The premise for Nevermore intrigued me. I had to buy it. I was dying to read it. And for the first three hundred or four hundred pages, it was a pretty solid tale. Yet like anything wondering through a dense forest, it risked losing its way... and once it veered from the path, it never seemed able to make it back to civilization again.
There is a lot of good in this book, and I will make certain to cover that. But I would be lying to you if I didn't make it absolutely clear that I was extremely disappointed by the time that I closed it for the last time.
When cheerleader and all around popular girl Isobel is paired with moody, goth Varen for an English project she thinks her English teacher must be out of his mind. The two can barely stand speaking to each other. How are they going to work together? It's vital that they get a good grade on the project -- if Isobel's English grade is poor she'll lose her place on the cheer squad. Yet as she gets to know Varen better, she becomes intrigued and the two slowly develop a friendship which might just be something more...
This plot concept had everything that should have made me love the book. A slow building, interesting romance. Characters that I cared about (if I don't care about the characters, the plot doesn't matter). A creepy paranormal element that was fresh and original. So, why am I giving it two hearts?
First up: the way that the book was organized with regard to the paranormal elements did not work for me. Our hero and heroine don't really work 'together', which means that the author squandered some great opportunities to let us see them interact. The overall way that the paranormal element was more based on description then action until the last hundred or so pages also made its presence so minor that when it came up there was part of me that wanted to skip it and get back to watching the chemistry between Isobel and Varen develop.
Second: Because what I liked most about the book was the chemistry that Creagh built between Isobel and Varen, the last hundred or so pages where the two were almost exclusively separated made me want to fall asleep. Creagh's writing was vivid, her dreamworld was rich and vibrant with detail and interesting creatures... But I just wasn't interested. All I wanted was for Isobel and Varen to be reunited and escape. And I didn't get what I wanted, which made me very cranky as a reader. (*laughs*)
The best parts of the book were the interactions between Varen and Isobel, Isobel's growing friendship with Gwen, and the behavior of Isobel's old "crew" as she became more and more her own person. I liked the fact that, at least for a part of the story, that falling for Varen was actually making her stronger and more able to stand on her own two feet.
I liked the fact that Isobel and Varen both rose above being the stereotypes that they could have been. I loved watching them grow as a pair and thought that the effect they had on each other was both very sweet and very well handled. Watching how they went from practically hating each other to caring about each other so deeply was a rare treat -- Creagh did a fantastic job at making the way their opinions of each other changed seem believable and moving.
The other big round of applause in the character department has to go to how well Isobel's parents were developed and how actively they were a part of the story. In a genre where parents are so often missing in action this was a refreshing change that I'd like to see more of.
What we get to see here is absolutely fantastic. It is real, interesting and very personal to the characters of Isobel and Varen. The things that they do together are simple and normal for the majority of the book and the fact that it takes hundreds of pages for them to finally have their first kiss was absolute torture that was totally worth the wait.
The problem, of course, is that shortly after this they are separated for the remainder of the book and that the remainder of the book is over a hundred pages long. This sets up conflict for the next book, of course. (I believe this is suppose to be a trilogy?) but I am far more interested in conflicts between a hero and heroine who are in close proximity then I am in those that are the result of their separation. It actually dulls what they feel (in my opinion) and allows me to distance myself from their problem(s). It pulls me from the story and reminds me I am reading a book. (Psst, writers... That's a bad thing.)
What Creagh did with Reynolds to set up the story for the next book is brilliant and it does leave me wondering what Varen will think of her by the time they meet again. Yet now that Creagh has shown me she is willing to go this route in a book I am, to some degree, weary to read more from her because I know this is not my kind of thing. A pity, because it was all going fantastically well until the separation happened and then all I could think was "Oh, noooo..."
I don't say this often, but I must say it here: this book had pacing issues. A lot of them. There were too many descriptions of things I didn't care about. The paranormal element went from background noise to being Isobel and it only by the end, and the romance got shoved to the side at the end of the book because of the choice to separate Isobel and Varen for such a long period of time. (A separation that will continue in the sequel. Will I read it? Sure. Am I waiting with baited breath? No.)
There are two things you must understand with regard to my review. (1) I do not have a thorough background in reading Poe. For someone who is familiar with his writing and poetry, the paranormal element here might be totally fantastic and spine tinglingly frightening. (2) I am often harder on books that I have been anxiously waiting to read if they disappoint me. Especially if they disappoint me at the end or in the later parts of the book.
Nevermore disappointed me in ways I could not have expected and that I was not prepared for. It is a reasonably well written and interesting story, but by the time that I closed it at the end, I was glad that it was over. That's not how you want me to feel at the end if you want to keep me as a reader.