In Sara Holland’s novel Everless, the phrase “cost of living” takes on a whole new meaning.
In the land of Sempera, time is literally money. Specifically, your lifetime is your money. Time is drawn from blood and minted into blood-iron coins, subtracting from the lifespan of the giver, and earned blood-irons can be dissolved into drink and ingested, adding to the lifespan of the drinker. This system allows the rich to become practically immortal, while the poor could be within days, maybe even hours, of death trying to pay off their debts.
Our protagonist, Jules Ember, is among the unlucky poor in this society. Her father used to be the blacksmith at the impressive Everless estate, home of the wealthy Gerling family, but after a near-fatal incident involving Jules and the two young Gerling sons, Roan and Liam, they had to flee and have been scrimping and scraping to get by ever since. Ten years later, Jules’ father is almost out of time, but the Everless estate is paying a year on the month to anyone willing to serve through the upcoming royal wedding between Roan Gerling and Ina Gold, the Queen’s ward. Desperate, Jules ignores her father’s warning to stay far from the Queen’s notice, and returns to serve at Everless.
But the longer Jules stays at Everless, the clearer it becomes that there is more to her past than she knows, and the secrets she’s tied to are not only dangerous, but possibly fatal.
It’s an intriguing premise, but I’ve seen several other reviews mention its similarity to the movie In Time. Now it’s been a while since I’ve seen In Time, but for me, the crossover here is minimal. In Time is a sci-fi take on the time-as-money idea, while Everless is very much fantasy. They may have the same “what if” inspiration, but they explore it in totally different worlds.
There’s definitely a bigger mythology in play here, which I like, but I felt like it was murkier than necessary. I don’t know if I would have liked some explanation a little sooner, or if I still need more detail, but something didn’t quite gel. Maybe it was because the withholding of information felt more motivated by plot need than by logical character decision (seriously, her dad could have solved so much by just telling her the truth from day one).
Jules is a likable enough protagonist, although a little on the rash side. There were several instances where she could have easily come up with much better plans if she had stopped and thought about what was going on for even one extra minute. Liam was an interesting character, as it was clear there was more going on under the surface. The other characters were okay, but I’m hoping they get a bit more depth in the sequel.
I will say, the villain reveal was good. It genuinely surprised me, and Holland went darker with it than I would have imagined. I’m excited to read the sequel if it’s anything like the roller-coaster ride of the last hundred pages or so of Everless.
I’m giving Everless a 2.75 out of 5 stars, but I’m willing to round that up to 3 if the sequel can keep up the momentum of those final pages.