Debut author Sara Holland’s fantasy Everless sparks up a new series full of promise and adventure with a hint of romance!
In Sempera, time is literally money. Magic and alchemy have come together is turn years of life into a currency, an actual monetary value on human life. Jules Ember has just turned 17, the age at which citizens are allowed to trade time for money, but her birthday may have come too late: Her father is massively in debt and on the brink of death. Young Jules can’t cover his debt without risking her own life, so instead she sneaks away to work at Everless, the royal estate of the Gerling family, where servants make decent “time” aka salary. However, this too comes with risks: As a child, Jules and her father fled Everless after witnessing something horrific.
At first, Jules is just worried that one of the Gerlings will recognize her and cause a scene, but she soon realizes there was more to her previous life at Everless than she remembers. She came to the palace for honest work, but finds herself sleuthing around the castle to solve a mystery. The situation becomes even more complicated with the cold, ruthless, centuries-old queen comes to Everless with her heir, Ina Gold, who is set to marry one of the Gerling princes. Can Jules keep up her servant facade, make the connections she needs, and solve the secrets of her past?
Everless was was a quick read, largely due to the suspenseful undercurrent created by the characters and worldbuilding. The world has its own magic and lore that weaves its own path seamlessly, giving the novel real personality. Holland has mastered the art of dropping easter eggs as she shapes the everyday details of the novel that form up into sharp “bigger picture moments” as the story presses forward. It’s a skill set that not many authors have and that readers thoroughly enjoy.
The characters maintain their own brand of tension. They’re varied and likable, but each secondary character is at least a little suspect in one way or another. Jules never knows who to trust and I was right there along with her, doubting her decisions with a gulp and a rapid page flip. Jules is well-intentioned, curious, but not overbearing, so she’s easy to like. Her decision-making, while sometimes a bit risky, was believable– a saving grace in a world full of books where heroes and heroines react to unsolved mysteries with methods akin to the first victim in a slasher movie, but somehow survive. My one gripe with Jules is that everything seemed to work out a bit too easily for her, even though she suffers through some consequences throughout the story.
The secondary characters dominating the story are the two Gerling princes. Liam is brooding, formal, and the reason Jules and her father fled Everless years ago. She’s been warned to stay away from Liam Gerling at all costs and she’s terrified of the risk she’s taking around him now. But Roan was Jules’ dear childhood friend, the one person she hopes will remember her. He’s lighthearted, social, and wildly flirtatious at best. Additional kudos must be given for Ina Gold, an orphan chosen as the queen’s heir, who may just be the most interesting character the novel offers up.
I really enjoyed the way relationships and attractions were handled. Roan’s winning, easy personality has made him a long-time dream crush for our main character. He’s also engaged to Ina. It would have been easy to make Ina a spoiled, spiteful character that Jules hates, but she’s not. Instead, she’s whip-smart, kind, and humble, which causes some turmoil for Jules as she tiptoes the line between childhood fancy and real-life couples. But the best part about it all is that Everless doesn’t beat you over the head with romantic ramblings and potential love trapezoids. There are romantic connections, but the novel doesn’t pander to them or let them dominate, because there’s a story to tell. It also pays credence to platonic relationships, which is more than can be said for many novels.
The climax of the novel really hit its stride, offering up something completely unexpected. There was a slight bump in the third act where I essentially didn’t understand Jules’ decision that got her from point A to point B, but I’ll forgive it in lieu of the end result. It’s easy to assume what will happen at the end but trust me, that’s not how it plays out!
The debut is so promising and opens up an daring world with many a twist for fantasy lovers. We can’t wait to see where it goes next!
RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
Everless hits bookshelves today. You can order it now via Amazon.
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.
No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.
But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.