From the BLURB:
Haven Moore can't control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother's house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.
In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves before all is lost and the cycle begins again.
‘The Eternal Ones’ is Kirsten Miller’s first stand-alone YA novel.
For as long as Haven can remember she has loved a boy called Ethan. When she was just a child Haven would often speak about having to find Ethan Evans in New York City, and she would refer to herself as Constance Whitman. Haven scared her parents by having ‘fainting spells’ and waking with clear memories of another life in New York City and the love of a man named Ethan.
In her small Tennessee bible-belt town of Snope City Haven quickly gained the reputation of being ‘demon possessed’. Her grandmother, Imogene, insisted that Haven have regular counselling sessions with the local preacher to try and curb her evil ways. Haven’s visions did eventually stop, around the same time her father died in a car accident and her mother went into an asylum. In those dark days all memories of Ethan Evans vanished...
When we meet her Haven is 17 and the visions are back. Haven is fainting again, and remembering blissful nights wrapped around Ethan. Her best friend, Beau, is concerned. Her grandmother is about to have a conniption fit and the entire town are about ready to burn Haven on the cross. But she can’t help herself, she can’t stop the visions and she can’t help but feel that her past is connected to Iain Morrow... a NYC dilettante play-boy whose image on the news one night sends Haven into a faint. Somehow she knows that the answers to all of her, and Constance’s, questions lie with Iain. Now it’s up to Haven to journey to the Big Apple and learn the truth of her past and past life.
I loved the concept of reincarnation and love across time. When other authors are touting the ‘vampire romance’, Miller has tapped into what is at the heart of all those paranormal love stories... immortality. That’s one of the big selling-points of any vampire romance, the idea that you can be with and love someone *forever*. But Miller takes that idea and uses the ages-old concept of ‘reincarnation’ for her star-crossed lovers. Brilliant! There’s such potential for epic love, and it’s grounded in such a familiar yet whimsical concept. I think it’s an inspired idea.
“Who are you?” Constance asked. “How do you know these things?”I loved ‘part one’ of this book. The first 151 pages are all about Haven living in Snope City when her ‘visions’ reach a zenith. Miller writes about small-town prejudice and pressure as town residents turn on Haven. Throughout the first chapters, as Haven recounts snatches of another life lives in New York, you get the idea that the meat of the plot will take place when Haven leaves town... but part one of the book never dragged for me. Miller does a fantastic job of scene setting the Tennessee Mountain town and communicating Haven’s suffocation. I became completely immersed in Haven’s struggles and fascinated by her ‘visions’. Miller has also written some fantastic secondary characters, my favourite being Haven’s best friend, Beau. Beau is a star football player, drop-dead-gorgeous and gay. He and Haven have been friends ever since she admired the Barbie lunchbox Beau bought to school. I absolutely adored Beau – he’s a witty, saccharine Southern gentleman and there’s real affection between him and Haven as two outcasts who cling to one another to stay afloat in small-minded Snope. Their scenes provide some of the funniest dialogue and imbue the otherwise depressing first chapters with much-needed warmth.
“I've been looking for you,” he said. Suddenly his face was close, his lips brushing hers. She closed her eyes.
“Constance!” A voice screeched across the piazza. “Get away from her at once!” Her mother was rushing toward them, wielding her Japanese parasol like a sword.
“Now it’s your turn to find me,” Ethan whispered, slipping a card into Constance’s hand.
She looked down. Printed on the back of the card was an illustration of a silver snake swallowing its tail.
It does become apparent early on that the real meat of the story won’t take place in Snope City. Haven has to leave the town and travel to NYC before the crux of the story can really kick-off....But the book goes a bit pear-shaped in the middle.
In the middle of the book, ‘part two’, Haven finally leaves Snope City (and Beau) behind and journeys to New York City. Her relationship with Iain/Ethan is instantaneous and whirlwind, but in the midst of bliss Haven starts uncovering uncomfortable truths. Like the fact that Iain is in the papers, accused of murder. Or that he seems to be a ‘cad about town’. Haven seeks to discover more about Iain Morrow, while simultaneously researching Constance Whitman and Ethan Evans’s past. It is at this point that Miller starts piling mystery upon conspiracy, and throwing curve-balls to tangle already complicated plots.
At one point Haven thinks that Iain is playing her for a fool and acting Lothario behind her back. At the same time, Haven uncovers clues that indicate Constance had the same suspicions about Ethan back in the day. Miller introduces two possible ‘mistresses’ for Iain and it all becomes a bit much, especially because Iain is also being accused of murder. Meanwhile, there’s a convoluted story about a reincarnation society called the ‘Ouroboros Society’ who might be sending ‘gray men’ to follow and spy on Haven and Iain.
At that point, half-way through the novel, I thought Miller should have adopted the ‘less is more’ approach.
Miller turns Haven into a Nancy Drew girl-sleuth. But Haven doesn’t suit the role of amateur detective at all. While unearthing clues about Iain Morrow and Ethan Evans, Haven swings between thinking the men innocent, and then guilty. She flips her mood on a dime, one second berating herself for doubting Iain’s love and then utterly sure that Ethan Evans murdered her reincarnated self, Constance Whitman.
Then there’s the fact that the bulk of Haven’s ‘sleuthing’ involves phoning her BFF, Beau, in Tennessee and asking him to conduct internet searches. That plot device at once had me asking why Miller didn’t just keep Beau in the story to begin with, instead relegating him to the sidelines as Haven’s ‘phone a friend’, and also acted to illustrate Haven’s investigating incapability.
I am a reader of crime thrillers, so I love a good ‘whodunnit’ ... but there was just too much in ‘The Eternal Ones’. Miller throws out so many red herrings, curveballs and layers mystery atop of mystery that it started to do my head in.
But just when I thought to put this book down as a ‘DNF’ Miller miraculously brings it all together. In the last 100 or so pages the pace quickens and the plot tightens – the mystery finally narrows down and comes together for a helter-skelter conclusion. A truly heinous bad-guy with demented motivations is presented for the final curtain, and the ending makes up for a few of the previous grumblings.
The back covers touts ‘The Eternal Ones’ as being “epic, paranormal romance like you’ve NEVER read before...”
The thing is, the book isn’t terribly romantic. The concept of reincarnation and coming back to this world because you’re drawn to one particular person is very romantic. But Miller works so hard to cast doubt on Iain/Ethan and she weaves such a complicated mystery surrounding the men that (like Haven) I was never sure about them. I never completely warmed to them, or trusted them. Miller invested so much energy in the conspiracy ‘whodunnit’ plot, casting Iain/Ethan in the worst light, that by the time she wanted Haven (and readers) to warm to them I was beyond being convinced, unable to shake my suspicions of them.
I think ‘The Eternal Ones’ has a great concept at its centre. Reincarnation as the crux of an epic love-story is a book I’d like to read.... but Kirsten Miller’s execution of the idea is a little lacking. She focuses too much on a convoluted mystery storyline, and leaves the romance ‘too little too late’. If the mystery plot had been culled and the romance amplified this would have been a truly terrific book. As it is, Miller just misses the mark; with a great idea, poorly delivered.
August 10th 2010
August 10th 2010