My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Original, addictive and frustrating as hell. This is one of those books where I just wanted to give the main character a good shake but couldn’t put it down.
Time is a prison. She is the key. Packed with danger, temptation and desire – a perfect read for fans of The Red Queen.
In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything – even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.
Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.
There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever … and possibly the future of time itself.
There seems to be a lot of buzz about this book and I have to admit I was a little bit skeptical going in. Is there anything truly original left to do in YA fantasy? But actually, Holland does somehow manage it. Yes there are a lot of the familiar tropes but the central concept, that in this land time is used as a currency, is absolutely brilliant. Add to that some wonderful writing and world building and this is a book that’s definitely worth reading.
There is something instantly likeable about the authors writing style and the whole story feels very much like a fairytale, from the dark and dangerous woods, the poor peasant girl with the sickly father, powerful royals and secrets from the past. In the beginning it reminded me a little of beauty and the beast as Jules takes on her fathers debt in order to save him, venturing to the palace they ran from when she was a child to work as a servant. In Everless she finds cruelty, greed and excess but she also finds friends, old and new, and begins to uncover the secrets from her past.
The story is a little predictable, I saw pretty much everything coming, but while it’s frustrating watching Jules do ridiculously stupid things and trusting the wrong people it does make for some addictive reading. I was literally shouting at the pages but I couldn’t stop turning them.
Jules as you can probably tell drove me crazy. She is kind and brave but she’s a little too naive and trusting and I’m not sure that really changes over the course of the story. The other characters are a bit more complex and many are not as they first appear, although again the author scatters enough hints that nothing is wholly unexpected.
The pacing of the story is pretty much spot on and the author creates a very believable and engaging world. There are a few areas I think the author could have developed further, maybe that will come in subsequent books, but there are moments that are absolutely wonderful, shocking, touching, tragic or jaw dropping.
There is plenty of action and intrigue, a few twists and a little bit of romance to carry the story along to a pretty epic conclusion, although with this being the first in a series there are of course a few unanswered questions and a bit of a cliffhanger. This is the authors debut novel so it’s not perfect but it definitely shows a lot of promise and I will certainly be looking out for more.
Overall a great start to the series with a very unique premise and some wonderful writing. I’d recommend you give this series a try if you love YA fantasy and are looking for something a little different.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.