Following a pandemic that obliterates life, the world suddenly becomes a post-apocalyptic graveyard with scattered remnants of civilization clustered around any water source they can find. One such town, Waterfall, seems idyllic until you draw back the curtain and see that some people are owned, euphemistically called “retainees.” They are collared and owned by others, kept to do jobs others don’t want. Never allowed to go beyond the border on threat of whipping or worse, these are the lost who don’t get seen.
When Hank, Waterfall’s chief of police, sees such a person being held, raped, and beaten by a fringe element, he buys him—for the price of his horses’ saddle. But Hank has a plan to one day see all retainees free. When he realizes the man he has just purchased is part of a history from before the sickness, from before the deadly hand of “Eve,” Hank knows he must stick to his plan and see it through. So he can’t leave the man chained and naked, abused and out of his mind starving. It has nothing to do with the fact that the man has never really left Hank’s mind since that trial a few years back, since the young man had stared up at him over the body of his dead companion and told Hank it was all an accident, since Hank had watched the young man thrown into prison for a crime he never meant to commit. No, it had nothing to do with the past…
Brey can’t quite remember how he was captured, only that his days since then have been filled with unspeakable terror and pain. When the man rode up and offered to buy him, Brey was hardly lucid. Still, the chief seemed familiar to him, but when he finally figures out just who the man is, it’s too late. Brey is trapped all over again, this time by well-meaning “civilized” folk who collar him and tell him he can no longer try and get home to his parents, to his family, to the only hope he has left in this miserable life. That’s where he’d been headed when that man, Thom, and his filthy friends had caught him. He knows Hank has a plan—a dream–but when and how it’s going to come off remains a mystery, one that eats away at Brey, at this need to see if his family is still alive. He knows they are, even if Hank seems to think otherwise. It’s the only thing that keeps him going, the idea that his parents are waiting for him to come home. So what if his feelings for Hank begin morphing into the only other thing he has ever wanted in life: love? Brey is more determined than ever to escape.
Author Kayleigh Sky creates a barren, dystopian world that has been ravaged by a deadly pandemic in her new novel, On the Eve of Forever. With gripping detail and a cast of both good and evil reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Stand, the town of Waterfall sits by the reservoir that feeds the canal that keeps life moving. They conserve and live as best as they can, but that doesn’t mean all is right in this small wayside town. People who are unfortunate enough to have done wrong in the past are now owned and collared, kept much like slaves and used for work that others don’t want, or worse, as bodies to be used by anyone who cares to have a go. Brey is taken and used as such until Hank finds him and rescues him, only to collar him. It’s for Brey’s protection; after all, Hank would never use Brey like that, even if the underlying current of lust sometimes rears its ugly head between the two of them. Hank would never give into that, but Brey sometimes wishes the man would.
This slow-burn romance is done quite well and even though I do wish we could have more than just a few glimpses of how this disease called “Eve” destroyed the country, I think the barren landscape the author creates gives one a definite sense of just how desperate times have become for the people who survived. Flashbacks are used to tell snippets of Hank and Brey’s backstory; again, it’s just enough to give the reader some sense of what both have lost, but unfortunately not enough to make either of them truly tragic heroes, which I think is what the author may have intended for them. This is one of those novels that could have added a few more hundred pages in order to fully flesh out the world. Instead, we get just a small window and more than a few questions left unanswered about how this ragtag group of survivors got there.
Still, the story as such is compelling and one that kept me fully invested. There is anger surrounding everything Hank and Brey do and Brey’s very existence is in danger of being brutally derailed without Hank’s protection. The author never lets us forget that, nor does she rush the love that develops between Hank and Brey, making it a satisfying relationship when it finally happens.
For futuristic fantasy fans, On the Eve of Forever holds some great moments and a brave new world to explore. I did enjoy reading this story and will look for more by this author.