The estate of Everless is formidible in Sempera. For Jules it is a symbol of what life was. Both she and her father had been cast out several years before and now live in squalor in the village of Compton, struggling to survive. In Sempera however there is a way to make money, it is terrible and dangerous and has brought her father close to death - blood iron. Time distilled through bloodletting. An hour, day or even a year can be taken but clearly with a toll for those who rely on it to as a means to survive on only the most basic of means. When an opportunity arises to gain work on the Everless estate, Jules sees an opportunity to lift her and her father out of debt, as long as she can remain unnoticed by the Gerling children, her childhood playmates. However, the work being offered is preparing the estate for the upcoming wedding of her childhood beau Roan and the Queen of Sempera's Ward, Ina; will Jules be able to stay away from her past?
As Jules becomes more embroiled in the wedding preparations she finds herself forging an unlikely friendship with Ina and stumbling down a path that reveals more about her past than she ever could have imagined and also a danger which shakes her to the very core.
Everless for me was a really enjoyable read. When I read the first chapter, I had to eye roll massively as we start out with Jules, the young female protagonist out as a huntress in the forest, searching for food for survival, this was thankfully one of only a few tropes and it quickly found it's own feet. Despite the shaky start for me, Jules is an immensely likeable character. She feels horribly wronged by the Gerlings and with good reason, she saved Roan's life, but in one of Everless's best kept secrets she was simply blamed for the burning down of her fathers forge on the estate and they had to flee. Her father, once highly skilled, has now suffered so greatly by the giving of time through blood iron that he hangs on by barely a thread. She shows immense bravery by wanting to attend the blood letters herself to pay the rent debt, but like so many things in the story her best intentions are always taken out of her hands. Only just 17 and having been treated so badly in the past, she is incredibly trusting, despite outwardly projecting otherwise. I was surprised how easily she was able to forge friendships, however there is much to be said for solidarity.
Her inquisitiveness far outweighs her common sense though and despite many warnings she continues to follow a path of investigating her heritage born out by a strange ability to slow the passing of time when she is emotionally heightened. The twists and revelations in relation to this are fantastic, there was so much I didn't see coming and I really enjoyed the excursions out of the Everless Estate (perhaps a lovely map wouldn't go amiss in book 2) which really helped prevent the story becoming stagnant in a single setting.
Everless was a huge page turner for me, I really love this kind of traditional fantasy and although there were a few points that didn't really work for me (like why would she throw away a year blood iron into the lake a breath after saying she would search through the mud if she has lost one) for the majority I found the story to be utterly engaging with a huge amount of originality. I am looking forward to hopefully having some aspects of the story explored further in book 2 as the true story of Jules's heritage for me was captivating.