Author: Brodi Ashton, 2012.
Genre: Fantasy. Romance. Mythic.
Other Details: Trade Paperback. 384 pages
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned - to her old life, her family, her friends - before being 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 months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smouldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen. As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's 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.. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
This is the first in a trilogy inspired by the Greek myths of the Underworld and its rulers Persephone and Hades. Ashton also references the story of Orpheus and Eurydice as well as that of Isis and Osiris and Egyptian concepts of the soul when Nikki searches for answers to her dilemma in ancient myths and legends. With these themes it certainly ticked all the right boxes for me; though I admit that after the disappointment of 'Beautiful Creatures' I was a little wary about reading another YA fantasy in case it suffered from the same flaws. Yet I need not have worried as just a few pages in I found myself completely absorbed by this story and its characters.
The novel is narrated by Nikki and throughout she tells her story both in the present, 'Now', counting down through the six months to the date of her return to Everneath as well as in the past, 'Last Year', counting down to her disappearance and The Feed. In this way we learn about Nikki's past fairly slowly. She emerges as a flawed yet ultimately sympathetic character.
I found this an impressive début novel with solid writing that dealt sensitively with issues such as loss and despair alongside its fantasy and romantic elements. I felt that Ashton showed restraint in terms of not letting the teen angst overwhelm the story as well as having the distinction over so many YA paranormal/fantasy romances by having Nikki's love and loyalty remain with her high school boyfriend rather than the 'smouldering' immortal. I found its ending satisfying and it left me eager to know what happens next. I was happy to find that Book 2, Everbound, has just been published so no long wait to continue the story.
Although I am not a great fan of the 'off with her head' trend in cover art, I did feel this was a stunning cover especially the gorgeous red dress!