Author: Brodi Ashton
Genre: YA, fairy retellings, mythology, urban fantasy, PNR
Publication Date: January 22, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.
Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.
Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – an AWESOME twisty followup to book 1!
Review: Holy crap, guys. If you thought that the feels couldn’t get any more intense than in book one, you’re in for a rude awakening. Ashton, quit playin’ games with my heart. There’s a lot of pain in this book, but it’s crafted into something incredible, just like book one, and I feel like Ashton as a writer grew in nearly every technical area with this book. The words feel stronger, and the twists are twistier, and generally, it’s just a rollercoaster ride of a book. If you liked “Everneath”, you’re going to love “Everbound”.
In “Neverfall”, we get to see things from Cole’s POV as the Everneath itself has changed over the years, especially with Persephone’s descendents (no pun intended). However, because we’re seeing so much history, it’s a great link to this second book (the best way to use a novella!). With “Everbound”, we pick up more or less right after book one, and if you’ve read “Neverfall”, you have a lot more information (and a lot of foreboding foreshadowing) to work with that will help you kind of unlock some of the secrets of the main arc/plot for this book, as well as the Big Reveals. Which is useful, especially when we’re on a journey to save Jack from the almost unfindable Tunnels in Everneath. While it isn’t essential to have read “Neverfall”, it certainly helps as you get continually punched in the feels with this book.
That being said, this book is really intense. To the point were at some areas, I had to put the book down and walk away to process the either emotional input or the sensory input and not feel overwhelmed. But you know what? That’s a good thing. If Ashton is overloading me with feels and sensory input, it means she’s doing her job as a writer. She definitely tortures/kills her darlings a lot more in this book, to the point where it feels she’s made a huge leap in not being afraid to do that anymore. Any hesitation you might have felt when it came to putting Nikki and Jack through the ringer (okay, yeah, Cole too) in “Everneath” – you won’t see that here. At all. The sensory input is almost brutal (just wait until you get to the first real sensory language-filled scene with the Queen in Ouros Square – won’t spoil any further than that), but it’s a glorious thing. Ashton’s really coming into her own as a writer and that’s always a wonderful thing to witness as a reader/fan of the books.
There’s also a lot of hybridism going on with this book in terms of which Greek myths Ashton is retelling within this series as a whole – for the first book, we get the sense of a retelling of the Persephone and Hades myth. In this one, it’s Ariadne and the Minotaur all the way – with only mentions of Persephone herself (and by name) near the end of the book. It makes me wonder if she’s trying to take a different relatable/compatible myth and tackle it with each new book. Which isn’t an issue as long as things are compatible – if anything, it’s exciting. I don’t think I’ve seen anything done like this before in either YA or adult lit, aside from Marissa Meyer’s rewriting of fairy tales with the “Lunar Chronicles” series (which is also amazing, fyi). It’s a very risky thing to do – to link two myths that are compatible but that also possibly conflict even in the smallest way when you’re not only incorporating them into the base of your arc/plot/worldbuilding, but also just as a retelling by itself. So I really have to give a fistbump to Ashton for being brave enough to even attempt to do this. I tip my hat to the fact that she’s pulled it off gorgeously.
Also, fyi – if you’re a Christopher Nolan fan, watch for the “Inception” tributes scattered throughout the book. I don’t know if Ashton actually meant to pay homage to one of my favorite directors/screenwriters out there, but she succeeded. And the noises of glee I made whenever a tribute came up? Not even close to human.
Perhaps what’s developed the most in this book aside from Ashton’s loss of fear of completely tearing apart her darlings for emotional payoff success is the way she’s filled out the rest of her world along with introducing new characters (which is a great way to help finish building a world, or at least firmly establishing it). In book one Everneath isn’t quite given equal screentime because Nikki’s on the Surface, we get more of the Surface in terms of worldbuilding and details. Things are more or less reversed in this book – because Nikki needs to find Jack, we get more worldbuilding and detailing of Everneath itself – and the complexity that’s been put into it is nothing less than awesome. It’s simple, but it works. There’s also heavy mentions of Dante’s “Inferno”, so look out for those, because they’re really quite relevant. There’s way more sensory input this time around when it comes to talking about the Everneath – and in some areas, so detailed, it made me nauseous or dizzy. You know when you get a visceral reaction from a reader that you’ve done your job as an author.
As for characters, Ashton kind of makes use of the relationship web school of worldbuilding by extending her main cast to more firmly include Max, Will, and Mrs. Jenkins (and to a lesser extent, Jules), but also introduces the Queen of the Everneath and Ashe, one of Cole’s friends who still lives within Everneath. Through these new or more filled out minor characters from the first book, the Everneath world is built easily, and along with the plot arc of trying to find Jack, it’s pretty smooth settling. Not once did I feel there was a character out of place, or giving information where it wasn’t needed or appropriate. Though the Everneath world itself gets the most work done on it, the Surface world gets enough love to the point where both worlds feel incredibly polished, and thus, very real.
One last thing: that ending. I didn’t see it coming, though with the hints from “Neverfall” and with a certain character, I probably should have. Get ready to have the rug pulled out from under you once again, though this time we don’t quite end on a cliffhanger. Which was a relief because I feel like I need to apply ice to all of the areas where my feels got punched.
Final verdict? If you’ve already started the descent into the “Everneath” universe, you simply must continue the journey in “Everbound”. I really hope we get another in-between novella between now and book three, because honestly? I don’t think I can wait that long without wanting more. Gorgeously crafted, I think you’ll find yourself quite surprised with how much Ashton has grown, and that’s one of the many reasons why this book has made my best of 2013 so far list. “Everbound” is out now in North America from HarperTeen, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!