Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everneath
Brodi Ashton

HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray
Released January 24, 2012
370 pages
YA / Twisted Mythology / Fantasy

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Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she's returned--to her old life, her family, her boyfriend--before she's banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance--and the one person she loves more than anything. But there's just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's queen.

Everneath is a captivating story of love, loss, and immortality from debut author Brodi Ashton.

I was really cautious going into Everneath. It had the blogosphere all aflutter when it was released and was another in a series of books with girls in red dresses on the cover. It sound romance-y and I’d recently read another take on the Persephone myth that kind of made me want to slam my head against the wall. I didn’t want to get my hopes up that this would wash away the bad taste that book had left. Thankfully from nearly the beginning, Brodi Ashton waved away my misgivings with this fun take on the Persephone myth.

Told in a jumbled mix of present scenes and flashbacks, Everneath reads like two stories told simultaneously that somehow end up meeting in the end. It’s a style that I’m starting to see more often, such as with Level 2 (which reminded me a bit of Everneath though I’m just realizing the similarities). A lot of times flashbacks can break the narrative tension and slow down pacing, but Ashton weaves together the past and the present so that they fit neatly together, eventually coming together like puzzle pieces of the larger picture. I was very impressed at how much narrative tension she created by bouncing from one to the other.

So Everneath essentially starts in the middle with Nikki waking up in the underworld after what feels to be an eons long nap. How she ended up there slowly unfolds throughout the rest of the story as does what happens when Nikki returns home, only having been gone with no explanation for 6 months. Her life is a mess with rumors of drug addiction explaining away her sudden disappearance and a looming deadline of only 6 months more topside before she’s dragged to the underworld for eternity to act as hell’s battery. What ensues in the present timeline is a mix of high school drama ramped up to the 10th power and romantic tension between Nikki and her former boyfriend Jack, who she had one of those big-at-the-time silly high school misunderstandings hours before she “disappeared”.

Nikki should have gotten on my nerves and there were several times I became fed up with how she claimed to want to return to the world above to tie up loose ends and have proper goodbyes then wastes her time feeling sorry for herself and pushing people away because she doesn’t want to hurt them again. It’s a bit of wishy-washy nonsense, but midway through, as she begins to show signs of strength and defiance, Nikki won me over. Her predicament and inner monologue of self-pity makes perfect sense, but it’s when she decides to take control that she and the story become really interesting.

Jack is a perfectly acceptable love interest, if a little too understanding and forgiving. His relationship with Nikki is romantic without being cloying. He’s sweet and adorably, causing moments when my 14-year-old inner self might have melted a little for him, but it’s Cole who is the most interesting of all. While being an immortal creature of the underworld, he manages to oscillate between good and evil, inhabiting inside a firm shade of gray. He is sarcastic and entertaining while both evil and vulnerable. He faces a lot of potential character development and change in the future of the series, but in Everneath he was everything a really good bad guy should be – complicated.

Ashton also did a great job finishing the story with a satisfying yet sad conclusion while still leaving the door open plenty for the continuing series. I didn’t feel like I’d had a rug ripped out from beneath me on the last page as in other first books in series. It probably makes the second book more compelling to me than if she’d stopped in the middle of the action or in a tension cliffhanger. There is a lot in this universe to explore and Ashton has regenerated my interest in mythological retellings. I look forward to seeing where she takes these characters in the sequels.