I know, I know. There are approximately 2.5 million billion trillion teen paranormal romances out there, so why should anyone give a damn about another one, namely Brodi Ashton’s 2012 debut novel, Everneath? Well, because it’s good and different and because I say so.
Six months ago Nikki Beckett, driven by all-consuming grief of mysterious origin, disappeared with Cole, a charismatic indie rock star. Six months ago in Earth years, that is; for Nikki it was more like one hundred years cocooned with Cole, who is an “Everliving,” a being who feasts on human emotions and energy in exchange for immortality. When the century-long energy Feed ends with Nikki still alive and notably unhaggard, Cole offers to let her rule the underworld, or Everneath, with him, but instead she chooses to return to the surface even though she has little to no memory of her human life. Despite spending the past hundred years being fed upon via energetic osmosis, Nikki is driven by the need to seek redemption, to make things right between herself and her loved ones after her disappearance. The catch? She only has six months on the surface before the Everneath claims her again, this time forever.
I am a bit of a mythology junkie, so I have been really anxious to read this modern retelling of the Persephone myth, one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I found that a lot of the mythology connections fell a little bit flat, but it was still a pretty damn enjoyable read. I think one of the things I appreciated most about this book was that, even though by all appearances this is just another melodramatic paranormal romance with tortured teenage lovers who are burning with desire for each other, there really isn’t all that much actual romance in the book. Sure, Nikki decides to return to the surface because even after all her other memories got absorbed by Cole, the image of her boyfriend, Jack, danced behind her eyelids like a creepy sugarplum fairy for one hundred years, which I will admit was kind of gagging at first. HOWEVER. As you read on, you realize that Jack wasn’t just her boyfriend, but one of her best friends from childhood; as Nikki regains her memories and rebuilds a relationship with him, it becomes clear that their connection is based on years and years worth of love and affection. In other words, it actually reads as fairly believable.
I also loved the moral gray-scale that is Cole–I found him to be a truly intriguing character. He is a self-serving creep, willing and able to manipulate and hurt anyone who stands in the way of him throwing Nikki over his shoulder and taking her back to the Everneath to be his queen. There is no pretense of romance to this–Cole is not human, and is devoid of human emotions (or so it would seem…); he simply believes that Nikki, through her mysterious resilience during and after the Feed, is his key to underworld glory. However, he is not evil, and there are these pesky little moments in which he lets little blips of compassion slide onto the radar so that you’re not sure whether you’re rooting for him or whether you want him to choke on a biscuit and die. For her part, Nikki seems pretty over the whole Cole thing. Yeah, he’s hot, and yeah, he’s offering her immortal life, but she almost always treats him with (much deserved) cold detachment bordering on resentment. It’s refreshing to read about a human girl who doesn’t go all gaga for the supernatural stalker, especially with all the well-written sexual tension thrown in there.
Beyond the a-typical treatment of romance, this is a page turner. I was really sucked in to Nikki’s quest for the truth about Cole and the Everneath, and the simultaneous plot lines of before and after the Feed is intriguing. I loved knowing that something bad happened to make Nikki allow Cole to devour her without knowing what it was; the hints in the post-feed plot-line were tantalizing. Even though the cover and blurb indicate otherwise, Everneath reads more like a supernatural mystery than a paranormal romance.
As for the negatives, there weren’t a whole lot. Nikki could have been a bit more fleshed out as a character, but if she read as a bit flat that could easily be excused as possibly intentional due to the fact that she’d had her soul munched on for a century. Kind of a personality killer. She is still spunky and easy to get behind, so I’m willing to give Brodi Ashton the benefit of the doubt. One thing that did really bug me was that even knowing that she only had six months on the surface, Nikki spent a hell of a lot of time dwelling on how little time she had rather than actually DOING anything to rebuild the relationships that were torched by her departure for the Everneath. I also didn’t really understand how she thought that coming back and making like things were OK for six months before vanishing again was in any way fair – that just seems like a cruel tease to me. How is that redemption? That word was repeated over and over, but I don’t see how moping, knitting one million hats, and kind of saying you’re sorry counts as redemption. But, that said, overall I really liked this book. I loved how creepy and unappealing the Everneath was (the Shades! So good.), how Cole can somehow be both sinister and appealing, the sleuthing, really just about everything. I’m definitely stoked for the next installment in the trilogy, and would readily recommend this to fans of smarter paranormal romance of the Cynthia Leitich Smith variety.
As for the musical accompaniment, that would have to be The Cure’s “Lullaby.” Even though I know that this song is actually about being molested, when Robert Smith croons “the spider man is having me for dinner tonight” I can’t help but think of Cole and Nikki cocooned by Shades for a century while he feasts on everything that makes her human, one of my personal favorite images from the book.
Where I got it: The library