fact that Everneath presents a very, very strange juxtaposition of mythology and I found the worldbuilding lacked some essential clarity.
Everneath isn’t bad necessarily, but neither is it great. It works as a slightly more creative take on traditional paranormal romances, but its confusing worldbuilding left me with an aftertaste of unfulfillment. I suppose you could say I ended up feeling a bit emotionless towards it all, rather like the Forfeits fed on by the Everlivings. Despite all of this, I do plan on reading my copy of Everbound because Everneath does end on one fantastic cliffhanger that really does justice to the characters and their motives.
Rating: 2 stars