Welcome to Everless, the most generically generic YA novel ever written!
Generic protagonist girl! From a village! Super poor since the death of her mother! Thinks people won’t recognise her if she covers her hair!
Generic love interest boy! Playmate from childhood grown up all sexy! Lives in a generic castle!
Generic evil Queen! Straight out of Disney! Pale and cold! Rumoured to eat the generic hearts of other generic characters!
Generic insta-love! Between two generic characters not attracted to each other for 95% of the book!
Generic peasants! Generic horse riding! Generic kitchen staff! Generic taverns! Generic guards!
With a special appearance by everyone’s favourite… generic honey pastries!
Critics have given it 3 stars, calling it “middle of the road” and “mildly enjoyable”.
A few months ago, I read this hilarious post by the lovely Orangutan Librarian entitled “Worst Fantasy Novel Plan Ever”! And we laughed, because satire, and then we commented with more satire, and laughed some more because surely no-one would include ALL of the generic fantasy tropes in one novel?
Cut to a couple of months later, when I started reading Everless and lo and behold – all of the tropes. In. One. Novel.
Everless is the story of Jules (ok, so maybe the stupid fantasy name trope was avoided – although her surname is Ember, so I’m not sure – it depends if she goes on to set the world alight in books two and three) who lives with her father in a small village. Struggling to make ends meet, she volunteers to work at Everless, the castle and estate owned by the local nobility (the family are hiring extra staff for the wedding of their son to the adopted daughter of the Queen). Jules is already familiar with the castle, having lived there as a child, and quickly works her way up into a senior servants position. Her access to the royals gives her an insight into what really goes on, and as she starts to uncover some of their closely guarded secrets she begins to make sense of her own puzzling background.
Yes, the “my life has been a lie!” trope.
Despite the incredibly obvious plotline, the saving grace of this novel was the idea that time could be “bled” out of people (literally – by making them bleed) then bound into metal coins. These coins could then be used as currency or eaten to give the owner additional time. This meant that rich people could live for centuries, whereas poor people had to sell their own time to stay alive. Now, there are many, many flaws in this idea (how does someone’s youthful essence get bound into their blood? What happens if you just cut your finger? Do people who die of anything other than old age have their bodies bled? The very idea of cutting your life short to stay alive is counter productive? etc…) but if you don’t think about it too hard then the concept is interesting, and adds a new dimension to the story. (I’d like to add in here that I’ve not seen the movie “In Time” but I believe it’s broadly the same idea. So perhaps the concept is not as interesting/unique as I’d originally thought.)
Unfortunately, there were quite a few parts of the book that didn’t really make sense. Some are big gaping plot holes, like why Jules flagrantly disregards everything her father warns her about or why, considering she was banished from the castle as a child, everyone is fine with her return. On the other hand, there’s also quite a few small inconsistencies throughout the text that really, REALLY got on my nerves. For example, here is a direct quote from the text;
“We’re both startled by the deep, clear peel of a bell…As a child, I’d heard many of Everless’s bells – there are bells for weddings and deaths, New Year’s and royal proclamations. I’ve never before heard the bell of the Crown, reserved solely for the Queen.
Of all the bells I remember from my childhood at Everless, this song is the deepest and most beautiful. It means that we are to assemble for Her Majesty’s arrival.”
So, um, you’ve never heard this bell before but you instantly know what it means? Despite there being literally loads of other bells that must be hardly ever used, like royal proclamations? And you know that it means you should assemble somewhere? And you also know where that assembly point is?
Unless this bell sound is actually a public service announcement, you cannot possibly have obtained that information. Aargh!
Also – bells do not sing songs, they chime or toll.
There’s a similar inconsistency later on when Jules is asked to pick the incredibly rare, so-prized-we-built-an-entire-garden-around-it ice holly, which takes pride of place, um, growing underneath all the other flowers that have been planted on top of it. I hope there is some significance to the ice holly (as it was never mentioned again) otherwise I’ll have spent an entire chapter reading “ice lolly” and having to go back and correct myself.
I also had a problem with idea that the security protection on the family vault door consisted of a dye to stain your hands. If the dye was rare and permanent then fine – but it washed off after a couple of days and was commonly used in the castle for other purposes (so presumably lots of people had stained hands). And yeah, ok, the door could bleed time from you, but if you’re breaking into a vault stuffed with magical time money then you could just eat it all back again, no?
Apart from that, I got very, VERY annoyed at the ending. There’s a real opportunity for Jules to take charge of her own destiny and actually get a little bit of agency (something she completely lacks) but no – she just “develops” a total insta-
love crush over the space of two pages. I CALL BULLSHIT!
The very, very weird thing about Everless is that despite it’s myriad flaws, generic storyline and annoying characters it isn’t actually a bad story. Yes, I kept getting annoyed, and yes, parts haven’t been fully thought through, but if you don’t analyse the storyline too hard then the novel is fast paced, there’s lots of action and Jules keeps discovering things which suggest a far better premise for books two and three. I think younger readers, or those who absolutely love YA will lap this book up (indeed, there’s a hell of a lot of hype surrounding it). It was just too much like a manufactured pop song for me – ticked all the boxes associated with the genre, squarely aimed at teenagers, easy and catchy – but ultimately lacking in depth and meaning. I’m afraid it’s been done before – and far better than this.
Overall rating: 3/5
Generic but fast paced literary fluff. An exciting novel as long as you don’t think too hard about it. Middle of the road rating with an extra half a point for not using stupid fantasy names. If the main character had been called Jyules it would have been a DNF.
Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley! I also read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #16 Read the first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series.