Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicles #1) by Jay Kristoff (2016)
NA Fiction | Dark Fantasy | (TV-MA)
“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?”
pooled ink Review:
I launched for a copy of Nevernight because of Piera Forde’s raving review. This is her new absolutely favorite book and everything she described completely sold me on it. Well, you can already see I didn’t give it five stars but it was still quite good.
Reviews can be a tricky thing. I usually search for reviewers whom show a similar taste in books as me because they’ll know better if I’d like a story or not as opposed to someone who reads totally different genres or enjoys different tropes and such than I. I trust Piera’s book opinions but I’m afraid she overhyped this one just a bit for me. She had me expecting the best most epic dark assassin story I’ll ever read. She’s not wrong, it was quite the epic tale but even so I just didn’t quite feel all the magic that she did.
Hmm…that being said I write a review after one read (because re-reading every book would take me ages and this blog would be covered in eDust) but I generally wait until at least a second read to solidify my opinions. Sometimes 5 stars goes down to 4, sometimes 3 stars goes up to 3.5, you just never know where it will settle for you. Generally that first read comes with lots of emotions and first-time reactions but it’s the second (or third) read that really tells you the worth of a story to you. In short, I’m giving this book 4 stars for now, but I will definitely read it again and I’ve a feeling it might go up a bit.
On to my review!
Kristoff’s story revolves around a girl thirsting for revenge and shaping her entire life around it. She first trains with Mercurio, an ex-assassin, and then offers herself to the school for assassins, the Church of the Lady of Blessed Murder. The Church serves the goddess Niah, ex-wife to the sun god Aa. The recruits are put through lessons, tests, torture, and trials all for the hope of becoming one of the four blades inducted into their fold at the end of their training.
Mia is different from her fellow initiates however. In fact she is different from almost everyone she meets. Mia is a Darkin, she possesses the power to manipulate the shadows. Where her power comes from and how it works she does not know, but what she does know is that one day her father was hung before her eyes, her mother and baby brother were ripped away from her, and soldiers tried to drown her, and that day a soft voice spoke to her and she saw that her shadow was dark enough for two.
The book opens with a note from the storyteller who presents us with the true story of “a girl who was to murder as maestros are to music. A girl some called Pale Daughter. Or Kingmaker. Or Crow. A killer of killers, whose tally of endings only the goddess and I truly know.”
No shadow without light,
Ever day follows night,
Between black and white,
There is gray.
-Ancient Ashkahi Proverb
This book was very intense, violent, bloody, dark, and most intriguing. It is a story full of revenge, survival, pushing one’s limits, and perhaps even a higher calling of sorts. There is magic and mysticism. There is searing light and whispering darkness. There is cruel wealth and cunning poverty. There is endless mystery and blunt truth.
Nevernight was a solid read for sure and it was written absolutely beautifully, but even so it didn’t quite capture my heart.
For me it required focus. This isn’t a book you can skim or read with the TV on in the background. But it required focus because it isn’t an easy or surface-level book and I loved it for that.
You meet all sorts of interesting characters that hold blades to their friends’ throats as the plot twists and turns with a noticeable downhill momentum towards the initiation ceremony at the end. Kristoff placed all of this in a very fascinating world. His world building was quite intricate actually. While you only see snippets of geography in the actual plot line, Kristoff includes a plethora of footnotes throughout the book which you can take or leave. Leave them and the story is read unhindered, take them and you discover witty commentary from the narrator as well as layers upon layers of detail and information about every unfamiliar (unfamiliar because this is fantasy) aspect mentioned in the story. I didn’t always read the footnotes, sometimes I just skimmed them or decided I’d rather plunge onwards into the story rather than detour into a history lesson. But I did enjoy those witty comments indeed.
That’s one thing I must say about this book, it is very well written. In fact, it’s written intricately and beautifully. I enjoyed the dual timeline writing style that switched back and forth between the present and key moments in Mia’s past that slowly revealed who she was and what she could become.
This book is a dark fantasy. It is not a romance and it is not a hopeful fairy tale. I know you’ve read plenty of books that are quite dark and edgy but even so there is a light to hold onto, usually found within the vein of romance. I’m just warning you now that that is not the case in this book. There is no love in this story. You may read this book and think you’ve found some, and indeed you may have, but this is a story about assassins and their path has no room for partners.
Never flinch. Never fear. And never, ever forget.
There were definitely surprises throughout this book but some of the twists felt a bit predictable to me. Maybe not if you let yourself be swept away with the action and adrenaline and secrecy of it all, but if you actually paid attention then you’d see at least some of those plot twists coming. I mentioned earlier how this was a very good read but it didn’t quite win over my heart and this is part of that. I definitely enjoyed reading this book but I couldn’t always keep myself submerged into the magic of it and it was these moments when I was reading rather than breathing the story that I managed to recall certain moments and details that exposed a few of those little twists.
Characters! Almost every character presented is a willingly trained murderer so in a way that leaves little room for interesting or individual characterization and personalities to come forth. That being said Kristoff did manage to make some of them stand out either with their humor, their creepiness, their smarts, their brawn, their hatred, their inner conflict, and the like. Most of the characters did not have a very deep personality (or at least not revealed in this book) but like I said, they’re all busy training to be assassins and that leaves little time for letting one’s hair down.
I adore Mister Kindly (Mia’s shadow cat who is clever and witty and perhaps my favorite character in the book) and actually Mia is pretty awesome as well. Despite wanting nothing more than to become a trained assassin so as to murder those who destroyed her family, Mia actually had a good heart buried in her chest somewhere as well as a decent recognition of morality. She’s a cold-blooded killer, make no mistake, but when pushed to the edge she chooses to draw a line she won’t cross.
The ending is pretty epic, I must say. Those last few chapters were intensely exhilarating and kept me on the edge of my seat, not so much with nerves but more so with confident excitement. Awesome way to end this book. We get an epic finale, some closure, a few answers, and the promise of more.
I suppose now you think you know her.
Look now upon the ruins in her wake.
Do you really know her at all?
Not yet, little mortal. Not yet by half.
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.
SO much happens in this book and I’m interested to read what happens next. I’m quite curious as to how Mia’s story will unfold but truthfully I remain undecided as to whether or not I will actually pursue the series. I definitely would like to know what will happen but I’m not jumping up and down in stereotypical fangirl desperation (then again, I believe if I did behave such Mia herself would rise out of the pages and slit my throat). Anyway, we shall see. Some books get better with age and I have a feeling this is one of those. When the sequel is published I will re-read this book and perhaps then the sparks will fly. Who knows?
I will say that if they ever make this book into a movie I highly doubt I’ll be able to watch it unless they tone down the carnage. It’s one thing to read such graphic horrors and let your brain skim over it refusing to envision the gore in full sensory detail and it is quite another thing to have the horror shoved upon you in HD with surround sound. Also I’m a marshmallow and a far cry from a steel-lined assassin. 😉
Overall this was a very good book and while it didn’t overwhelm me with that first-read magic it did light a little spark inside me that I’ve no doubt will grow over time. Even as I type this review I can feel my fondness for this book growing (some books have me buzzing with adoration but while it flares brightly enough for a glowing review, after a few months it has flickered and abandoned me. This book, I’d wager, has sunk its claws into me and is here to stay). I don’t know if this makes sense but, I’m captured by this book but I don’t love it. Then again, this is a book of assassins, there is no room for love.
Nevernight slits your hopes from ear to ear and lets all thought of happy endings bleed dry. Dark, captivating, and without mercy a tale unfolds about a girl who was more than a girl with a cat who was less than a cat. Let the shadows darken and dance, let them tell you their story.
P.S. Yes I had to buy the UK version because the cover was just so beautiful! Also be sure to check out Piera’s reviews! She’s pretty awesome (:
Purchase here: Nevernight
Meet Jay Kristoff!
Jay Kristoff is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of THE LOTUS WAR, THE ILLUMINAE FILES and THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE. He is the winner of two Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, nominee for the David Gemmell Morningstar and Legend awards, named multiple times in the Kirkus and Amazon Best Teen Books list and published in over twenty-five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 13030 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.
He does not believe in happy endings.