Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Beautiful and Heartbreaking Conclusion to the Everneath Series

Forget second book syndrome, the final book is the most nerve-wracking one of a series. If you come to love the characters and the world they live in, if you can't seem to let go yet, it's a whole different feeling while reading the conclusion. Because, at the end of the book, it's over. Done. Final. And afterward, your emotions are a rollercoaster ride of feelings. The journey was worth it, but you feel like you've lost a loved one, a dear friend. 

I knew this book was going to destroy me. I knew it was going to break me. But I wouldn't change anything about it, because I thought it was the best ending possible for one of my favorite series. :)


***SPOILERS AHEAD***

No, seriously, don't keep reading if you haven't read this book!!

Many, many spoilers ahead...

Read at your own risk. ;)

I don't even know where to start with this, so I'll try the beginning. In the end of Everbound, Nikki finds out that Cole tricked her into becoming an Everliving. Her answer: I'm going to destroy the Everneath. And that had me pumping my fist in the air and shouting Hell yes! It's decisions like those that make love a heroine, especially Nikki, even more than I already do. 

Nikki's character growth from beginning to end was beautiful to watch unfold. She was so broken, so miserable in Everneath after returning from the Feed. She'd had only six months to live before the Shades came for her, and only six months to say goodbye to the people she loves. But she's a strong character, one who fights for her life and fights for the people she loves. She never gave up, and Jack would never let her give up. 

The relationship between Nikki and Jack was so sweet and so true. I knew, even in Everneath, that Cole would never be a contender for her heart. It was always Jack. Ever Yours. Everything they went through, every obstacle, every choice, every mistake, made them stronger. Not just as individuals, but together. The connection between them was so tangible that it was hard to believe anything would come between them. Their bond was unbreakable, and it showed throughout all three novels. Even when they disagreed, especially about the realization that Nikki would rather die than take a Forfeit, it never once broke them. It never once made them want to destroy the love they have. If anything, it just made them stronger. They are childhood sweethearts, and I love how their relationship stayed true to who they were as characters. Jack was a total swoon-worthy hero who would do whatever it took to save Nikki. It's in that selfless love that made them seem even more potent and real.

However, I absolutely adored the relationship between Nikki and Cole. Like I said above, I knew that Cole was never a contender for her heart. But that didn't stop me from loving their relationship. It was complex and had so much depth, and it was incredibly emotional. Love may be the most powerful emotion of all, but hate is just as potent. So is rage. So is hurt. Nikki was so angry at Cole for what he did, so hurt that her friend betrayed her. And that's the difference between her relationships with the two guys. Jack was always her soulmate, the guy who knows her inside and out, the one who makes her realize that life's worth living. But Cole was her friend first and foremost (even if he had ulterior motives). Cole and Nikki had chemistry, but what was more striking with their relationship for me was the fact that Nikki realized she could forgive him. That she wanted to. I think, had this ended a different way, Nikki and Cole would have gone on to become friends. Good friends. Because for all the hurt and anger and hate that were swirling between them, love and forgiveness and redemption were much stronger. It was a different kind of love than Jack's and Nikki's; it was a selfless kind, a warmth, a caring. In the end, Nikki forgave him. And Cole forgave himself.
I bit my lip to keep it from trembling. "Give me your heart," I said. 
He tilted his head, leaned forward, watching my eyes the entire time to make sure it was okay, and kissed me lightly on the lips. "You already have it."
*sobs uncontrollably* Dear God, those two simple sentences broke my heart in two. I think I knew. No, scratch that. I think I was certain while reading Evertrue that the end for Cole was always death. I love that bad boy with all my heart, but honestly? This was exactly how the book was supposed to end. And that last scene with Cole and Nikki was absolutely beautiful, and heartbreaking, and intense. But the most beautiful part of this book for me was Cole's redemption. He did some horrible things; he'd been a horrible person before he met Nikki. But in Evertrue, we see the real Cole, the one he hides deep down inside. And thanks to a certain plot twist, we see the true depth of his character and we learn more about his past. The character growth that he went through was absolutely amazing. The sheer complexity of Cole was written brilliantly. He had so much depth, but we just never got to see much of it (which, I was kind of sad about). But he became the kind of tortured hero that I love reading about, and ultimately, he sacrificed himself for love. 

People will be mad about this, I know. I just hope they understand that this series was more than just a love triangle, more than just Team Cole and Team Jack. Because if you think about it, Cole was never going to end up with the girl. And I was okay with that. This was one of the most well-done love triangles I've ever read, so I was completely happy with what happened. Not because I was rooting for Jack and Nikki (I just always knew they were perfect for each other). But because I was Team Cole, as in he was my favorite character in this series. And because I saw his death coming but knew what it meant for his character. For Cole, Nikki was the only reason he had to live. When he watched his band mates, his best friends die, he lost his home. It was in that moment that I knew. And when I found out that the only way Nikki, Jack, and Cole could destroy the Everneath was to destroy all of the Everlivings, I knew there was no other way it could end. Not for Cole. And if you think about it, it was the perfect ending for him. Not only because he'd accepted it, but because he did the ultimate thing for love. He let Nikki go so she could live a long and happy life with Jack. And that was his ultimate redemption. But damn if my heart doesn't still hurt.

The mythology in this book is pure genius. The sheer complexity of the Everneath, and the crazy plot twists, had me completely scared because I never saw the ending coming until a few chapters before it. I was undeniably certain in the beginning that Nikki would eventually become Queen. I just never thought they'd be able to destroy the Everneath, especially since it all happened so quickly. Ha, so I suppose I was right that she would become Queen; I just didn't expect that they would actually take down this mythological Underworld that's been around for thousands of years! I should have expected it, considering how utterly crazy these characters are and how kickass they can be! I took my time with this book, wanting to savor all of the moments. The way the author unraveled the story-line had me not wanting to finish it. It was intense; it was gripping. It was so damn emotional and heartbreaking. But it was utterly captivating with its complex characters and poignant moments in-between the suspense. 

I just, love this series so much. Every book was better than the last, and this final stage was a truly epic conclusion. This series was more than just a love triangle, more than just Nikki's choices and mistakes, more than her regret, more than just life or death. It was love and healing; redemption and forgiveness. It was about knowing when to let go and picking the right choice even when it caused unfathomable pain. It was about true love between two characters who couldn't imagine a life without the other. It was about redemption for a character who learned what it meant to live and what it meant to love. Evertrue was an amazing ending for these characters and this series. It was so right and so perfect