Everneath is the debut young adult novel written by Brodi Ashton. The story follows Nikki, a human girl who has decided to “Return” to the surface world after spending 100 years having her energy fed off of her by Cole, a member of the immortal society called the Everliving. Not a whole lot is revealed about the situation at the start of the novel, but through a series of flashbacks, we learn what has happened to Nikki and what is coming for her in the future. After being brought down and fed off of by her psuedo-friend Cole, Nikki makes the decision to return to the surface world (on which only 6 months has passed) where she attempts to rehabilitate her relationships with her friends, family, and ex-boyfriend, all of whom assume she disappeared on a drug induced bender. What they don’t know is that Nikki’s time is limited; in just another 6 months, the forces of the Everneath will come to take her back to drain the rest of the energy from her. The only way she can escape this fate is by becoming an Everliving herself – and Cole will do everything in his power to make her become one.
At the beginning, I felt that this book had a lot of promise. I’ve always liked the myth about Hades and Persephone and was interested to see how Ashton adapted it into a modern-day tale. If you haven’t read up on your ancient myths lately, here’s the gist: Hades, god of the underworld, falls in love with Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter (goddess of the harvest). Demeter will not allow her daughter to be wooed, so Hades rises up from the underworld to abduct her. When she finds that her daughter is missing, Demeter begins to search for her, and her neglect causes drought and famine for humans. Zeus finally orders Hades to give Persephone back, but before he lets her go, Hades gives her a pomegranate. Persephone eats four of the seeds (though some stories state more), and since she has been tricked into eating food from the underworld, she must stay there for four months out of every year as Hades’ queen.
The whole idea of the world behind Everneath is fascinating. A host of immortal beings that keep their strength by feeding off the human population every other century, complete with a vicious monarchy that can only be overthrown if a new Everliving couple shows up to challenge them- it could be the basis of a cool paranormal romance series. Unfortunately, for me the novel started off stumbling and never really picked itself back up. I felt like the main character Nikki had very little personality, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why the two love interests in the story (Cole and Jack) would be fighting over her. Apart from deciding to return, Nikki makes very few ground-breaking decisions for herself, and is mostly pulled along by the forces of these two men. The way we learn information in the novel felt very stilted to me- I felt like I was given the information needed to understand something AFTER it had already passed. For example, the real truth behind Jack and Nikki’s previous relationship isn’t released until late in the novel, when I really needed it earlier to understand why she even bothered to come back if she was just going to avoid everyone. I got a bit tired of every variation of the phrase “We sat in silence for the rest of the time.”
Nikki does seem to acquire a bit more spunk towards the end of the novel as she tries to formulate a plan to escape the Tunnels, and I hope that the sequel can harness this to turn her character into someone who acts, not someone who is only acted upon. It was a rough start for a debut novel, but the ideas behind the creation of the Everneath world are interesting and original, and I hope to see great new concepts from Ashton in the future.