________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 10 . . . . November 7, 2014


Every Never After. (The Never Trilogy, Book 2).

Lesley Livingston.
Toronto, ON: Razorbill/Penguin Canada, 2013.
244 pp., trade pbk., $15.00.
ISBN 978-0-14-318208-5.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Kris Rothstein.

***½ /4


Now and For Never. (The Never Trilogy, Book 3).

Lesley Livingston.
Toronto, ON: Razorbill/Penguin Canada, 2014.
270 pp., trade pbk., $15.00.
ISBN 978-0-14-318210-8.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Kris Rothstein.

***½ /4


"Allie was caught in the fierce, breathless grip of a mounting impatience. She climbed out of the trench and positioned herself to use her leverage and pull upward to free the whatever-it-was. She reached down. Her fingers burrowed deeper into the sandy soil, curved around the bottom of the object, and one more time, she gave a mighty heave.

With a sudden sucking pop, she fell backward onto her butt as the thing came free like a stone flung from a catapult. She did a half shoulder roll, holding the precious artifact if that’s what it was safely over her head and came to a stop a few feet away. Panting from the exertion, Allie lowered the object in front of her face and stared at it.

It stared back.

The empty eye sockets of the skull she held in her hands seemed to grow large enough to swallow her whole. The day turned to darkness, and the world around her faded into ghostly nothing. (From
Every Never After.)

Not even the hint of a breeze

Birdsong distinctly lacking…

Allie shook off a sudden feeling of foreboding and stood patiently as Piper tied her and Clare’s hands tightly together with an absurdly long silk novelty scarf they’d brought from the shop.

“It’s patterned to resemble the Tom Baker scarf, so I’d appreciate it if you managed to bring it back intact,” Piper said.

“Who?” Clare asked.

When Piper and Milo shared a laugh at Clare’s non-nerdly expense, explain that the iconic scarf has been worn by “Who” indeed – Doctor Who, of course – Clare got a look on her face that was equal parts embarrassment and annoyance, with (Allie thought she could detect) a subtle current of raging insecurity running beneath.

Allie bristled and almost intervened. It was one thing for her and Milo to poke geeky fun at Clare. That was allowed. But a girl they barely knew who dressed like a steampunk anime character, grocked Spock talk, and knew that a Dalek exclaiming “Exterminate!” wasn’t referring to a household termite problem? Not so much. Especially when Clare was about to leave her boy-genius boyfriend all alone in easy reach of Piper’s fingerless-gloved mitts. Allie glanced surreptitiously over at her cousin just to see if he’d noticed Clare’s not-okayness. He had not. Instead, he and Piper were doing a last-minute time-travel stand-up routine as Piper finished tying Clare and Allie together.

“What do we want?” she asked.

“Time travel!”

“When do we want it?”

“That’s irrelevant!” (From
Now and For Never.)



In Every Never After and Now and For Never, teen heroines Clarinet Reid and Allie McAllister have remained in Britain for the rest of their summer vacations. After recovering from the wild time travelling adventure of Once Every Never, the first book in the series, the two are looking forward to a little quiet time while volunteering at an archaeological dig near the town of Glastonbury. Glastonbury, though, is a centre of ancient spiritual power, and it is inevitable that the dig will be anything but boring. This time Allie is the “time monkey,” shooting back into the Iron Age struggle between Romans and Celts after finding a skull at the dig site.

     The point of view in Every Never After switches between Allie, stuck in a besieged Roman encampment, and Clare, back in the twentieth century formulating a plan to bring Allie home and keep the integrity of their timeline intact. Arch-nemesis Stuart Morholt is out for revenge after the girls foiled his plans to steal gold and power and left him behind in the past. Allie is rescued by a Roman soldier with a secret. It is rather obvious that the solider in question is, in fact, Mark McDowell, classmate of Morholt and Clare’s aunt Magda, lost in time after a Druidic ritual at Glastonbury Tor in the 1980s. Sparks fly between Marcus and Allie, and it is great to see her have her own sizzling romance. While Queen Boudicca may be dead, her sister, the Druidess Mallora, is alive and well (and angry) and keeping things dangerous in the Roman camp.

     Clare and Milo meet Piper Gamble, a girl whose family has been entrusted with Stuart Morholt’s diary for two thousand years. She is shocked when the famous Clarinet Reid shows up at her antique shop to claim it. The entire crew opens a vortex back to their century, but, at the last minute, Marcus is left behind.

     It is inevitable that book three in the trilogy, Now and For Never, concerns getting Marcus back home. It takes a few minutes for Allie to convince Clare that they need to time travel yet again, but Clare is game. This time they will be prepared. The big discovery is a digital camera chip with scrambled photos from this escapade into the past. The girls soon find themselves on a magically-aided voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to an island in the gulf of the St Lawrence. Mallora has brought the remaining Celts here to regroup and start a new life. The Romans are following in order to regain their plundered gold. Morholt again lurks in the wings, making trouble. Clare and Allie need to get Marcus back home and make sure the Celtic gold ends up buried in the right spots to be discovered in the future. If they don’t succeed, their new companion, Piper, may cease to exist.

     Livingston’s books have two great strengths - plots that move at breakneck speed, and witty repartee between appealing, relatable characters. It is a good thing that the plot is so relentless, because it distracts the reader from the many gaps, inconsistencies and holes. There are numerous instances when friends keep secrets from each other for no reason, when an important artifact is left uninvestigated and then lost or stolen, and when a character explains a significant story but leaves out the most important details. I actually wish Livingston would streamline and simplify the action so that it made more sense. It’s really way more complicated and more drawn out than necessary. In books with so much plot, it is surprising that there are still a lot of scenes where groups of characters just stand around talking. In addition, any surprises in the plot are quite telegraphed.

     Clare and Allie are a great team, even if they are separated in quite a lot of the story. Their chemistry is the heart of these books, and they are a really fun pair. They are very funny, and their friendship allows Livingston to play a lot with their personal jokes and turns of phrase. Allie really comes into her own, and this just makes the great relationship stronger. The separations give room for developing the romances between Clare and Allie’s cousin Milo and Allie and Marcus. The girls enjoy drooling over their attractive boyfriends, and their enthusiasm is pretty fun to read. The transitions between their points of view are tight, and most scenes are paced well.

     There is not a lot to be learned about history here as these novels are certainly not meant to be educational books. But there are some aspects of Celtic culture and craftsmanship that are well illustrated. And the books pay interesting attention to the history of war and conflict and whether the Romans are to be condemned for imperialism and bloodshed or whether they can be credited with bringing progress in their wake. Clare hates the Romans for their heartless destruction of the Iceni people, but she does feel for the fate of the individual soldier. These two books are perhaps even less concerned with history than Once Every Never, maybe because that book already established the general setting. These two stories are much more personal, though, and are about the inner and outer dilemmas of the two protagonists, an approach which works well for narrative flow and readability. The development of the themes of mysticism and magic is also very good. I particularly like how the existence of magic is basically taken for granted. There will definitely be a lot for readers to enjoy here, especially if they are not looking too deeply.

Highly Recommended.

Kris Rothstein is a children’s book agent and reviewer in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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