Annabeth Neverending by Leyla Kader Dahm
At first, teenager Annabeth Prescott thinks she’s found quite a deal when she talks down the price of an ankh pendant she discovers at a flea market. She soon wonders if the bauble is more than she’s bargained for when she faints and glimpses images from a past life in ancient Egypt.
The discovery coincides with another new find: Gabriel, a handsome young man who takes an interest in her. When she meets his twin brother C. J. at a Halloween party, she realizes they look exactly like two boys who figure prominently into her memories.
Does C. J. share the heroic qualities held by his past incarnation Sethe, her bodyguard when she was Princess Ana? Does Gabriel possess the same evil powers he wielded as Kha, the black sorcerer who sought her affection?
Love meets the supernatural in this gripping young adult paranormal romance. Readers with an interest in reincarnation, as well as ancient Egypt, will be drawn to its mystical mixture of history and hesitation as Annabeth sways between the two brothers.
Will her reincarnated soulmate win out? Or will Kha finally find the way to her heart?
Two and a half stars
Thanks to Leyla and NetGalley for this free review copy! Annabeth Neverending is available for purchase now.
Full disclosure: I read this book while recovering from wisdom teeth removal. However, I still don’t think that that impacts just how rough the first part of this book was. The romance–and the way Annabeth talks about the romance–was sometimes uncomfortable. While it began to redeem itself in the middle, the ending was also weirdly rushed. Still, I picked it up because I will read anything vaguely related to Ancient Egypt, and that’s most of what kept me going.
Like I said, the book starts off really weirdly. You spend the first chapter with Annabeth and this old lady named Ms. Lansing at a flea market, and you learn a bunch more about how fleas work then you probably ever cared to know. Annabeth finds the ankh at a stand because it calls to her, she buys it, and then immediately starts having visions about her past life. When she does this, she faints, being rescued from smashing her head against concrete by Gabriel. He immediately asks her out and she accepts. (Also, random moments of slut shaming.)
Gabriel doesn’t immediately appear in her Ancient Egyptian visions. Instead, there she is Princess Ana who is in love with her slave body guard, Sethe. Sethe looks nothing like Gabriel, but Anna decides that the past is the past and the future is the future–and that is that. Honestly, though, it’s weird how quickly Anna jumps to thinking about herself as reincarnated, and how easily she talks about it to Ms. Lansing who automatically believes her. Neither of them question it for a second, which–frankly–seemed completely unrealistic to me.
Then come the wrinkles in the story. The flashbacks begin causing seizures, which alert Anna’s parents that something is wrong. Then–surprise!–Gabriel’s twin brother CJ shows up, and he looks exactly like Sethe. And it turns out the Gabriel is the incarnation of the black sorcerer Kha, who tried to force Ana to marry him in a past life. Present Anna wants to be with present Gabriel, but she can’t forget the past and she feels drawn to CJ because of their connection as Ana and Sethe.
Now here’s where things get even weirder. At one point, Anna’s best friend suggests that she juggle both brothers, and Anna says that that sounds like an okay idea. She keeps having sexy thoughts about Gabriel, but goes on dating CJ. When CJ’s behavior starts getting a little odd, she forgives him because of the person Sethe was. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the bottom line is that the way that Anna talked about the love triangle, and the way that it was presented, made me feel a bit uncomfortable at times.
However, the middle-end of the book really did some great work in redeeming the book from an unforgivable place. It becomes clear that Leyla is really trying to create a more complicated plot that I had thought, and also that there is something very important being said about the nature of love triangles and the romance trope of reincarnation. I appreciated that, given the way that I, personally, feel about both tropes.However, since the writing wasn’t the strongest to begin with, and I was already kind of weirded out by everything that was going on, it didn’t impress me the way that it could have.
I did, however, really enjoy the flashback sequences and the Ancient Egyptian history that got thrown in. I will read ANYTHING that has to do with Ancient Egypt, and it was clear that Leyla really did her research into the time period. The characters and plot might not have been the best, but in this the writing was quite strong and enjoyable for me.
The ending tried to present an action filled twist that I mostly saw coming (except for the cat. The cat really got me). I think I might have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so rushed. Again, no spoilers, but the whole situation just flip flops so fast that I got some very uncomfortable whiplash that ended up feeling more cliche than anything else. It seemed to be set up for a sequel, but it also could just have ended there, which made the ending weirdly unsatisfying.
All in all, if you’re REALLY feeling a yen for something connected to Ancient Egypt, you might be able to put aside what the writing lacks to enjoy a few moments in the ancient world. However, you have to be ready to get past the beginning, which is really rough. If you can get past that beginning, you’ll be rewarded with some good ideas, even if they aren’t presented with the strongest writing. Leyla clearly has a lot of potential as an author, and I’m sure that the sequel–if there is one–will improve upon that.