The Eternal Ones: What if love refused to die? by Kirsten Miller. 2010. Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Personal copy.
The Plot: Haven Moore, 17, is from tiny Snope City, Tennessee, but she dreams of New York City. No, really — she has dreams and flashbacks to New York City, a place where she has never been. In her visions, it’s ninety years earlier, her name is Constance, and she looks totally different. She’s in love with a man named Ethan. Haven’s grandmother and the local preacher have half-convinced Haven that she’s possessed by demons.
One day, Haven sees playboy Iain Morrow on television. He looks different than Ethan, but she knows: it’s Ethan. Now all Haven has to do is figure out how to get to New York City, meet Iain, ask him if he knew her in a past life — well, OK. The plan has some flaws. But nothing is going to get in the way of Haven and true love. Not her controlling grandmother. Not the impossibility of meeting an A-List celebrity like Iain. Not a secret society. Not her suspicions about how Constance and Ethan died. Well, OK, maybe her suspicions that Ethan had something to do with their deaths….
The Good: The first part of The Eternal Ones reads like something out of V.C. Andrews: mean grandmother, weak mother, extreme religion, possible mental illness, and did I mention the snake-handlers? Haven isn’t locked in an attic, but her grandmother does threaten to lock her up because of her visions. Haven briefly gets a “happy ever after” in the middle of the book after she connects with Iain/Evan. The final third is Haven trying to figure out the truth about herself, Iain, Constance, Ethan, and other reincarnated people (present and past) with additional complications from the Ouroboros Society. The society is dedicated to the study of reincarnation, but there is something more, something hidden, something dark about it.
There are many barriers to Haven’s seeking the truth. Some are her own incomplete memories of Constance. Haven may recognize a building Constance was in but she has no idea what Constance’s last name was. Some problems arise from the “secret” part of secret societies. Others are from people not telling everything they know all at once. And really, what kind of story would that make? Can you imagine — “my name is Iain, we’ve been in love for centuries, and let me describe in detail my entire life, all the lives I remember, all I know about your past life, and oh yes, there’s this place called the Ouroboros society and did I mention I love you?”. The entire book would be Iain’s monologue. I’ll admit, it can be a bit frustrating as a reader when you’re thinking “if only Iain had said something earlier!” As one character says to Haven, “you know, if [Iain] really is your boyfriend, you guys should probably spend some time getting to know each other a little better.”
If one of Iain’s flaws is a reluctance to share with Haven things he thinks she’ll find unpleasant or threatening, Haven’s flaws are a mix of insecurity and jealousy about Iain/Ethan that leads her to jump to conclusions about him. She also has a tendency to believe strangers for no good reason, or, rather, to believe them when they confirm her worst fears. Reincarnation in The Eternal Ones is not just about having memories, it’s also about retaining talents (art, design, science) and character traits (jealousy).
As with Miller’s Kiki Strike books, the setting of New York City is conveyed by using unique and lesser-known landmarks and history. Other writers may mention Central Park or the Brooklyn Bridge in their books, but how many include Washington Mews or The Rose House? I would love to go on a historical building tour of New York City with Miller!