Ever by Gail Carson Levine

Posted December 16, 2019 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

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Ever

Ever

by Gail Carson Levine

Publisher: HarperCollins on May 1, 2008
Genre: Adventure, Fairytales, Fantasy, Magic, Mesopotamian Mythology, Mythology, Romance
Target Age Group: Middle Grade

Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

Falling in love is easy . . .

. . . for Kezi, a beautiful mortal, dancer, and rug weaver, and for Olus, Akkan god of the winds. Their love brings Kezi the strength to fight her fate, and it gives Olus the strength to confront his fears. Together—and apart—they encounter spiders with webs of iron, the cruel lord of the land of the dead, the mysterious god of destiny, and the tests of the Akkan gods. If they succeed, they will be together; but if they fail, Olus will have to endure the ultimate loss, and Kezi will have to make the supreme sacrifice.

 

This book was deliciously unexpected.

I’ve had mixed experience with Gail Carson Levine – growing up, I remembered reading Ella Enchanted and disliking it (although an adult reread inspired me to reform my opinion) and as such, I didn’t really seek out her books the way may others did.  Somehow, I never put together that one of my childhood favorites – The Two Princesses of Bamarre – was also written by her.  So by all rights, Ever is a book I should have read many years ago, because I would have loved it.

And as an adult, I did love it.  The writing was a little more simplistic than I prefer in a YA novel.  Ever reads as something between middle grade and YA, in as far as the language goes.  While some of Levine’s books have lush descriptions, the language used to describe this world is a little less rich.  However, that doesn’t make the book any less interesting or the mythology any less well-done.

Levine has created her own world in Ever, mixing something between Mesopotamian myth and early Judaism, with a sprinkling of other ancient religions.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find an exact inspiration, so I feel comfortable calling Ever an original fairytale. An answer on Goodreads calls it a retelling from the Torah, and another review I came across labelled it a retelling of Cupid and Psyche’s love story… but it is not quite either of those.  It has all the feel of a Greek love story, including the tragedy.  In that way, it’s even a bit dark at times, including a human sacrifice.  The setting, such far cry from many popular fairytale retellings and much of Levine’s other work, really pulled me into this story.

There’s not a lot to say for the characters – they were interesting in their own way, but they weren’t so unique that they would be memorable.  Kezi is a sweet girl who dances all the time – I really liked that part of her – but I never really got a feel for what she looked like in the writing, only how she moved which was so important to her character.  Olus, the god of the wind, is described more by his emotional outbursts and the winds themselves, having very little depth to him.  As far as gods go, Olus is young and his lack of depth makes some sense, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t left wanting more.

In line with the simplistic writing style comes an overly simplified love story – in this case, it’s instalove.  The two characters are immediately drawn to one another, even before they’ve formally met.  While it fits within the parameters of this story, it’s not something I enjoy reading, and it only fits here because of how uncomplex the story is as a whole.

Outside of the mythology, I really enjoyed the themes.  Levine doesn’t shy away from complex ideas in her books, even though her audience is younger.  One of the major themes in Ever is uncertainty, and in this, Kezi spends a lot of time looking for her god Admant, the one and only.  She struggles with theological questions such as how present her god truly is and who scribed the writings – god or man?  There is conversation about the wrongness of human sacrifice as well.  All of it was interesting, and written by someone who is religious, I felt it was done tastefully.  Some religious readers will find this off-putting, and in such, this may not be the best book for them, but I appreciated the discussion around this taboo topic in religion.

That said, I don’t think the book was overly religious.  Religion simply plays a major part in mythology, and it’s expected in retellings.  What makes this one stand out is that one of the belief systems is based around an omniscient, omnipotent deity that may hit a little too close to home for some people.  I felt it was tastefully done within the setting and of course, it should be remembered that this is fiction.

To, to sum it all up – the characters were nothing to write home about, but in a world populated with Cinderella retellings, this original fairytale in a fertile crescent setting with gods and heroes felt so fresh and original.  The writing feels geared for younger audiences, but woven in, there are some heavy topics, and if you’re a fan of the genre or author, this is a quick read and a good choice.

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Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★
Total: ★★★★

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Do you prefer myth retellings, or fairytale retellings?  I think I’ve read so many fairytale retellings that myths pull me in more.  How about you?  Let me know in the comments!

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