While I struggled at times with the action-heavy scenes, I was absolutely hooked in the last third of the book and I am now eagerly writing this review so that I can dive into Godsgrave.
2021 Update: While I enjoyed and positively reviewed this book when I originally read it, I no longer support the author or recommend their books, and have unhauled my copies. You can learn more in this video here.
Publisher: St Martin’s Press | Release Date: August 9, 2016 | Pages: 429
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Fantasy | Format: Hardcover | Source: Purchased
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?
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My Review of Nevernight
Narrative style: third person | Perspective(s): single (omniscient narrator)
“But after all, this tale is only one of three.
Birth and life and death.
So take my hand now.
Close your eyes.
And walk with me.”
Friends, I am kicking myself for letting this book sit on my owned TBR for as long as it has. I’ve been a fan of everything Jay’s touched so far, so I came into this trilogy with some high expectations.
A bit of a warning. While the main characters are teenagers, The Nevernight Chronicle is not YA. This is a dark, gruesome, bloody book and will not be for everyone. There is a lot of sex and violence within these pages, so please check my content warnings at the bottom of the review to make sure this is a book for you.
There are some authors whose writing just speaks to me, and Kristoff is one of them. The first parallels of the first chapter’s narrative gripped me with its poetic beauty: life, death, and sex paired together as two stories converge and the reader is left guessing what happened. I appreciate the directness of his writing, every word on the page laced with sarcasm. (Come on, there is a horse named Bastard… whose actions live up to its name.)
We all know that I love stories that start at the end, so the fact that we learn on the first page our main character will die piqued my interest something fierce. My mind was turning, excited to piece together what will happen and see how her end will come about.
“Names speak to the namer as much as the named. Maybe I don’t want folks knowing who I am. Maybe I like being underestimated.”
Sixteen-year-old Mia is an assassin-in-training, looking to gain the tools and resources necessary to avenge her family’s death. With no one but her not-cat shadow companion at her side, she navigates the Red Church’s school to learn the arts of thievery, poison, fighting, and seduction.
“Those who call the Dark… well, eventually it calls them back.”
I absolutely loved Mia and I couldn’t help but root for her throughout the story. She’s strong and fiercely loyal, but she is not without fear; there is a vulnerability to her character. Despite being sharp edges, Mia also maintains a purity of heart which the school tries to rip from her. Can you be a cold-blooded killer while also having empathy for others? Her character is so much more interesting because of this: the school is not a place for friends, but she opens herself up anyway. The friendships she forms are to be treasured, and undoubtedly the interactions between the characters were my favorite part of reading this book.
“This place gives much. But it takes much more. They may make her beautiful on the outside, but inside, they aim to shape a horror.”
While the main romance in the book being heterosexual, Mia is unabashedly bisexual without any need for justification or her coming out in text – which I appreciate.
“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You’re a daughter of words. A girl with a story to tell.”
The first two-thirds of the book manages to be action-packed while also setting a lot of the world-building up for the reader. This book uses footnotes to expand on some elements mentioned in the story, as well as add some snark and humor. I was worried the footnotes would be bothersome, but they worked well for me and enhanced the story.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely sold on the book until I was about two-thirds of the way in. I wasn’t sure if it was the book or my slump that was causing the disconnect, but I found myself eager for more character interaction than the action of the plot but also wasn’t sure how I felt about anyone other than Mia and Tric (aka I love them). But then all hell broke loose and I was mad. And hooked.
I am really interested as to who the narrator is, as well as learning more about Mia’s darkin ability, so I am excited to dive right into Godsgrave next. The main reason this was a four-star read for me was the uncomfortable appropriation of Maori culture and what felt like uneven pacing to me (I full-on skimmed action scenes and was worried this would be a 3-star read for me for a little over half of the book.) Nevernight turned out to be a fantastic adult fantasy read that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend to those who like YA-style stories with darker themes.
Content warnings: animal death (pg. 36), blood, child death (off-page), death of a parent, loss of a loved one, murder, sexually explicit scenes, torture
Representation: bisexual main character