June 12, 2013

Every Never After

by Lesley Livingston
242 pp.
Ages 12+

Since curses are the order of the day in Every Never After, and in its prequel Once Every Never (Puffin, 2011), I would like to serve up my own.  OK, not really but Lesley Livingston: Why? Why? Why? Why would you drop readers cliffside, or at least Glastonbury Tor-side, with the last four sentences of your newest book?  And no respite until when? 2014? Not fair!

Now that I've got my Mercer-esque rant out, I can surprisingly and honestly inform the reader that I was so captivated by Every Never After, and every nuance of every interaction between familiar and new characters, that I was devastated by its ending.  So, if Lesley Livingston had not created yet another fantasy of such richness and emotional quality, I would not have yelled out, "NO!" upon reading those last words.  So, Lesley Livingston, it's your fault.

Wow.  That rant does seem to go on, doesn't it?  

Every Never After begins shortly after Once Every Never (reviewed here) resolves itself with 17-year-old Clare Reid's successful return from her "shimmering" time slip into the first century AD when Boudicca, Queen of the British Iceni tribe, fought the advances of the Romans.  Now, Clare and her best friend, Allie McAllister, have been accepted to help out on an archaeological dig at Glastonbury Tor, a distinctive hill with known historical significance and claims of faery and Arthurian connections.  Along with the other "trowel monkeys" excavating under the direction of Dr. Nicky Ashbourne, the girls will be recording a video blog of their work. And Allie's cousin, Milo McAllister, who Clare is dating, is joining them to put his computer and mapping skills to work developing a virtual dig-site app for the museum. 

Clare's relationship with Milo is making Allie feel a bit like a third-wheel so she is happy to continue working one day when Clare and Milo go off early for lunch.  Videotaping it on her iPad for the blog, Allie excavates a skull and disappears in a flashes and waves of darkness and colours before dropping into the midst of violent clashes between Roman cavalry soldiers and berserking Druidesses.  Though rescued by a Roman legionnaire, Marcus Donatus, Allie is manacled and kept with the other prisoners until her status is clarified and her fate determined by the ailing Praefect Postumus.  And who should she discover in the prisoners' tent but Stuart Morholt, the same "ass-hat" who'd grabbed the torc from Clare (in Once Every Never), resulting in his deliverance to the first century AD.

Meanwhile, once realizing that Allie has disappeared by some very unlike "shimmering" episode, Clare and Milo are desperate to locate her.  Destiny has them making the acquaintance of Piper Gimble, snidely nicknamed Goggles by Clare.  Piper is in possession of a family "heirloom" that has been passed from generation to generation -- a tin box scratched with instructions from Stuart Morholt that it only be opened by Clarinet Reid.  Seems the pompous Stuart Morholt (yes, a man from the present) is an ancestor of Piper's having had a dalliance with Boudicca's sister centuries before he is/was actually born. 

(Temporally it might be difficult to keep straight what happened first and then what arose from that point. Maybe it's a chicken-egg argument.  Just remember: this is fantasy.  It doesn't have to make sense in our world.  Just believe that Lesley Livingston capably keeps the plot lines synced.)

Clare and Allie may have been sympathetic to the Celts whose land is/was being annexed violently by the Romans but, through the eyes of Marcus Donatus, Allie begins to see the Romans, or at least some of them, in a different light.  It seems Marcus Donatus is actually teen Mark O'Donnell who disappeared from Glastonbury Tor in the 1980's when Stuart Morholt and several of his devotees, including Clare's Aunt Maggie, performed some mystic ritual.  Twenty-five years may have passed in our world but it has only been four years in Marcus' new one.  And geeky Mark O'Donnell is/was now a hunky Roman legionnaire whose loyalty to Postumus and concern for Allie has her crushing on him. 

Confused yet?  Well, it's just the way I tell it, because from Lesley Livingston's pen, it is all handled beautifully.  The subplots of the two different time periods (or are there three?) merge courtesy of Clare and Milo's actions bringing them to the Roman camp of Allie's current circumstances. (OK, that's definitely an oxymoron.  How can the past be current?)  I won't tell you how it ends, though you might recall my earlier rant.  Suffice it to say that Every Never After climaxes with a maelstrom of ancient battles, romantic revelations, sacrifice, and mystic time-slips that will leave the reader reassured that Clare has accomplished her "mission" but, if the readers are anything like me, desperately awaiting the third book in the series, ever hopeful for a happy ending.

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