"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 23, 2012
Everneath: Grief and Power
by Erin Cowles

In further honor of the Halloween season, today I'm featuring a book that goes into the Underworld and back up again -- Brodi Ashton's Everneath. In this paranormal romance, Ashton merges the Persephone and Eurydice mythologies into a modern story that is completely her own.

Seeking relief from her sorrow about her mother's death and an alleged betrayal by her boyfriend, Nikki Beckett followed an immortal being named Cole into an underworld called the Everneath, with the promise that it would make her numb to her emotional pain. After a century of Cole feeding on her emotions (but six months in surface time), Nikki decides to return to her old life. But Nikki has a debt to pay to the underworld, and six months before the Everneath claims her forever.

Nikki wants to spend this precious time reconnecting with her family and Jack, the boyfriend whose love sustained her through her time in the Everneath. But she returns emotionally drained, and she has to face the devastation she left behind in the lives of those she loves most. And to further complicate matters, Cole has followed her home. He believes she is the key to his taking over the Everneath, and he wants her to become an Everliving being like him, surviving by draining the emotions of others.

Everneath's romance is satisfying. Rather than the normal "falling in love" narrative, this romance is about broken people who have hurt each other, striving to find their way back to each other through the messes they've made. There aren't easy answers to their problems, but Jack and Nikki learn to choose hope and forgiveness as they work through them.

But it isn't the romance that makes this book stand out. Ashton addresses some powerful themes in this work. I like her exploration of loss, redemption, love, hope, escapism, and courage. And I love the way she uses mythology in her work. She places a heavy emphasis on the role of a mortal's power to choose, and the way the narrative changes because of these choices. These myths haven't survived because of the powerful immortals; they matter because of the choices the heroes make when they are placed in difficult and painful situations.

This isn't a book for people that want flawless heroes. Nikki makes many mistakes, and she spends the first half of the book annoyingly passive. However, she learns from her mistakes. Nikki learns to own her pain. She learns what she lost when she selfishly tried to escape her pain. And she learns that when she has the courage to fight, she can claim goodness and provide it to others.

I should mention Everneath is the first book of a planned trilogy. I was not aware of this when I finished, and I may or may not have hurled my book at the floor in frustration when I thought I wouldn't get any more resolution. I'm mature like that. The next installment, Everbound, will be released in January 2013. There are plenty of mysteries left to explore, and plenty of salvation still needed, so you'll want to see where Ashton takes this series.

Read this book if...

  • You thought Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books were fun, but you felt like Bella never really learned her lesson about selfishness.
  • You like your villains nuanced -- no dastardly, mustachioed scoundrels for you.
  • You love modern retellings of ancient myths that make them speak to you in a new way.

Target audience: Ages 13 and up, girls.

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About Erin Cowles

Erin Cowles is a mother of two, living in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before motherhood, she used her masters in library and information science in a law firm library. Now she uses it to find good books for her family at her local public library. She teaches part time for a SAT prep company, where she enjoys the challenge of making rather dull subject matter interesting and making college a reality for her students. During women's history month, she profiles Mormon women that inspire her at ldswomenshistory.blogspot.com.

Erin currently serves as a counselor in her ward's primary presidency.

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