Ever After: Ever by Gail Carson Levine
With all the hoopla that the final book and the first movie of the Twilight series received, it is important that Gail Carson Levine's new fantasy novel not be overlooked in this obsession with Bella and Edward. In Ever Levine has, with her usual careful craft, fashioned a tale in a similar genre, a tale of two star-crossed lovers, one beautiful, young, and all-too-human, one beautiful, lonely, and immortal, set like a jewel in two ancient, vaguely middle Eastern lands, Hyte and Akka.
Kezi is a beautiful, talented girl just coming of marriageable age, a promising weaver and graceful dancer. But when her mother suddenly falls gravely ill, her grief-stricken father's spontaneous prayer to the one god, Admat, promises a sacrifice of the first person to congratulate him on the recovery of his wife. As fate would have it, Kezi's beloved great-aunt brusquely pushes her way into the sickroom and begins to voice her heartfelt joy at his wife's return to health. Kezi spontaneously interrupts and speaks the fateful congratulations herself to save her aunt, dooming herself to become the death sacrifice instead.
Granted thirty days of life before her sacrifice at the hands of the priest, Kezi is determined to make the most of what is left of her youth. Dressed in her finest robe and her mother's jewelry and dancing at a cousin's wedding, Kezi catches the eye of a startlingly handsome young man, dressed as a slave working at the celebration. Soon she learns that the beautiful servant is Olus, god of the winds, from the neighboring kingdom of Akka. Olus confesses that at seventeen he is bored and lonely among the old and immortal gods who live suspended above the human world of Akka. Olus admits that he has long been a "pretend mortal," envious of the active and unpredicatable lives led by humans.
But as he falls in love with the doomed Kezi and she with him, Olus becomes determined to cheat the mysterious Admat of his prize. He persuades Kezi to leave her family and fly with him on his winds to Akka and take on a quest to become one of the immmortals among his family. To win immortality for Kezi, Olus must perform heroic deeds to become a champion, and Kezi herself must descend into the Underworld of the Warki and pass her own ordeal without eating or drinking while below. The young lovers wonder if Admat's absolute power is real and if He, as the One God, has the power over Olus and his fellow gods to exact the fatal price of Kezi's father's oath. Both realize that the question will only to be resolved when Kezi returns to Hyte to redeem her family from the wrath of Admat by submitting herself to the death sacrifice.
In a fantasy driven by a delicious and delicate romance and the serious theme of the meaning of mortality and immortality, Newbery author Gail Carson Levine (winner for her humorous and meaningful look at the Cinderella theme, Ella Enchanted) has penned another thoughtful fantasy for reflective young adult readers.