The Book of Never Volumes 1 – 3 by Ashley Capes
Never is a man with a magical gift and a history that’s as mysterious as his name. Hunted by the soldiers of ruthless Commander Harstas, Never is known for having blood with an usual trait: every time it mingles with that of another person (usually in combat situations), he takes on their memories, personality, and — at the start of this story — any illnesses they might carry.
Now struck with a strange fever that he can’t seem to break, Never’s ongoing quest to find answers to his condition and his past is endangered by the vulnerable state he finds himself in.
Teaming up with some companions that promise a cure (but who may or may not be trustworthy) the story is divided into five distinct parts (or novellas) which can be purchased separately or in collected editions. Since I’ve read the first three, “The Amber isle”, “A Forest of Eyes”, and “River God”, I’ll cover those.
Each of Ashley Capes’ novellas is based in a location that Never searches in his quest for answers, the first three being: the Amber Isle, a deserted island filled with ancient traps and contraptions; the White Wood, which is teeming with both spirits and enemy soldiers; and the River Hanik, where all sorts of creatures lurk beneath the waters.
Wherever he goes, Never is acutely aware of his missing brother Snow, who shares the same blood-curse as he, but has a profoundly different outlook on what it means and how to use it.
Filled with action and mystery, The Book of Never is notable for its sympathetic protagonist who struggles throughout with his magical gift/curse. The fantasy tropes of a) mysterious pasts and b) internal power that can barely be controlled are clichés by this point, but they’re made fresh with Never, whose maturity and struggle bring new insights and experiences to what might seem a fairly predictable conundrum. You really connect with his plight and his need for answers, and I appreciated his conscientiousness when it came to how to best use his ability and the price it costs both him and the people around him.
Because the overarching story is split into smaller novellas, The Book of Never is a quick read which moves along at a swift pace. Perhaps some of the supporting characters (especially the villains) could have been fleshed out a little more, but Never himself is interesting enough to carry his own story, and the creativity of the places he visits provide great settings for his adventures.