Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld… this time forever.
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.
As Nikki’s time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she’s forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s…
Characters: Nikki, our protagonist, was a seemingly ‘typical teenage girl’, until tragedy struck and she made a rather foolish decision to escape her pain. Nikki is a steady narrative voice, with plenty of human flaws and foibles; her weaknesses are often her strengths, especially where emotion and loyalty is concerned. Said loyalty is often directed towards her ex-boyfriend Jack, who is the school’s ‘popular guy’ but also has a long history of friendship with Nikki. Jack is decent enough, with some family troubles providing him with his own baggage, though at times he can seem a tad possessive of Nikki. And speaking of possessive, for a Stockholm-syndrome inducing mythical being, Cole doesn’t necessarily pose too much of a threat to Nikki and Jack’s relationship, given Nikki’s evident lack of romantic interest in him, although he does make his presence strongly known throughout the novel. It was very disappointing to be denied decent access to Nikki’s family, given that they too suffered the impact of her absence, not simply Jack. It would have been rewarding and more credible to see Nikki make an effort to reconnect with her father, as opposed to simply directing all her attention to being with Jack. Sigh!
Originality: Given the Hades and Persephone overtones, I expected to recognise much of the plot and references within this novel; I was pleasantly surprised by a few changes and original inclusions. The very nature of Jack’s ‘kidnapping’ of Nikki is riddled with entirely different connotations than that of the Greek myth – Nikki herself even instigates (to some extent) the abduction. The concept of the ‘Everneath’ is also a departure from the traditional Underworld setting, being a kind of purgatory with its own unique set of rules and geography. There is also the inclusion of additional mythology law and references, however brief, that took some of the thematic focus beyond that of Hades and Persephone, which was a welcome inclusion.
Plot: The novel moves chapter-by-chapter between past and present tense, designated by time measured between Nikki’s experiences in the Everneath, and the time at which she is expected to be return there. This structure is very effective in creating a strong sense of impending conflict and the promise of future separation, which dictates a great deal of Nikki’s actions. It also provides a template through which the reader witnesses her reunion with loved ones, her struggles to reconnect with them, her attempts to find answers as to the nature of Cole’s world, and her race to find a way to defy him. The novel does end on a cliff-hanger, albeit one that differs slightly from the conclusion I was expecting, and which nicely sets up continuing tension for following instalments.
Writing: Ashton’s prose flows with ease and is effective especially in conjuring atmosphere and setting without excessive or unnecessary description. The teen characters also, for the most part, speak with a credible voice for their age and character types; even Cole, the typical ‘bad boy’ of the piece, never comes across as being too contrived. Sadly, some of the adult characters felt a little forced at times, but they also suffered from minimal page time, so perhaps they would have come across as more believable if given more time to feature.
Renee’s rating: While it still hit many of the familiar marks we have come to expect in YA paranormal romance, there were some refreshing and interesting concepts coming to life in this Hades and Persephone retelling. I am curious enough about the fate of these characters to continue with the series.