Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Nevernight by Jay KristoffNevernight by Jay Kristoff
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle #1
Published by Thomas Dunne on August 9, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
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four-half-stars

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

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?

As Nevernight is my fifth Kristoff novel since 2012, clearly he’s a favorite. I make time for every book, and I’ve loved them all. It’s rare that I can say that about an author’s books, but, thus far, Kristoff has pulled off this feat. At the start of Nevernight, I thought maybe this would be the one that didn’t completely work for me, but by the end of the book I was completely sucked into the world, the characters, and the plot. Seriously, how does this man do it? Not only has he published five amazing books in a row, but they’re all LONG. And a sixth comes out in October. Literally, how? ‘Haps he is a darkin and gets the shadows to write for him.

gif like a boss snape hp
As I already hinted, the start of Nevernight was a bit of a struggle for me. Or, perhaps more accurately, a slog. Reading the first half of Nevernight took me over a week, which, for me, is a long-ass time. So far in July, I’ve finished 23 books in 22 days, so obviously I don’t usually take a week to read a couple hundred pages. Though the quality of Nevernight was evident in those pages, the pacing killed me. I had no desire to read more than one chapter before moving on to something else for a bit.

The reason the pace caused problems for me all comes down to the flashbacks. For all of Nevernight‘s Book 1, each chapter opens with a flashback of several pages before switching to the present timeline. Flashbacks can often be problematic in usage, and I don’t think this is the best use of them, though it’s certainly nowhere near the hot mess of Arrow. I have two issues with the flashbacks. First off, I felt like some of the flashbacks were almost repetitive because some of the back story related in them had already been explained in the current timeline; sure, there was a bit more detail, but it didn’t feel precisely necessary. Second, these flashbacks completely disrupted the flow of the narrative. I’d be completely absorbed in Mia’s modern timeline only to arrive at a flashback and, disappointed, I’d switch to another book. Obviously mileage may vary on this, but the book picked up so much for me when I got to Book 2. For my part, I’d have preferred if the flashbacks had been a book of their own and the story had proceeded linearly. The couple of flashbacks in the later Books were much better integrated and had the information the reader really wanted/needed about Mia’s past.

gif this displeases me snape hp

The footnotes are the other slight hindrance I had with Nevernight. Kristoff uses a narrative style I don’t see very often these days: a specific Narrator chronicling the life of our heroine. He inserts himself into the story by means of footnotes, some of which are purely educational in nature and some of which add the Narrator’s personal view on something. The latter were humorous and delightful, but the former, frankly, read like a textbook. I skipped most of the latter, because the detail was more than I could ever remember a year from now anyway.

As I’ve said, I started getting much more engrossed when I reached Book 2. Then somewhere around the middle of the book, I became completely hooked and could not put the book down (except to sleep because I’m an adult and I have to work and blah—but I was late the next morning because I HAD TO FINISH BEFORE WORK I COULD NOT WAIT UNTIL 5:30 ARE YOU KIDDING). As with many great fantasy novels, Nevernight needed time to build up the world, the plot, and the characters, but once that’s in place, holy shit is it an amazing ride.

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Though I’ve marked this book young adult, I really think it can go either way. As was the case with The Lotus War books, Nevernight could very well find a home on the shelves of an ambitious teen reader, but the content is definitively mature. Adult readers who spurn YA could pick this up, read the whole thing, and never guess that they may or may not have been the intended audience. I say an ambitious teen reader solely because I think the somewhat antiquated writing style could put off some younger readers, though tbh it’s not like adult readers necessarily have palates more suited to that. Basically, this book is for anyone old enough to take in the words. It’s less gruesome than A Clockwork Orange, certainly, which I read as a young teen, but not heaps less gruesome.

Since I know I’m surrounded by YA readers in my bookish corner of the internet, I have a comparison for you. You know that scene in Crown of Midnight where Celaena snaps and goes on an assassin murder rampage and is basically wading in the blood and bodies of her enemies? Most of this book is like that. On several occasions, the characters literally do bathe in blood, so yeah. For those who didn’t like the Throne of Glass series because the assassin was not assassin-y enough, Nevernight is most assuredly the book for you.

It gave me great delight to tag Nevernight as a boarding school book, because it sort of is. Mia, whose father was sentenced to death for being a traitor to his country, searches for vengeance. Much like Arya Stark, she plans to kill the men involved in the plot to take down her father. To this end, she trains in her home city. Once he has taught her all he can, he sends Mia to find the Red Church, which worships the goddess of Night and Death and basically is Assassin Church.

gif someday i'm going to kill you arya got
Nevernight consists of Mia’s assassin training at what is sort of like murder Hogwarts. Murderwarts. A couple of the teachers even remind me heavily of Severus Snape. Another, the Masks Shahiid, simply has to be Inara from Firefly teaching the art of seduction. The school and students are vicious. The school actually kills a bunch of the students with their tests, which is even worse than Hogwarts’ record.

Brutal as the school is, though, it is, fascinatingly, the happiest Mia has been since her childhood, since her father’s death. On her way to the school, Mia was hard and, over the course of her time at the school, she softens. Oh, she also becomes more skilled in the arts of murder and kills bunches of people, don’t worry about that. However, she also has friends and cares in a way the rest of them find rather strange. Mia goes from this inscrutable badass bitch to a badass bitch with a marshmallow center, deep under the layers of steel and blood. It’s amazing how likable she becomes, even while slaughtering.

gif inara firefly you didn't see it coming
Despite knowing Kristoff’s penchant for murdering off characters and doing other nasty things to them, I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for this book. I gasped aloud multiple times when reading this book View Spoiler ». Every single part of me expected that View Spoiler ». And I very much did NOT expect View Spoiler » Way to ruin me emotionally and raise the stakes exponentially once again, Mister Kristoff.

I really did not expect this review to end up so fucking massive but whatever. I had to tell you guys how amazing this book was. There’s a reason Kristoff is one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read any Kristoff yet, what are you doing with your life?

Favorite Quote:

“The last thing you will ever be is someone’s hero, girl. But you will be a girl heroes fear.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff”

  1. […] the review I linked too in the aforementioned previous post.  But then A Reader of Fictions posted her own review that made it very clear she ranked Nevernight up there with her all-time […]

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