I adore fantasy. The world building and opportunities for character variety it presents as a genre are wonderful, and it has always been one of my favourite genres both to read and to write. Everless explores a world of magic realism, Sempera, where the iron in our blood and the lifetime it represents is minted and used as currency – and where the omnipresent though often disregarded legend of the sorceress who started it all hovers over them all throughout the novel. This concept alone is superb, the wealthy literally consuming the life-force of those living on their land in order to live for centuries while those ever-present lines of starving outside the time-lenders shops remind the reader just how they live quite so long.
First person narrative always throws me. It can be jarring after a lifetime of third-person storytelling, but I found that in this instance the perspective actually aided the progression of the story. We see life from Jules’s perspective, her biases and misinterpretations included. Third person allows for the reader to see more than the protagonist, but here we are contained much as Jules is to a sliver of the world. Her views on the Gerling brothers, Roan and Liam – one of whom she adores, the other she utterly despises – form our own. Her love, fear, desperation and prejudice guide the readers opinions in line with hers. We see the lives of the wealthy, stirring blood-irons into their tea, adding years to their lives as those who cook their meals and sweep their floors give years of their lives away to keep from poverty. Greed and self-importance lead to a chilling kind of blood-thirst that glitters like gold – and only those cruel enough to overlook it can live for centuries.
Everless showed me that I would be a terrible, terrible protagonist. If told to stay away from the large Manor House full of people who not only despise me, but who could drain and consume my life in a matter of minutes, I would probably do so. Desperation forces Jules to return to the Everless estate she knew as a child, and the realisation that Everless and its secrets are not yet done with her or her family drives her to remain there for better or worse. Attempting to climb in the estimations of those with power and untangle the net of secrets slowly closing in around her while simultaneously attempting to avoid being noticed by those who would do her harm proves a challenge, and while uncovering her own ties to the world of Sempera, Jules forges her own shackles.
I am, as a general rule, a hard one to win over with the sort of boy-meets-girl romance you find in many a YA novel, even more so with any form of love triangle (I am, perhaps, a tad biased – as were it a girl-meets-girl romance I would probably not only be won over, I’d be actively delighted. The love triangle remains though, I tend to find them awkward). As a result of this, I approached the reawakening relationship between childhood friends Jules and Roan with a healthy degree of scepticism. Roan, engaged to marry Ina Gold, ward of the queen, is almost sickly sweet when compared to his bloodthirsty, egotistical relatives.
I’ll be honest, a ‘nice’ rich person is harder to fully comprehend in a world where the blood of the poor acts as currency than the actual minting of blood irons. Sure, you’re very friendly and all but do you realise that your morning tea is literally sweetened with farmer blood? I rest my case.
Credit where credit is due, however, the Jules and Roan storyline did not go the way I thought it would. Consider me impressed, surprised and thoroughly humbled. What I did appreciate about the relationship was its ability to showcase how our opinions of the past can actively shape our present. The idealism with which Jules views Roan allows her to ignore how he may have changed in the last decade or so, and the fallible childhood memories of her traumatic departure from Everless as a girl inform her views as an adult so firmly that she struggles to grasp that memory is a fickle thing, and she may not have it all right.
Overall, I loved this book. The concept is one I wish I’d come up with myself, and Holland manages to capture well the sensation of running out of time even in a world where time is a thing you can hold in your hands. A definite recommendation for any fantasy fans out there, and I cannot wait for the next one!
Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of 5