A Few Quick Notes:
1. Both of these reviews are spoiler-free. Although they may be a little vague - and quite short - they are written that way to avoid spoilers for the entire series. If you haven't read Everneath or even heard too much about it, you still won't be spoiled in the least. While I really enjoyed Everbound I couldn't say much specifically about character growth and what-not without giving away spoilers but for Evertrue I was able to make a lot of generalizations for this series as a whole, reflecting back, but rest assured that despite the differences in the size of their respective reviews, neither contain spoilers.
2. I rated Everneath 4 Stars. I didn't review it, but I did review the short novella set in-between the time periods when Everneath ended and Everbound starts. You can read my review for that prequel novella HERE if you're curious since I do mention it briefly in my review of Everbound below.
Title: Everbound (Everneath, #2)
Author: Brodi Ashton
Rating: 4 Stars
Everbound is easily the best this series has to offer. Not only is the world-building drastically expanded upon, realistic and visual, but the characters are revealed to contain even more depths than we originally imagined. If there is anyone who steals the show in this installment, though, it is Cole. From the beginning itself we can tell that there is a lot more to Cole than what meets the naked eye and while the prequel novella to this installment didn't convince me of his character, this novel certainly did, painting him to be a deeply misunderstood character. With Nikki we travel deeper into the Everneath, but we also see deeper into Cole, finally getting his backstory, meeting his friends, and putting together thousands of miniscule pieces. It's intriguing, to say the least, and makes this middle book shockingly exciting.
Even the pace of Everbound never lets up, traveling from the Surface to the Everneath and back and forth and back and forth. With so many scene changes, Ashton is able to keep the urgency of Nikki's quest alive. Moreover, short flashback stories dispersed throughout the novel keep Jack fresh in our minds, despite the fact that Nikki and Cole's friendship takes precedence. Ashton never blurs the lines between these two, proving that the classic love triangle can and will be disregarded if need be. Instead, Ashton uses her main leads to their full potential, tying together mythology, relationship, and words in a seamless manner. Granted, the cliffhanger at the end of this novel is a real gut-ripper, but it's almost worth it considering the executive brilliance throughout this book. But only almost. ;)
Title: Evertrue (Everneath, #3)
Author: Brodi Ashton
Rating: 3 Stars
Although Evertrue is a satisfactory conclusion to this trilogy, I still found myself a little disappointed. First and foremost, Ashton must be commended in the way she resolved the love triangle between Nikki, Jack, and Cole. One of the only reasons I've been able to consistently continue with this series is because it is clear that Nikki loves Jack and Jack alone. Yet, the friendship she sustains with Cole - dark, vague, but still strong - is a lovely relationship that is gradually built upon with each novel. As such, the resolution of this romantic dilemma is not so much a surprise as it is a heartwarming farewell. While Evertrue excels in this regard, tying up all the loose ends neatly, it tends to lag in parts and, moreover, the inclusion of our full team of characters on board sadly detracts from the story as a whole.
Ashton's debut trilogy is such a departure from the classic set-up precisely because of its subject matter. Since it explores the ramifications of a mythological Greek Underworld set in our universe, not all the main characters have been present from Page 1. Whether it be Nikki, Jack, or Cole, each of them have spent an equal amount of time in both the Everneath and the Surface, though not always together. In Evertrue they're all finally reunited, different people from when they first met but similar in the ways that count most. Unfortunately, though, instead of utilizing this plot set-up to its full potential, Ashton sacrifices tell-tale character personalities for the sake of conveniently solving the dilemmas she has created. I cannot explain this any better without giving away spoilers, but while I expected Nikki, Jack, and Cole to fit into the molds we've come to associate them with, certain plot devices prevented that from fully occurring and, as such, took away from the overall enjoyment of this story.
While the pacing of this book is a slight issue, it is easily overlooked and forgivable. What isn't, however, so easy to let go of is the fact that Nikki's father and brother, secondary characters who have been present throughout the series, are ultimately not fleshed out to their full potential. Although Everneath may not have been the strongest debut, the raw emotions Nikki felt in being reunited with her broken family, lovesick boyfriend, and worried friends made the novel stand out. From the first word to the last, Ashton is a master at forcing her readers to feel every emotion, particularly if it is a complex one. With every installment, I've enjoyed how Ashton has pushed and pulled our perceptions of the characters we've come to love. Nothing remains in stasis, especially the gray matter apparent in these books which shifts around from one character to the next. With such detailed personas at our fingertips, the underused characters are starkly highlighted and, sadly, disappointing in comparison. Although I initially appreciated that Ashton kept Nikki's family a realistic element of this series, I wish that her father's role as Mayor was truthfully conveyed instead of standing as a convenient plot point (as does her summer classes, etc.).
And there, perhaps, is where my root issue with this book lies: convenience. While Nikki and Jack have been frantically chasing down contacts to find out more about the Everneath, a mere professor is able to decipher an old document and re-cap everything that Jack and Nikki have learned in the past two installments - and more! Fulfilling the task Nikki set out to achieve isn't simple, but it lost its sense of urgency since events snowballed into creating a solution. Evertrue is very firmly a reading experience: a reader from the outside looking at words on a page of how a challenge is overcome. Unlike with Everbound where the reader is practically in the tunnels with Nikki herself, this sequel failed to capture those same emotions. Nevertheless, the themes running through these books - fate, redemption, forgiveness, humanity, friendship, love - are all important ones that resonate even more soundly with each installment. Ashton's characters are impeccably drawn, her writing crisp and accessible, and her ideas creative in a genre starving for innovation. As such, despite the rough patches I ran into with this book, I'm definitely on board for whatever Ashton writes next.