I barely even read the blurb before I ordered this, and admittedly bought this entirely on the strengths of Nora Sakavic’s previous books in the All for the Game series. This is entirely different, and even though I love urban fantasy, it took me a while to warm up to this book.
Elysium reads as the first book in a series, but I have no idea if that’s actually the case. Perhaps sales for this book will decide that, in which case the entire lack of publication for the release seems like an odd choice.
The cover is lovely, though except for the opening scene I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to be referencing
Evelyn Notte’s had sixteen years to make Elysium her home, but not by choice: she only survived her husband’s betrayal by fusing with the ley line beneath the asylum’s foundation. Now rumor has it Adam is back to his old tricks, and if Adam’s alive maybe there’s still a chance for the newborn daughter he stole from Evelyn so many years ago.
The only way out of Elysium is the Nightmare buried at its core. Waking him means reigniting a long-stalled war and giving up what little is left of her humanity, but Evelyn’s not going to lose her daughter again – and she’s sure as hell not going to let Adam walk away a second time.
Evelyn was a good main character, and her struggle throughout the book reminded me a little of Toby’s character arc in one of my all time favourite series—Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books.
I think a lot of my frustration with this book came from the amount of time it took for the mechanics of the world to become clear. This is pretty common with urban fantasy (as is my initial disgruntlement), and the unique situations and creatures populating Elysium could be all that’s throwing me off.
Urban fantasy often contains reinvented versions of mythological monsters or fairytales, Elysium includes a few familiar species—vampires, mermaids etc—but focusses on more specific in-world creatures, specifically Dreams and Nightmares. This requires a somewhat longer learning curve, and is what makes me hope that Elysium is only the first book in the series, because the world created is interesting, and Evelyn is a great lead character—strong enough to be feasibly involved in world-changing events, flawed enough to be relatable despite that.
Evelyn had an interesting interplay with Sol, Betty and Casper, and her motivations were strong and believable. The world created was interesting, and I look forward to learning more about her family and psychic abilities in future novels. Falkor is also intriguing, and there are a whole host of other characters that deserve to be revisited (and I know I’m harping now, but they seem like the sort of characters that in a typical urban fantasy series would be revisited in future books).
I didn’t really enjoy the climax of this book, but that’s because I wanted a happier ending for Evelyn, though having read Nora Sakavic’s previous work I don’t know why I expected that. I wish we learnt more in this novel about Evelyn’s early life, and her relationship with Adam. I also think the ley lines could have been explained and explored more. I would also have liked the mechanics of this world to be explored a little more, as well as a little earlier, as I think that would have made me become invested in the book earlier. Evelyn’s propensity for giving nicknames may make the book confusing for some, but I think it added a layer of interest for the book and allowed for a way to explore how Evelyn sees the world, so I enjoyed it.
All in all, this is a solid book, and holds the potential to kick off an amazing series. I was at various times reminded of CE Murphy’s Walker Papers series, Ilona Andrews Innkeeper series (Elysium is essentially an inn), Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series, Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, Neil Gamain’s American Gods and the Outcast Season series by Rachel Caine. If you read and enjoyed any of the series mentioned, or enjoy urban fantasy with a strong (and strongly motivated) female lead, I think you’ll enjoy Elysium.