Note: This is Book Two of the “Eve” Series. Book Two has a Big Reveal but I’m not going to spoil it! On the other hand, my review will necessarily have spoilers for Book One, so skip to the Evaluation Section if you have not read Eve.
In Book One we meet Eve, one of many children left without parents by the plague that killed 98% of the population. Eve attends an all-female orphan school, where the girls are taught that upon graduation, they will take up exciting careers to help rebuild the planet. But the night before the ceremony, Eve finds out that instead of moving on to career training, all graduates are transferred to a hospital in which they become brood mares to populate New America. She and another girl from school, Arden, escape.
Quickly Eve and Arden run into trouble, but they are rescued by a male orphan, Caleb, who takes them to the relative safety of a hidden camp. Before long, Eve and Caleb fall in love.
All is not well in paradise, however, because Eve is being pursued by troops of the “king” of New America. She assumes it is because she was the top student at the orphanage. Although the camp is underground and should be safe, Eve and Arden are betrayed by one of the boys who is jealous that Eve likes Caleb instead of him. Eve and Arden are taken away by a bounty hunter but escape, meet up with Caleb again, and make their way to Califia, a refuge in San Francisco. Califia is for girls only though, so Eve and Caleb have to part, vowing to find each other again.
As Once begins, Eve has been in Califia for three months. The women of Califia don’t want her there though, because her presence endangers them since Eve is still being sought by the king’s troops. (Now she is convinced she is wanted so she can be the king’s personal brood mare.) Once again Eve is betrayed, and she and Arden are taken away. Arden is left at the breeding hospital, and Eve is brought to the City of Sand, home of the king.
The tension ratchets way up as we wonder why Eve has been brought to the City of Sand, what will befall Arden, and what ever happened to Caleb.
Discussion: I re-read Eve before starting Once, and was glad I did; I actually liked the first book much better the second time. That is often the case for me, however; the first time through in a book, I race through to find out what happens, and overlook a lot.
In my more considered reading of Eve, I discovered that quite a bit of the story is devoted to the problems all the orphans have in understanding what “love” is. First Eve comes to think that love is
“…bearing witness. That it was the act of watching someone’s life, of simply being there to say: your life is worth seeing.”
Then she learns a bit more about it and explains to a little boy:
“‘Love is just…’ I searched for the right words. ‘…caring about someone very deeply. Feeling like that person matters to you, like your whole world would be sadder without them in it.’”
Later, she learns a harsher lesson about love:
“I began to weep, finally knowing the truth: love was death’s only adversary, the only thing powerful enough to combat its clawing, desperate grasp.”
These insights are more fully developed in Once, as Eve gets more meaningful opportunities to find out about different types of love, friendship, and loyalty, and what they mean to her life.
Evaluation: Once manages to avoid the trilogy middle-child syndrome and ramps up the quotient of both suspense and sweetness.
Thus, I’m happy to say I liked this one even more than Eve; Once has more depth, and shows a more developed skill by the author, in my opinion. I can’t wait to see what happens in the third book!
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2012