Author: Brodi Ashton
Series: Everneath, book #2
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
First, if you haven't read Everneath, please read no further, as I will not be able to help myself. Spoilers
Second, to the author:
After that torturous ending in Everneath, I thought Brodi Ashton was done tormenting us for a bit. I thought we might catch a break in Everbound and find a happy medium until she delivered the final gut-wrenching blow. But all she does is lull us into thinking we're safe and sound, almost comfortable with Cole as we search for a way to bring Jack back.
If the conclusion of Everneath taught us anything, it's that even though this series is a retelling of the Persephone myth, the author doesn't stray too far from her mythology. That is to say, much like the Greek myth it's based on, this story is rife with tragedy, sacrifice and betrayal...and I don't even think we've seen the worst of it yet. Actually, after that last page, I know we haven't.
I read Cole's novella, but even before that, I knew that his feelings for Nikki were more honest and sincere than anything else about him, even if he and Nikki hadn't figured it out yet. Honestly, though, it might take hitting Nikki in the face with a baseball bat that reads, "Cole is in love with you!" for her to get it. Girl has a one-track mind and it is set to Jack. But with Jack gone, the only person she can turn to for help is Cole. After much persuasion, he reluctantly agrees to take Nikki to the Everneath to search for Jack, leaving us to wonder if he's doing it because he loves Nikki or for some ulterior motive, say his unending quest to make her queen of the Everneath, maybe? Because he can't be doing it from the goodness of his own heart...he doesn't have one.
And this is where it starts to get good. Nikki's been blaming herself for what happened to Jack, but she finally feels like she's doing something about it. Gone is the moping, infuriatingly sad Nikki we saw in Everneath and the beginning of this book. She's on a mission, she's focused on the task at hand, and considering she survived the Feed, she might just have a chance of succeeding. With Cole's help, of course.
The bond between Nikki and Cole was already unbelievably strong after the Feed, and despite Nikki's love for Jack, she still feels the pull to Cole. The longer they are together on this journey to the center of the earth, the more Nikki begins to see Cole as an ally, a friend, instead of the jerk who ruined her life. But they don't always play nice. There is plenty of angst and hurt feelings as they try to come to terms with everything they've done to each other since first meeting. It doesn't help that in order to track down the location of the tunnels, they have to rely on Nikki's memories to tether herself to Jack, a tether that acts like a string, leading them straight to Jack's location...hopefully. As Nikki replays memory after memory of Jack, and Cole's frustration with the situation continues to grow, it becomes increasingly evident that Cole's feelings for Nikki are growing ever deeper, especially since he doesn't seem to have the ability to hide them from Nikki in the Everneath like he does on the Surface. There is definitely more to Cole than meets the eye; that guy is seriously complex.
So, yeah, I started to ship the Cole/Nikki romance, even though I know Jack is truly what's best for Nikki. This triangle -- if you can call it that...doesn't Nikki have to be on board for it to actually work? -- is one to rival that of the Unearthly series, in terms of how much I personally like both of the love interests. Nikki doesn't really believe that Cole loves her, but just in case, she makes sure to take advantage of his would-be feelings at every opportunity. Normally, that's why I despise love triangles...the person in the middle has too much power and someone is going to get hurt (or killed, if the author determines that the pain of death is less than the pain of rejection) before all is said and done. But I guess because one of the key players is written as a villain, I find the whole thing less appalling...kind of like the Shatter Me "triangle". Plus, Jack is absent from most of the book, except in Nikki's memories, so it was easy to hope that Nikki would fall for Cole while he so gallantly aided her in her rescue of Jack.
Besides writing a love triangle that doesn't make me want to yak, you want to know what else Ashton excels at? Building a world beneath a freaking world. Her descriptions of the Everneath through Nikki's eyes were impressive to read and even more amazing to imagine. The second Cole drew the map for Nikki, I was transported there to the outer ring of the Everneath, wondering what the next step was right along with Nikki. And then there was that insurmountable maze to get to the center of the Everneath and all of the obstacles along the way. Yes, this is a retelling of an ancient myth, but once we traveled to the underworld, it almost felt like a fantasy novel, so lush was the world-building.
Dire circumstances, evolved characters, action sequences aplenty, and double the emotional impact of the first novel...these are the things you can expect from Everbound. You should also expect the unexpected. Things to remember for your trek to the Everneath: (1) don't forget your mythology lessons, (2) never take anything at face value, and (3) keep your friends close and your (fri)enemies closer. If you keep these things in mind as you read, maybe you won't make the same mistakes as Nikki did on her journey.
He leaned back in the sofa and put his hands behind his head. "There's the old Nik. No 'How do you do,' no talk of the weather. Just a good swift kick to the balls."
"A kick to the balls is an option?"
He frowned. "Now, that doesn't sound like you."
"Not you. Not that much."
"You don't know me."
I looked out the window, to where he'd signaled, but I didn't see anything. "What, did you alert the authorities or something?" I mumbled. "Unauthorized attempt to eat hair at the Shop-n-Go?"
I shook my head. "Just what do you think I'll owe you?"
He leaned closer to me. "For saving the love of your life? Everything."
There was this incredibly tense moment, and I wished I could see Cole's face. But then I felt him relax against me. "And then you'll just run away again, and I'll have to find another way to impress you; and that, Nikki Bennett, is the eternal loop."
He lifted his head so that his eyes met mine. "I always wait for you." He took a deep breath, my ankle still in his hands. "I'm always waiting for you."
In an embarrassingly breathless voice that didn't sound like my own, I said, "Because I'm so slow?"
He smiled. "Yes. But not in the way that you think."