Neverwas: review

January 9, 2014 2014, 4 star books, K., Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed, paranormal, Tucker Reed 29 ★★★★

Neverwas: reviewNeverwas by Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed, Tucker Reed
Series: Amber House Trilogy
Published by Author A. Levine on January 7, 2014
Genres: gothic, paranormal
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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"I was sixteen the second time I had my first kiss...."

At the end of AMBER HOUSE, Sarah made a choice that transformed everything--and now she must choose it all again.

Things are very different--better--for Sarah and her family: her Aunt Maggie grew up; her parents are happily married; her grandmother died after a long, productive and respected life. But other things are different too, and not for the better.

After growing up in the free country of the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Parsons has settled in at Amber House, the stately Maryland home that's been in her family for generations. But the world surrounding the House feels deeply wrong to Sarah. It's a place where the colonists lost the 1776 Insurrection, where the American Confederation of States still struggles with segregation, and where Sarah is haunted by echoes of a better world that she knows never existed.

Her friend Jackson shares these visions of a different world--and together, they manage both to remember the way things ought to be, and to plan a daring mission that will reset the universe once again. Sarah must figure out what has changed, and why, and how she can fix it--how she can find her way to another otherwhen.

Neverwas is the highly anticipated second installment in the Amber House trilogy. This book starts off on quite a spin. At the end of Amber House, Sarah rescues both her little brother Sam and her aunt Maggie from the dream world which changes the course of the future. Neverwas is consequently based on an alternate present — a time when the Nazis won WWII; when the world continents are divided under the oppressive commands of the German and Japanese empires; and when racial segregation is still routine.

In comparison, Neverwas is a departure from its predecessor. It is bigger and more ambitious in scale, moving away from domestic drama into an all-out, no holds barred, twilight zone-esque fight to save the “real” world. It is still frightening, still mysterious and still gripping — only that the source of these fears and mysteries have slightly changed along with history. In other words, it is still creepy but for other reasons.

Since the setting and atmosphere is in a way distinctly different to the one established in Amber House — which was more Gothic, more Romantic — the challenge is to write an alternate universe while still maintaining the essence readers grew to love in the previous novel; a little bit like the supernatural device used in the books…a different shell but containing the same soul. This is impeccably done by the writers. All three women are in sync with their vision and the language they are using to tell it.

And the environment in Neverwas is quite different. Sarah, for one, is changed from the first book. Having saved Maggie, Sarah’s entire lifetime is altered — not only by the sudden change in her family life but also by the change in history, which changes the status of women. She grows up into someone a little more sheltered, a little more cautious, a little more proper. But the growth in her, her journey into finding and becoming the “old” Sarah, is worth witnessing.

Maggie and Sam also play a lesser role — which I found unexpected considering so much of the first book centered on Maggie’s absence, Maggie’s death and later, Maggie’s rescue. Sam on the other hand is just complete pleasure, so missing him was a little disappointing. Richard, oh Richard. I think we might discover some converts after this second book, that’s all I’ll say. Claire, Richard’s mom, plays a new and intriguing part, one that I hope to see very well explored in the third installment. As for Sarah’s relationship with her own mother — which in the first book is such an integral factor to Sarah’s nature — it has shifted into a different kind of tension. And Jackson, still perfection. And that’s all I’ll say.

While the house and Sarah’s ancestors are still at the heart of the story, there is a heavy addition of social and political issues that Sarah must come to understand and inevitably fight against. Her family is involved in political election, racial discrimination layers tension between Sarah and Jackson. This slight shift in focus, along with the missing sentimental pull of Maggie and Sam, the drama between Sarah and her mother, and the romantic question between Sarah and Jackson, might be the reason for the narrowed emotional impact of Neverwas. Don’t get me wrong, its punches will still make readers’ faces crease and their eyes water, but compared to Amber House, this second installment feels less intimate.

Though slower-paced, Neverwas remains a success. Its ambition is impressive and the social and political topics tackled is a testament to the breadth of the writers’ talents. As mentioned, it is different. But it is still Amber House.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.


Neverwas Tour

Be sure to visit us tomorrow, when the official Neverwas tour stops by The Midnight Garden! We’ll have guest posts by the three authors, as well as a giveaway for this lovely book.


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29 Responses to “Neverwas: review”

  1. Kris

    This sounds like a really intriguing novel. I love the supernatural, and it looks like the story continues strong into this second installment in the series. I’ll have to pick up Amber House sometime, so I can read this one!

  2. Lucy

    Ooh this series does sound good! And the cover is so pretty! I don’t read a lot of gothic books but sometimes I get in the mood for something dark and mysterious like this. I’ll keep this one in mind.

  3. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    Wait…converts? Never! :P I have a copy of this one to read and as I only recently finished Amber House, I’m looking forward to diving into this one soon. I really love the whole concept of time with these books and as this sequel seems to be even more ambitious, I have no doubt that I’ll wind up loving it all the more. Wonderful review, K!(:
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Showcase Sunday (#30)

    • K.

      I’m so glad you liked it Keertana. Amber House was a definite stand-out for me in 2012. I also love the concept of time in this series. It’s quite different to others I’ve read. I hope this one will won’t let you down :)

    • K.

      I know, Mary! I think I would be constantly arguing over ideas and such if I had to collaborate on a book with not just one person but two. And family no less, haha :) I really loved Amber House and I know this isn’t a super popular series but I hope it gets the credit it deserves. Read it, please!

    • K.

      The first installment is more Gothic than the first but Neverwas certainly still maintains that atmosphere. I personally love the genre so coming across this series was a real joy. I hope it is for you too.

  4. Rachel

    Wonderful review, K. :) I totally agree with you, it was definitely on a more ambitious scale the the first book. The alternate reality was frightening. I did feel it was a little less intimate than the first book, as well, especially in regards to Jackson and Sarah’s relationship. I hope everything works out with those two. I’m a little anxious with how things turned out in the end!
    Rachel recently posted…Review: The Shadow Reader (The Shadow Reader #1) by Sandy Williams

    • K.

      I know exactly what you mean about Jackson and Sarah, Rachel. I wanted so much more just because I love him ;) But I don’t doubt there’s more to come.

    • Wendy Darling

      I said pretty much the exact same thing to K about this, hah–I’ve had Amber House forever! Her review last year was so good, I don’t know why I haven’t gotten to it yet. Well, I do know–too many books and too little time, but her positive response to this book makes me kick myself, hah.

      She’s away on vacation, by the way, which is why I’m playing host today. :) But she’ll be back next week!

    • K.

      Now is the time Pili! I’m so excited for people to discover this series because I think its so good. Its good writing, good ideas, good everything :) There wasn’t much spoiler in my review but its ok that you skimmed. I wouldn’t risk it either.

    • Wendy Darling

      I haven’t gotten around to reading Amber House either, but it sounds amazing! I’m curious about how the three authors will work with narrative voice in this installment, too.

    • K.

      Leandra, I haven’t read a book by 3 authors either but they are so seamless in their writing it seems like one person. Don’t worry, it’s darned good :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Savy, I just updated K’s post to reflect the fact that we’re giving away a copy of this book tomorrow! (It’s autographed, too!) But do be aware that it’s book two in the series, though…