What I Loved:
As you know, at the end of book one, Jack went to the Tunnels instead of Nikki. This leaves her on the surface miserable and hated by the town for being the last person to have seen the missing golden boy. Given Jack and Nikki's incredibly strong connection and her guilt over his sacrifice, she will literally stop at nothing to get him back.
The first few chapters are a bit slow, but everything speeds up with the arrival of Cole back in town. Basically, Everneath alternated between awesome Everneath bits and flashbacks. In this installment, the flashbacks are greatly reduced and the plot has sustained forward momentum. While I did enjoy the flashbacks in the last book, they work to much greater effect here, and keep the reader from being thrown out of the present moment. The more linear storytelling fits this story perfectly.
Going into Everbound, I hoped to learn more about the Everneath and that is precisely what Ashton delivers. Her world building continues to be entirely excellent. Her fantasy world references so many different classic stories, mostly mythological in origin, though I felt some distinct shades of Alice in Wonderland in places, but still manages to be something entirely new and magical. I have some theories that I cannot wait to find out the correctness of in the next installment, particularly about Shades.
If you dread love triangles, have no fear because this one is awesome, and Ashton really doesn't rub it in your face. The feelings involved are complex, but Nikki knows what she's doing. She never questions herself or her actions, even though the reader does sometimes; her goals are set, and I love her dedication. Though I've never personally had a connection to Jack, I admire Nikki for not being the sort to be easily swayed, especially since it makes their love so much more believable.
Two things made Everbound absolutely incredible. The first is that, as they journey through the Everneath in an attempt to rescue Jack from the Tunnels, Ashton really digs in and develops Cole's character. He spends much of his time on the periphery of Everneath, remaining largely a mysterious figure, but here we get a much closer look at the real Cole. Getting to learn some of his past and try to parse his precise feelings for Nikki will keep you intrigued and unsure all the way through.
The second thing is the ending. As soon as I finished reading, I immediately had to message a friend to discuss what happened, because shit gets real. The ending totally caught me off guard and fits the story completely perfectly. I didn't see it coming, but as soon as it happened, I knew that it was precisely what needed to happen. Ashton brings various plot threads together to weave a gorgeous tapestry and to deftly set up the next book in the series.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The fact that I have to wait a whole year for the next book, when that ending makes me want it immediately!
The Final Verdict:
Whether you loved Everneath or were on the fence, I urge you to give Everbound a try, because Ashton's work is just getting better. I have a lot of faith that the next book will be even more astounding, and I only wish I did not have to wait another year to read it.