Some of these books I read should be looked at in Sociology classes. They’re terrific ways of looking at alternative worlds with our same type of human behaviours within.
Sara Holland’s description best explains it so I’m going to steal it for this little section: “In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan.” Yeah. This currency is known as blood-iron. Coins made of this substance, which I suspect would have a chemical compound, are made up of hours, of days, months, years…and, well, Jules Ember and her father used to live in the kingdom of Everless and get by very well with her father’s blacksmith job. That is until prince (or whoever he is) Liam Gerling attempted to kill her and her friend, Roan Gerling, who’s also his brother. Now scraping by until they cannot anymore, Jules’ dad ends up one day having to pay off a debt with literally years of his own life, but Jules goes behind his back and gets accepted as a maid back into the Everless kingdom to get some more time to keep them ready. She has to avoid the eyes of those who would be familiar with her, and keep her distance from the highest powers. That will be harder and harder as more people tell her something big is to happen which involves her.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman was a book featured in a world of human immortality, except for the minuscule amount who had to be killed – gleaned – to prevent overpopulation catastrophe, and the leading scythes wanted to go against the strict rules and kill who they pleased and how much they wanted. Half Bad by Sally Green was a world of witches and wizards, except there were conditions as to how someone could get superpowers and the elite went up against the protagonist Nathan because of his father’s history. What I’m saying is there are loads of genius concepts young-adult authors have invented, and a noticeable pattern is how the people living in these strange worlds have adapted and fought for power. And Everless is one of the most intricate and genius ideas for an alternate world in a long time.
Similarly to Scythe, it touches on the fear of death, and looks at living like money by literally combining the two. After all, those with more money tend to live longer because of better resources, significant safety, and more beneficial laws. Now imagine the most wealthy have lived for centuries while the 99% have had their life expectancy drop by decades. And this book spends a majority of its time regarding the worst this world has to offer, and each time we buy these ideas Holland invents. Someone fragile but rich holding on for dear life? Loan shops for time with lineups like Six Flags Magic Mountain? Archivists sucking at their work because who the heck cares? Using blood-iron to help flowers stay alive longer in the rich gardens?
Unlike other young-adult books that have the main character in a big mansion, and there are a lot (The Selection, Julia Vanishes, The Jewel, House of Furies) this one has a main character already familiar with it. This allows her to remember the layout and gardens and some of the people, giving these reminiscing scenes flair and edge. To this day I love being able to return to places I hadn’t seen in years, like plazas and streets I saw on vacation.
It took me a long time to finish this book, because right before I was to finish it, I began to get very lonely. People kept cancelling on me and I heard bad news about one of my friends. I felt no one had time to be with me in this hard time, and I still kind of do right now. There are some situations a book or movie just can’t heal no matter how good it is. But in spite of all this, I never questioned whether Everless was a good book or not.
After the halfway point, it slows down a little, as it prepares for a big wedding and has us thinking about flashbacks and if everyone is who they appear, and there are a few moments that feel a little conventional. Still, good on Holland for really utilizing this premise of time being the currency and therefore enemy of life.