After finishing Sara Holland’s Everless last year, I had high hopes for its upcoming sequel, promising an upgrade from 2.75 stars to 3 for the pair if the second book could deliver on the promise of the first. I finally got my hands on that sequel, and Evermore picks right back up in the aftermath of the first book’s intense and twisty conclusion.
In Everless, it’s established that in the land of Sempera, time is drawn from blood and minted into blood-iron coins, allowing the rich to become practically immortal, while the poor could be within days or even hours of death. In Evermore, that’s still true, but it no longer has any real bearing on the plot and we pretty much stop exploring anything to do with it. Instead, Evermore is focused on the mythology behind the people who created this system, the legendary Alchemist and Sorceress. This mythology was established in Everless, but there were pieces that didn’t quite gel when I read it, and in Evermore I found out that’s because most of it is based on lies or misunderstanding. This could have been a great opportunity to explore the idea of how history is written (or re-written) by the victors, but Evermore moves too quickly to sink into anything that deep.
Evermore is incredibly fast-paced. It moves from action scene to action scene with very little time to catch up with what’s happening. This is understandable for a plot following someone on the run, and it definitely keeps you turning pages to find out what happens next, but there were a couple of moments where I had to stop and go “Wait, how did we get here?” and re-read the previous paragraph. While that makes for an exciting read, it sacrifices the things that make a book stay with you, like deep thematic exploration and character development, which was disappointing because there were promising things set up in Everless, but still only hints of it sprinkled throughout Evermore.
Liam’s character, for instance, was set up in the first book as more complex—originally seen as villainous and enigmatic until his actions and motives are slowly revealed in a new light—but in this book he serves only to to take care of Jules. And Caro, who’s true nature came as a dark surprise at the end of Everless, gets no further exploration except backstory reveal, which all comes through Jules’s eyes. Ina is the one character who gets to show another side through her Huntsman persona, but that too gets only a few pages at most. And Jules’s character development is pretty much also restricted to backstory reveal. My complaint about her being a little rash and not making the best decisions still stands in this book. There is literally a scene when Jules is warned by another character that they can only buy her a little time to complete her dangerous mission without Caro around, and what does Jules decide? Time for a love scene and a nap. And that’s after worrying the whole book that admitting she cares about anyone will get them killed. I literally laughed out loud in disbelief.
Finally, I loved the idea that “the only way to kill pure evil is with pure love” (pg. 331), but I completely disagreed with its execution here. Pure love, by definition, cannot be a weapon. If you’re going to defeat evil with love, it has to be through acts of sacrifice, forgiveness, and/or selflessness. Any of those actions would have had more emotional resonance in Jules and Caro’s final showdown than wielding the right weapon.
Maybe it sounds like I’m being hard on this book. I did enjoy it—it’s a gripping, fast-paced read and it does answer the questions set up in Everless. I was just hoping for more out of it than that.
So, in the end, I’m giving the duology as a whole 2.5 stars out of 5. Everless keeps the original 2.75 I gave it, while Evermore comes in with a 2.