5 out of 5 stars
Format: Library Hardback - YA fantasy - Goodreads summary:
"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."
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Yes, it borrows from the adage "time is money." Yes, it seems a lot like that weird movie with Justin Timberlake, In Time. No, it is not just like that movie.
I do a weird thing where I look up bestsellers and read a few 5-star reviews. Then I read the 1-star reviews just to remind myself you can't please everyone as a writer. The 1-star reviews for this book were brutal! Don't listen to them. This book borrowed an idea that is commonplace in our culture and turned it into a gorgeous YA fantasy. It definitely surprised me in the best way.
***CAUTION: LITE SPOILERS AHEAD***
SETTING: I really enjoyed the setting. It's nothing super special in YA fantasy: European-esque town with a castle and a royal family at its center. Somewhere between 17th and 18th-century technology. I loved the clever pull on the theme by naming the land Sempera, which is Latin for "ever." Nothing felt incongruous or asynchronous which helped keep me grounded in the story. Holland is a wonderful storyteller, and she did a magnificent job painting a scene for readers while still leaving space for them to fill in the gaps.
Jules: Our 17yo heroine, is the definition of agency. Her choices drive the plot and sometimes, right into dangerous places. Unlike the Bella Swan's of YA, I actually found myself aligning with Jules' choices throughout the book. They weren't always the wisest (I mean, who didn't see Caro coming?? Never trust anyone who only speaks in whisper-tones), but most time I was like, "Yeah, I would've done the same thing." She didn't particularly stand out among the pile of 17-year-old heroines of YA fantasy, but she was strong enough to carry the story. My one complaint, what is "Jules" short for? When she introduces herself to another character, she decides to give the name she's most comfortable with: Jules. This leaves me thinking there's a more formal name she was given at birth. For the love of God, just tell me!
Roan: Our heroine's childhood love and present love interest. He's dreamy, he's charming. I didn't trust him from the moment I met him. And maybe I read right through this, but why doesn't Holland ever explain him?? I mean, I thought it pretty obvious he was sleeping around with the servant girls, but Holland never addresses this outright. I wanted certainty. He always smells like a different perfume (sometimes lavender, sometimes rosewater), and Bea, a servant girl, is always described as smelling of lavender. Seeing as how Roan's engaged to a girl who does NOT smell of lavender... And he's seen traipsing off after Bea down a dark hallway? Um. Roan's a slut, and I just wanted Holland to be like, "yeah, he flirts with everyone, not just Jules."
Liam: The broody older brother and the Gerling with a dark past. I think the author hit too heavily on Liam's attempt to kill his brother. Every time it was mentioned again (mentioned, not explained), it felt less and less probable. None of it made any sense, so Liam was a little difficult to connect to, just because we knew nothing about him other than this time he tried to kill his brother (which I started to realize--fairly early in the book--didn't happen as our heroine remembered it). Overall Liam was a great representation of enemy-turned-friend. In the beginning, he serves as our villain, until Jules' birth mystery starts to take shape. Suddenly, Liam is our partner in figuring out what happened when Jules was born and is the character who fills the reader in on what the hell is happening. It's all v confusing until about p. 200.
Overall, I really loved the representation of powerful women (both heroes and villains) in this book. There was great diversity in age ranges of characters but... unfortunately, just one person of color. And it turns out she was more like an extra with a line or two than a true supporting character. Just left me feeling kinda meh about the level of diversity.
BELIEVABILITY: The lore of the book could be a book on its own. I wouldn't hate a novella of The Fox and The Snake and A Brief History of the Sorceress and Alchemist. All the reveals were packed into the last 5-10% of the book, and the tension and pacing were so tight, I read quickly and felt like I missed some things. You could stand to re-read the last three chapters if you're like me and what to know every detail of how the magic works. The world was expertly built, and all the magic made great sense. There was never a moment (maybe except for the gold time sphere that went back into Jules' skin) where I questioned how or why something magical was happening.
STYLE: The writing was wonderful! It was easy to read, not wordy for wordy sake, and painted gorgeous images for the reader to dive into. I've read many critiques that complain about the lack of action. This is not an action-packed book. It's the story of a girl who unravels the mysterious circumstances surrounding her birth. Through 80% of the book, I was just gathering more questions. Kind of like that show, LOST, where each week you have no new information. Only more questions. That was a bit frustrating, and I wished Holland had given us SOME morsels as a reward for still reading. Still, I can't complain too much. It was a great book!
FINAL THOUGHTS: This wasn't a book I tore through. I would put it down for a day or two, pick it back up, put it down. It was sometimes hard to pick back up, but when I was reading-- at that moment--I would tear through 40+ pages without looking up from the page. If you've been keeping up with my book reviews, you know I am one to complain and point out author-isms that drive me up the wall. I really couldn't find anything in Holland's book that grated on my nerves! A wonderful debut from Sara Holland! But I am a little mad I have to wait until 2019 for Book 2...
Happy reading! And here's a fun book trailer for Everless :)