This book has a lot going for it. First is the surprisingly good-looking and relevant cover. Second is the cast of denizens of Savannah, Georgia’s darker side, including tattoo artists, vampires, and Gullah mystics. Third is a plot filled with pop culture, violence, murder, mysticism, sex, and more sex. Unfortunately, in this instance, all these elements added together equal a huge, resounding, yawn.
As the book opens, the heroine, Riley Poe, is recovering from her adventures in the previous book. She, her brother, and her brother’s friends have all gained vampiric tendencies from contact with ancient vampires, and they are all residing on an unpopulated island so they can assimilate their new powers in peace and safety. Riley is also detoxing from the poison that infected her when she was bitten by one of the ancients. Riley’s vampire boyfriend, Eli, and his family are there to help, along with Riley’s adopted grandparents, a pair of Gullah mystics. Much of Riley’s recovery is spent in a daze of bloodlust, for which a large part of the cure seems to be having lots of outside and ocean sex with Eli.
When Riley stops attacking people and everyone is sufficiently cured and trained, the party returns to their normal lives in Savannah. For a time it seems that Riley will be able to just enjoy her relationships and run her tattoo shop (are they still called parlors nowadays?), but unfortunately the events of the past catch up with her. The ancient vampire brother that wasn’t killed has formed a bond with Riley, and is able to enter her dreams, intent on seduction. Riley also starts having waking visions of a vicious vampire stalking and murdering humans. Three newling vampires, humans changed during the battle with the ancient vampires, waltz right into Riley’s home and attack Riley and her best friend Nyx, outting Riley and almost killing Nyx. Then a vampire guardian from a neighboring community arrives in Savannah with news that newling vampires now outnumber the band of vampire guardians in a neighboring city, Charleston. The newlings are running an illegal fight club in order to identify the strongest and most skilled fighters, so they can be later changed and added to the newling band. The newlings are deemed the biggest threat, so Riley, Eli and company road-trip over to Charleston to infiltrate the fight club and stop the newlings.
Riley and Eli’s relationship took such a number of hits during this book that it became annoying. They repeatedly have that hackneyed old argument about his wanting to protect her, and her wanting to protect herself. To Riley, Eli’s protectiveness semed to equal disrespect. Worse was the fact that several times Riley really did need protecting and Eli wasn’t there. Also, for some reason, when Riley starts having the waking visions of the murdering vampire, she doesn’t want to trouble Eli with them. That decision seemed so stupid and out of character that I was actually glad when Eli found out and was angry with her about it. Later, when Eli becomes jealous of the dream seduction by the surviving ancient vampire brother, he leaves Riley in a fit of pique, negating all his talk of “protection”.
Particularly troublesome for me was the amount of repetition in the writing. The book is written in first person, and I don’t know how many times Riley “shook my head and smiled”, but it was way too many. The characters are constantly winking and grinning and smiling and teasing and flirting and rolling their eyes. Rather than engaging the reader it just all rang false. Eli and Riley’s sexual relationship seemed false also. They had sex constantly and would go from furious with each other to wanting each other bad within a couple of sentences. Maybe all the banter and sex were an attempt to lighten the tone of a very dark book, but it didn’t work for me and I think the book would have been better left dark.
What makes Everdark a yawn is that almost everything good about it is made bad somehow. The cast could be interesting, but isn’t. Take Riley. I’m sure a lot of readers, especially those interested in ink themselves, would love to read about an avant garde tattoo artist living Riley’s life. She’s a one time druggie with a very dark past and her character could be angsty and interesting. Instead Riley’s a goody-goody who only appears interesting. The writing isn’t bad, but boring. The dialogue is well written, but what is said is stupid. The bad guys are either easily dispatched or…sigh… misunderstood.
I didn’t hate Everdark, because its hard to hate a book you forget completely as soon as you’re done reading it, but I can’t recommend it.