Wow. I went in completely unassuming. This has a cool cover and a neat title, I thought. What a wonderful book!
- Author: Sara Holland
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Published Date: 2018
Everless is a YA fantasy novel set in a kingdom called Sempera where time is currency. Specifically, people can spend their own time in exchange for goods/services. They do this by giving their blood which is then stamped onto iron — thus making blood-iron. Blood-iron can be made from both humans and animals.
We follow Jules, a girl of 17, who lives with her father in a small village called Crofton. It is the wintertime, and they are barely scraping by to make ends meet. Her father has no job. She has no job. He has to pay the rent by giving his own time, and he doesn’t have much left. Jules’s friend tells her of work in Everless. Working as a servant to prepare for the wedding of Lord Roan Gerling and Ina Gold, she would be paid a year’s time for one month of work. Except she and her father used to live in Everless; he was the blacksmith. They fled, never to return. So Jules has to sneak out to find work there.
Once she’s there, Jules realizes that things in Everless aren’t what they seem. She can’t just keep her head down. This is her childhood home. But not everything is how she remembers.
This was such a fun book. One small issue I had was the use of the girl-hunting-in-the-forest trope. She used a gun instead of a bow-and-arrow. It was a neat touch, but it still felt like something we’ve seen before. Other than that? Holland uses the concept of time is money in a fantastic way. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. We really see that throughout the novel.
There’s a pretty big cliffhanger at the end. However, this book definitely can stand on its own two feet. So often first books will feel like their only purpose is to set up the rest of the series. Not this one. It sets itself apart by taking something familiar and making it unfamiliar. It’s a story you think you know, just like how Jules thinks she knows Everless.
(And just to address the elephant in the room, you may be wondering if this is like the movie In Time. In my opinion, aside from the time is currency concept, the movie and book are two distinct entities. They both handle the concept in different ways with different plots.)
This book is told in first person POV. Jules comes across as a believable 17 year old who has been through some tough times. She’s stubborn, headstrong, and willing to do anything for the ones she loves.
Everless is a novel in which you never really know who to trust. “This is certainly the antagonist.” Are they? It’s a book that really does play with your expectations. Because we only see through the eyes of Jules, we are just as unknowing and assuming as her.
On the other hand, a minor fault for me with the characters dealt with a few of the side characters. For example, we meet Tam, a childhood friend who has had his tongue cut out. I think he falls into a category of almost being fleshed out but not quite getting there. He, along with some of the other named servants, are like this. It’s not that they’re boring or could be replaced by anyone else. I just wish we could’ve gotten to somehow know them more. It makes sense that we don’t know a lot about these other characters because Jules doesn’t spend much time with them, but sometimes it made them feel like faces in a crowd.
But in terms of the ones we do get to know well? Fantastic. For example, we hardly see the Queen; but we learn so much about her through stories and brief glimpses. She is cold-hearted and rules with an iron fist. But she took in Ina Gold, an orphan, to raise as her own and to become her successor.
What takes this book above being just an average read are the little poignant moments and little touches. We learn that there are places outside the Queen’s realm that don’t use blood-iron. I love how it answers the question of, “Is the entire world like this?” No, it’s not. It also says a lot about the Queen herself in the fact that she hoards the secret of blood-iron.
We also see small, touching moments throughout: a seemingly endless line of people waiting to give their blood/time in order to pay off wages or just to afford to eat. A pair of elderly; all of the servants listening to a story being told in the dormitories. These little touches are scattered throughout the novel and really add to the experience.
This was a great read, perfect for the winter. The few minor faults, in my opinion, don’t hinder the book at all. Holland has written a fantastic debut novel. Honestly, reading this novel is time well spent.