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Once: An Eve Novel

Review

Once: An Eve Novel

When I read Anna Carey’s debut novel, EVE, I noted that it was unfortunate it was the first in a planned trilogy, but that I would be willing to try the next installment to see where it went.

To refresh your memory, EVE tells the story of a young girl who has found out that the fairy tale her teachers taught her, about graduating from high school and moving to the beautiful City of Sand to work towards building a new civilization under the auspices of the King of The New America, is a lie. She runs away and heads west, towards what used to be California (pre-plague that wiped out much of the U.S. and the world at large), where she has heard there is a sanctuary for women who don’t want to work under the real mission of The New America --- a birthing initiative that forces young graduates like Eve to repopulate the nation against their will.

"[The Eve in ONCE] strikes me as totally different from the Eve I remember in the first book, who was sheltered but curious, methodical but still naturally tied to the things she was taught and the way she was brought up."

When ONCE picks up, Eve has been at that sanctuary, Califia, for three months. That entire time, she has not seen Caleb, the boy she met during her adventures who helped her continue towards Califia, even though he knew he would not be allowed in. The King is still on her trail, and just about everyone in Califia knows that he has chosen Eve as his special graduate and has agents trying to find Califia to get Eve back.

But Eve has gotten good at eavesdropping, and when she hears that her new friends in Califia consider her a bargaining trip, she takes a chance to look for Caleb. Instantly recognizing it as a trap, Eve is captured and taken to the City of Sand, where she finds that the King has indeed been looking for her, but not for the reason she expected. Instead, she learns that he is her father.

I’m sure you can guess that Eve and Caleb have a Romeo and Juliet-like relationship, which they must keep secret, because Caleb is a known dissident against the King’s regime, and Eve, now Princess Genevieve, is a celebrity. Trapped in a beautiful home, Eve is frustrated by her father’s inability to see her side of things and cannot seem to find an ally anywhere. Her new relatives, maids and overseers cannot understand why she is so rebellious, while Caleb’s dissident friends are suspicious because of her relationship with the King. The only person on her side seems to be Caleb.

Unfortunately, the post-apocalyptic setting has lost its appeal, and Eve doesn’t seem to be a real person so much as a puppet whose job it is to act out every other story, from THE HUNGER GAMES to THE HANDMAID’S TALE to THE PRINCESS BRIDE. She strikes me as totally different from the Eve I remember in the first book, who was sheltered but curious, methodical but still naturally tied to the things she was taught and the way she was brought up. Eve is now a rebel, but instead of being inspiring, it just seems like she’s a new character plopped into the old Eve’s story to try and drum up more excitement.

There is nothing particularly compelling or fresh about Eve’s story anymore, and she barely seems worth rooting for. In my review of EVE, I posed the question, “If sequels and trilogies weren’t the trend, could what is planned as a three-book set be a much tighter, more readable narrative in one volume?” Perhaps that’s the case here, but I certainly hope that fans of the series who share my disappointment in ONCE will be pleasantly surprised by the trilogy’s final installment.

Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez on July 22, 2012

Once: An Eve Novel
by Anna Carey