Well, that certainly put the steam in "steampunk.". In perhaps a different measure than I expected. *coughs*
I need to get my head out of that space before my mind goes to the gutter, but in sum - I liked this book, but not as much as previous entries in the series. I will start this review saying that I love Callihan's writing and worldbuilding in this series. It draws me in so much that I find myself drawn to the pairing of the characters, their charming banter, their steamy interludes, and ultimately the dangers they face. In previous entries in this series, there was a nice balance of sexual tension with the action, something I loved reading. The last book "Shadowdance" had me at point one and pulled me through the narrative on Jack and Mary's accounts. It was intriguing, dark, and gave me a good handle on the characters and their experiences. I'd even say "Firelight", "Moonglow", and "Winterblaze" did the same with their respective couples, with some caveats in tow.
"Evernight" showcases Holly Evernight, an introverted inventor who can control metal as her elemental power, and she works with the SOS (common link between all the female leads of this series). In the previous book, "Shadowdance", Holly had a bit, but significant role in the fate of Will Thorne, a Sanguis demon whose heart was ripped out and replaced with a clockwork one. He was tortured and knocking on death's door. Will blamed Holly and in the cusp of madness, he vowed to kill her - in vengance as well as on behalf of a group (the Nex) he was a former part of.
This book expands on that story thread, but I don't think ever brings everything introduced to fruition. I definitely say that I loved Will and Holly's characters in and of themselves. Their banter is fun in points, their chemistry is palpable, and more often than not, I found myself chuckling on the bus when reading this on my commutes and taking time during my lunch breaks and nightly reading times to peruse my copy. Will becomes Holly's protector, and the two end up having to work together to figure out who wants Holly dead and who's pulling the strings of their respective roles in the scheme of something much bigger than themselves.
Yet, while the story started off with strong points, I think there were some caveats that affected my reading of this. Some of the sensual interludes felt a bit repetitive and didn't quite strike a balance as much as other installments in this series (I had this same issue with "Firelight" in spaces) between action, tension and character development. I'll admit the story itself didn't feel as strongly asserted as other reads in the series as well. A story thread linking to Mab, a powerhouse figure in the world of the Fae, isn't drawn to fruition as much as it could've been, as much as the lore is intriguing in and of itself. Adam's character feels weak compared to others in the series drawn so far, though I did like some eyes taken to Will's past and his former links with a dangerous group. Holly and Will's fates are intertwined, and while they're played like pawns with some intriguing moments of conflict and potential peril, something felt like it was missing, and I couldn't figure out what it was for the longest time after I put the book down.
After pondering on it, I realized the presentation came across as awkward for details - hard for me to fluidly follow and get invested in despite some key moments for the characters where they face the possibility of being torn apart. The ideas and moments of peril are there, but the development feels shortchanged in the long and short of it. I didn't mind the fluff of Will and Holly's relationship because those moments were fun. The action scenes also seemed a bit abbreviated in comparison to previous books. Holly, at one point, faces a dangerous fight against a demon and ends up making far too quick of work of it despite how dangerous this demon and its respective bargains are.
I debated on my rating for this the longest time, and ultimately decided to rate it either 3 or 3.5 stars. I'm settling on 3, because while I thought it was a good book, there were still many caveats that I found it hard to overlook. I'm still excited to see what Callihan writes in this series, because her attention to place, character, and conflict is very good, and unlike any other series I've read for the time, place, and lore.
Overall score: 3/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley (Forever), and I also purchased a copy of the book.