Review by Donna Meredith
Romance, the supernatural, action, good versus evil, exotic locations, teenage outcasts—there’s so much in Kirsten Miller’s The Eternal Ones for young adult readers to like. Add those factors to readable prose and a page-turning plot, and some mothers are going to be borrowing this book from their teens.
The narrator, seventeen-year-old Haven Moore, is shunned by the denizens of Snope City, Tennessee, because she has visions. Haven has lived many times before. Scenes from past lives sometimes pop into her head and cause her to faint. Ever since childhood, Haven has longed to find Ethan, the man she loves in all these lives. But the visions never are complete. Haven knows she and Ethan died in a fire in her past life as Constance, but she doesn’t know who set it. It might even have been Ethan himself.
In Snope City, Haven gathers her allies. Beau is a gay classmate who designs clothes with her; and Leah has visions of her own, possibly brought on by her membership in a religious sect that talks in tongues and handles snakes. Haven finds limited support from the key adults in her world. Haven’s mother is a fragile, unfocused woman and her grandmother is “made of nothing but spite and bitterness.” Both women have been damaged by their romantic relationships and hope to prevent Haven from repeating their mistakes.
Adult readers may appreciate some of the names in the novel. The name of Haven’s hometown, Snopes City, will recall the often unpleasant Snopes family in the works of William Faulkner. The grandmother’s obviously evil name, Imogene Snively, may bring to mind the unpleasant dog on Yogi Bear or that mustached villain Snidely Whiplash.
Haven is enough of a rebellious, flippant teen to render her likeable rather than saccharine. She has a tendency to wander around half-clothed or not clothed at all, and she likes to sass her overbearing grandmother, whom she disrespectfully addresses by her first name. Haven admirably defends her friend Beau to her grandmother by pointing out “he is gay,” a condition which is “hardly contagious.” She also smartly tells off the kids at school when they ask how Satan is and imply she has a personal acquaintance. Without missing a beat, Haven says he’s “doing good” and she is hunting for a virgin for him, and it’s too bad her tormenter hasn’t “qualified since the sixth grade.” Gotta like the kid’s spunk.
Someone tries to kill Haven by setting fire to her house, the final nudge that sends her on a solo journey to New York City to find Ethan, who has been reborn as rich playboy Iain Morrow. Haven does find Iain but isn’t sure she can trust him. Others plot to convince her he is a murderer, and at times she believes them. It doesn’t help that he often lies in a misguided effort to protect her. Haven’s adventures expose her to a secret society, The Ouroborous, that touts its ability to help people discover their past lives and reconnect lost loves. The society has adopted the ancient symbol of the snake swallowing its own tail and claims prominent politicians, writers, and leaders in all walks of life as members. The deeply rooted conspiracy and the author’s use of ancient symbols lend the novel a similar feel to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code.
To find the truth and claim the man she loves, Haven must first defeat a female rival, gray men who spy and lurk around every corner, an evil preacher, and an ancient adversary who is obsessed by his love for her and who may very well be Satan himself. Throughout all the perils, Haven’s friends from home—Beau and Leah—help her through research and visions. It is Beau, who shows up in the city in time to rescue Haven from yet another fire.
The novel delivers some lovely messages about faith and “listening to your heart, not just your head,” about “not ignoring facts” but “being willing to see around them sometimes.” Leah’s father, the snake handler, advises Haven that “Love and faith go hand in hand” and warns that “taking that leap ain’t always safe.” A message of religious tolerance also grows organically in the story as the preacher of her grandmother’s mainstream church turns out to be corrupt and the widely mistrusted snake handlers turn out to be wise. The message of tolerance is reinforced when Haven enters a Catholic church to pray even though she is thinking her grandmother would have a fit if she knew. Haven observes “there was too much evil in the world to take issue with anyone who was trying to do the right thing.”
A surprise twist in the ending reunites Haven and Iain. The ecstatic couple goes back to Rome, where they will be safe—or are they? Evil never dies. The author leaves the ending open for further adventures of this couple fated to love each other eternally, despite the enormous obstacles in their path. No doubt this novel will not be the last we hear of Haven, Iain, and the Ourobouros Society.
Miller is the author of the acclaimed Kiki Strike series for young adults, which tell the tale of delinquent girl geniuses who keep Manhattan safe. This latest novel is likely to win Miller even more fans of all ages.