review: everdark

Note: Everdark is the second book in Elle Jasper’s paranormal romance series, Dark Ink Chronicles. If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Afterlight, you might want to look away. Spoilers ahead.

Everdark by Elle Jasper (2011)

Like the second season of a decent (but not great) television series, Everdark suffers a sophomore slump. Not only does it take a long time (a really long time) for the book to get going, but just when it seems like the story is gaining some momentum, you realize that not a whole lot is happening. Perhaps worse, what does happen seems to be the same thing that happened before, and before that, and before that. Worst of all, once the moment for the big showdown arrives, it’s completely anti-climactic because, well, there really is no showdown. Then the book ends on a cliffhanger. Everdark was a frustrating read for me, and when it came time for me to give it a rating, it only earned two stars (out of five) from me. If you read my review of Afterlight, you know I wasn’t fully invested in the idea of continuing the series after the end of the first book but that I was willing to give it a try. Now that I have finished the second book (and a lot sooner than I had anticipated) I can’t really say I would recommend the series to readers, especially not when there are so many other great book series out there. This goes double for my readers who are on a book budget. Everdark is not available with a Kindle Unlimited subscription, and it also isn’t available through my local library’s print or ebook collections. So if you want to read it, you have to buy it for either full price at your favorite bookstore or search for it during your next trip to your favorite used bookstore. My suggestion—spend your book dollars elsewhere, and don’t feel any reason to rush into reading book two if you’ve recently finished reading Afterlight.

Aside from the series of events that happen in the story for no other reason than to give the semblance of a plot that is moving forward, Riley Poe, our female protagonist, is a little (read: a lot) frustrating in this novel. Rather than being the compelling protagonist I want to follow through the story, she’s impatient, arrogant, and seems not to care about anyone else’s feelings. She also demonstrates she has serious trust issues (not a bad thing in a character) and is either unconscious of how those issues impact her relationships or unwilling to even try to deal with them. Because I’m reading the Dark Ink Chronicles as a series of paranormal romances, there are some conventions of the genre I’m willing to accept. Specifically, I’m willing to accept that in any prototypical romance plot, there’s always friction and conflict between the two lovers as they travel the road to their happy ending. In Everdark, this convention comes into play with Riley and the male protagonist and love interest, Eli Dupré. But the level of friction and confrontation between Riley and Eli makes it hard for me as a reader to stay invested in them as a couple. More problematic (at least for this reader) is that the way Riley handles and approaches her relationship with Eli turns her into a less likable character. While I think every great character has moments where readers (or viewers) don’t like them or the choices they make, and while these moments are vital to character-building and development, for me it’s a problem when the character-building moments make me question if I want to keep following this character along their journey. Right now, that’s exactly where I am with Riley Poe.

After finishing the first book in the series, I walked away thinking that the supporting cast had a lot of potential. Indeed, the supporting cast was one of the things that made me decide to continue the series. However, after reading Everdark, I’m not as hopeful that the supporting cast can make up for the book’s other deficiencies. Remember when I said I really liked the fact that the characters didn’t feel like they were cardboard characters, inserted in order to perform a specific role or as plot devices, but rather seemed to have the potential for developing into more vibrant characters? Well, in Everdark, the supporting cast feels exactly like a group of cardboard characters, existing simply to push the plot forward along (or try to, anyway). Most disappointing is Jasper’s handling of Eli, Seth (Riley’s brother), and Nyx (Riley’s best friend). Seth, who now has tendencies after being bitten and almost turning into a vampire, had the chance to become less of a kid brother that Riley always feels she has to protect and more of a valued member of the team. Although there are moments when Riley recognizes that her brother has changed and grown up, she refuses to give him any real space to find his own barriers and limitations. She keeps putting him back into a box and then wrapping him in soft cotton, and it’s annoying. Nyx—well, by the end of the novel she’s no longer the oblivious human and has been used as a pawn in order for the antagonist of the novel to position Riley right where he wants her. She’s also given a token burgeoning romance with another member of the supporting cast, but again it’s completely superficial and nothing more than window-dressing. Lastly, there’s Eli. I really liked Eli’s character in Afterlight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like him in Everdark, it’s more that Jasper only really allows him to show a couple of different emotions. This is partially because Riley is so intent upon keeping Eli at arm’s length throughout the story, but it’s also the result of Jasper’s refusal to allow Eli to be anything other than the love interest in the story. Because the whole of the story is super-focused on Riley—her feelings, her tunnel vision, and her repeated (and too oft-repeated) insistence on ending the central problem she’s faced with in the story—there’s really no space left for the rest of the characters to evolve or develop.

I didn’t like Everdark. If you’ve read my blog for a while, then you know that’s not a comment I frequently write here. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wrote anything else. Even though there’s a part of me that really does want to know what happens next, I will think twice and thrice and then deliberate some more before picking up the next book in the series, Eventide.

Have you read Everdark or the next book in the series, Eventide? What did you think? Should I keep reading?

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