The Evermen Saga  |  James Maxwell  |  Fiction, Fantasy  |  2014

Book One: Enchantress
Book Two: The Hidden Relic
Book Three: The Path of the Storm
Book Four: The Lore of the Evermen

The one-month challenge

About a month ago I signed up for a free monthly trial of Kindle Unlimited, and, in order to maximise this non-purchase, decided to read all four books of The Evermen Saga before its expiry.  Of course I wasn’t going to continue with book two had the first one failed to engage me, but as I did enjoy the first book (as well as the rest), I was able to complete the series before the end of the trial period.

The great thing about reading each book in succession within a short amount of time (roughly one per week), was that I had no problem remembering previous events, characters that hadn’t appeared for a while, names of places, important objects, etc.  However, ‘powering through’ each book did feel slightly overwhelming in terms of the progression of events and the speed at which everything tied together in the end.

If you’re thinking about starting The Evermen Saga, know that it’s meant to be read in order–each book builds on the previous one.  However, there are two primary antagonists and two independent wars that split the first & second books apart from the third & fourth.   This is something I wish I had known beforehand, for I flew through Enchantress and The Hidden Relic, but dragged my feet a bit when starting The Path of the Storm.  I was really enjoying the story, but after the second book I needed a break to digest the events up to that point, rejoice in the short-lived peace the characters had so rightly earned, and spend time building excitement for what was to come next.

Summary (contains spoilers)

The Evermen Saga is a fantasy adventure tale about two siblings, Ella and Miro, and the wars that plague their beloved empire of Merralya.  The foundation of the story is set around a black, oily, liquid substance called ‘essence’, which can be used as a substitute for ink to write symbols (runes) on inanimate objects to give them magical properties.  Once an item has been inscribed with runes, an activation word(s) must be said aloud to trigger the magic.

Both Ella and Miro are quite adept in the knowledge of lore (the understanding of how runes and essence work together), Ella in writing and creating sequences, and Miro in using magic-infused items (especially battle weapons).

In the first two books Ella and Miro battle Primate Melovar Aspen, a delusional kind of high priest, who starts a war to take over the empire and rid it of essence.  The reader follows Ella and Miro as they independently traverse across the land experiencing different cultures, climates, and geographies, whilst gaining allies and enemies, overcoming trials, engaging in battles, and learning about lore.  At the end of the second book, Ella and Miro defeat the Primate, bring a close to the war, and begin to rebuild their divided empire.

The last two books, The Path of the Storm and the Lore of the Evermen, are quite similar to the first two in regards to the focus on adventuring to new places, meeting new people, surviving the battle-filled war, etc., but with a new antagonist: Sentar Scythian.

After two peaceful years since the end of the first war, chaos rises once again as Sentar, one of the all-powerful ‘evermen’, returns to Merralya to conquer the empire.  The evermen are people who have the ability to use runes and essence on their own bodies as opposed to non-living objects, and therefore have tremendous powers and can survive hundreds of years.  Sentar raises an army of undead revenants to take over the empire, and Ella and Miro bring together all their allies, skills, and knowledge accumulated over their previous experiences to overcome Sentar and his army, and bring peace back to Merralya.

Thoughts (contains spoilers)

1. POV

The reader follows the story from a variety of character perspectives, but mostly through Ella and Miro.  Later on, we hear more from Amber, Ella’s childhood friend and Miro’s love interest, as well as Killian, another one of the evermen and Ella’s love interest.  In addition, there are a handful of secondary and tertiary characters that frequently pop up for ‘guest character’ chapters that offer short-lived, alternative perspectives.

I enjoyed the varying POV’s as they gave a wider view of the entire story, and I thought the perspective changes between characters were timed well, so there weren’t too many unbearable cliff-hangers.

2. Setting

The empire of Merralya is large enough to have all manner of environments such as a cold, snow-filled north, an arid, sandy south, and luscious greenery and mountainous regions in between.  It is surrounded by water on its eastern, southern, and western fronts, whilst the icy north carries on to frigid places unknown.  In addition to Merralya, we find out that there is another empire of similar size across the sea (ocean?) to the west; and that essence can create portals to other worlds (although we only get a glimpse into one).

I loved the map that Maxwell created, and found it useful to keep it bookmarked so that I could follow the whereabouts of the characters throughout the series.

3. Timeline

The exact time length from the start of the first book to the end of the last is unknown, but my guess is that it’s about 10 years.  The reader can roughly follow the passage of time through the progression of seasons (e.g. when winter turns to spring and so on); but with the back-and-forth POV’s and various geographies and climates that the characters are in, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how much time passes throughout the entire series.

Enchantress starts off with Ella in her teens, Miro, a few years older.  Ella attends the Enchantress Academy for four years whilst Miro continues his sword training before being sent off to war.  The first war begins during Ella’s academy training, and finishes about a year afterward.  Enter two years of peace.

During The Path of the Storm, Sentar begins to raise his army in the empire across the western sea, which I believe is at least a few month’s voyage across.  Both Miro and Amber find themselves navigating through this new empire before returning to Merralya and preparing for Sentar’s invasion.  This preparation takes about half a year, with another six months for the actual war.

4. Essence

I absolutely loved the whole thing about essence; I thought it was magical, creative, and fit so well in and around the story.  I liked the fact that the ‘magic’ of the series wasn’t an innate power reserved for a select few, but results as a combination of a substance (essence) and a language that anyone can learn to write and speak.

The empire of Merralya is quite dependent on essence, especially as it’s a source of power.  Because there is no electricity for heat, light, modes of transportation, etc., essence provides a source of convenience (e.g. if you can’t afford essence, you’re stuck with fire).

What’s funny, however, is that although essence is so important, very little is known about it.  Because essence is so important to the economy and lives of the people of Merralya, you would have thought experiments would have been carried out to determine exactly what it is and why it gives things magical properties.  The grand reveal at the end is something you’d think people would have figured out ages ago.

5. The hero always prevails

The Evermen Saga is one of those series where you’re absolutely sure the core characters will survive.  This isn’t Game of Thrones where no man, woman, or child is safe from being killed off; the primary protagonists will succeed and they will have their happy endings.

I think most critics would say that the characters aren’t balanced enough.  Both Ella and Miro, along with their close-knit allies, are naturally gifted and exceptionally good at whatever they do.  They’re all quite good-looking, fit, intelligent, brave, charismatic, impossibly lucky, and, by the end of the story, they’re literally royalty.

If I think about it though, this aspect was rather comforting given the amount of death and despair in the book.  No, I suppose it’s not good practice, but the sucker for happy endings inside of me loved it.

6. Good writing flow; interesting vocabulary

It’s always nice when the writing flows well so the reader can concentrate on the story rather than the words printed.  For the majority of The Evermen Saga, Maxwell manages this effectively; however, there were a few times when I thought some of the choice vocabulary was a bit off.  Nothing really noticeable, but the odd word here and there that didn’t seem like it fit well.

On that note, I do read a lot of online ‘blog’ content that’s usually structured differently, simpler, and written for wider audiences.  This probably affects the I way I perceive books and assess the writing.

On another note, I was impressed with Maxwell’s descriptive vernacular when writing about battles, ships & navigation, architecture, geographies, etc.  It’s always fun to learn new words for things that I don’t usually encounter in my day-to-day life!

7. Lukewarm ending for the romantic

I consider myself a romantic, and for me, the ending just wasn’t enough.  I’m happy that Miro and Amber worked things out, and it’s great that the relationships in the books weren’t perfect, e.g. Amber was previously married and had a child, Ella and Miro explored relationships with other people before settling; but Ella and Killian’s relationship built and built and built and then.. the series finished.

Yes they’re seen together from afar at the end, but there isn’t any magic moment where the reader can get a thorough feel for Ella and Killian’s (1) relief for putting the past behind them, (2) happiness of finally being together, (3) excitement for where things are going to go in the future, and (4) love for each other!  There’s no happily-ever-after kiss that really seals the deal, and all-in-all I felt a bit let down.

That said, if you don’t really care for a ‘fireworks’ ending, you’ll be fine.  I, however, felt so unsatisfied that I had to write another chapter, just to appease myself, for Ella and Killian’s relationship.

Is it for you?

I would absolutely recommend this series to anyone who loves fantasy, adventure, or epic journeys.  I was fully kept engaged and entertained throughout all four books.

If you do attempt the one month challenge, consider planning for a gap after The Hidden Relic.  Also, remember to manually unsubscribe from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, otherwise it will automatically charge you £7.99 for the next month.  Unfortunately (or not?) I did forget to do this so I’m hoping I’ll find something just as cool as The Evermen Saga to read next!