Reviewed by: Beth
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
Imagine a place like Venice—only it has three suns and only has full darkness every two years. It also has magic and creatures from the worst nightmares. In that place lives a teenage girl who watched her father die, who watched her mother and baby brother taken and put in a den of criminals, and who escaped with the aid of shadow. A girl who has trained to become an assassin in order to take her revenge for her familia, but who must survive the training—and the fellow students—to be able to complete her goal. The place? Godsgrave. The girl? Mia Corvere, daughter of an executed traitor. The book? Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.
I have been a fan of Kristoff’s since I read his first book, Stormdancer. I have happily read every book of his since then, and when he announced that Nevernight was coming, I pre-ordered not one, but TWO different copies (One from the UK, because, seriously, their covers are SO. MUCH. COOLER.). And now that I’ve read the book, I can absolutely attest to the fact that Kristoff is a whiz at world, and character, building.
The book is written by a mysterious narrator who only tells the reader that he/she knew Mia—the REAL Mia, not the one told of in stories. This narrator loved her and, though Mia is dead, the record should be set straight. No spoilers here, this is the first page of the book, and we learn that the narrator will tell it true, even when the truth is nasty and dirty. From there, the story is told in alternating present, as Mia attempts to gain entrance into the Red Church school of assassins, and the past, where we learn what happened to her and how she became the girl she is. A definite strength in this book is the characters–layers upon layers of truth and lies within them, as we humans tend to be. When several of those characters are also working to become assassins, the layers multiply exponentially until the truth and the lies begin to blur together.
The world-building is also excellent. This place that seems so much like Venice might have way back when, but with lakes of blood to travel through and monsters that attack from the sand, gods that not only exist but bless their favorites, and sorcerii that can weave a body back together. Shadows that “live” and a city built around the bones of a dead god. It’s incredible how it all weaves together into a seamless whole, where the world is almost a character of its own.
The story is violent and brutal—it has to be. While I don’t generally go for a lot of violence, not once did it ever feel gratuitous. But while there is great cruelty, there is also great passion and love. Two sides of the same coin, right? Where one must be felt so strongly, the other often is as well. Note I did not say “romance”—because that would not fit here. What does fit here is passion, and fairly explicit at that.
This is one of those books where waiting for the next one will be torture. But for a fantastical fiction, Nevernight is also one of those rare books where elements of the story last in your thoughts for quite some time after. The themes of family, love and loss, friendship, betrayal…all are universal, and the fact that Mia struggles with all of them at some point in time show just how human she really is. This is not a perfect person we are learning about–but none of us are perfect within ourselves either. And her strengths and weaknesses speak to those same ones in us.
The only issue (and a small one at that) I had with the book was that it is *loaded* with footnotes about different things within the story. I think that some of those could have been dispensed with, as it got to be a bit on the annoying side. However, that is absolutely a minor quibble and believe-you-me, I will be preordering book two as soon as I am able. If necessary, another two copies 😉 Nevernight is just that good.
Sexual content: sex