4 stars out of 5.
Destined to destroy empires, Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day she lost everything.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her.
And they drink her fear.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
In short, Nevernight is the first book in Jay Kristoff’s new fantasy trilogy focusing on Mia Corvere who along with her companion the ‘shadow cat’ Mr Kindly sets out to be accepted by and graduate the Red Church to become a fully fledged blade (assassin) so she can get her vengeance and revenge on those who killed her family.
Nevernight starts with perhaps one of the best opening lines in recent history for fantasy or any other genre of book. Perfectly setting the tone for the language and writing style for the entirety of the novel.
People often shit themselves when they die, did you know that?
The writing for the most part in Nevernight is really good but some may find Kristoff’s style slightly different to begin with and it may take readers a while to get into. Kristoff manages to pull you into the story with descriptive, vivid prose and viscerally gore splattered well written combat scenes. But at times, it also feels likes he’s giving you slightly to much information, along with the story there’s also footnotes that appear throughout the book. There isn’t many in the second half of the book but in the first half there seems at times to be an awful lot clogging up the pages. That’s not to say that they aren’t a decent addition, they add extra history and lore to the story, aswell as being observational musings that are often quite sarcastic, amusing and humorous.
It’s perhaps hard to classify Nevernight, it’s part revenge tale and part coming of age story. But, while it’s central focus is on Mia and some would say it’s a character driven story it’s a bit to action centric for me to be simply classified as character driven and it falls somewhere between both being a character driven and story driven book.
The pacing however in Nevernight is slightly off at times and I found the book to drag in places. It’s not boring or slow which probably sounds weird after I’ve just wrote it drags. But there just seemed to be too much going on and you were thrown from one confrontation and event to the next with minimal time in between to take things in. Sometimes, lack of action, taking a step back and replacing it with character introspection adds far more emotion and atmosphere to the overall story than yet something else occurring, another layer and plot thread being added just for the sake of it.
Ecspecially in fantasy it’s not all about the action and events taking place and it’s more about the calm before the storm, the quiet introspective and reflective moments and/or even the deathly silence of the aftermath that hold the real meaning. And, I’d have liked to have seen more of those sedate moments as they were very fleeting and seemed few and far between throughout the books 600 page length.
During the book I knew one of the plot twists a mile away – standard fantasy trope, it’s never the obvious culprit! But for the other major twist, I fully admit that I didn’t see it coming and was shocked. The twist itself was a welcome addition to the story though, breathing new life into the book as it had started to drag in places before the surprise twist. And, with 100 pages left the twist propelled the story forward setting Nevernight up for its epic conclusion and finale.
I mentioned humour earlier in the footnotes. I found the humour throughout Nevernight to be top quality from the occasional sarcastic remark by characters to the laugh out loud comments strewn throughout, often finding myself sniggering at what I was reading. High praise also to Krisroff for his usage of the word ‘funbags’ it’s not a word I ever imagined that I’d read in a fantasy novel! Mr Kindly’s observations and Ashlinn’s comments during Mia’s time at the Red Church are highlights of the book making you laugh at Mr Kindly’s drollness and Ash’s often lewd and bawdy remarks, giving you some at times needed comic relief.
For me, one of the best things about the book is the world building, it’s richly detailed throughout with plenty of magic, culture, religion (light and dark), history and lore depicting a vividly realised world and shows real thought on Kristoff’s part. It’s easy to see that he’s spent a lot of time and effort envisioning his created world and bringing it to the pages. The Red Church is great, a school shadowed in darkness to make the world’s deadliest assassin’s surrounded by the Ashkahi Whisperwastes, a barren nightmarish wasteland inhabited by Sand Krakens, foul creatures with gaping maws and a thirst for anything trespassing in their domain, even vile creatures need their Nom Nom’s! Godsgrave is also a vast well realised city and the Philosopher’s Stone is depicted as a terrifying prison for the worst of society with no hope of escape.
The characterisation for the main core characters in Nevernight is for the most part top notch, you get back story, motives and understand the reasoning behind the actions they take. Let’s be honest, it’s a blood soaked revenge tale and you would need a very good/dark reason to want to be an assassin! Mia being the main character and focal point of the story has the most character development but other apprentices at the Red Church like, Tric, Carlotta, Jessamine and Ashlinn are all well thought out with their reasonings being valid and the characters themselves being a welcome part of the story. I’d have liked to have seen some back story for the Shahiid’s (Reverend Mother Drusilla, Spiderkiller, Solis, Aalea and Mouser) at the Red Church along with The Weaver Marielle and her brother The Speaker Adonai as I feel that would have been really interesting, hearing and finding out about some of the assassinations that they had taken part in. Likewise, reading about the enigma that is the Lord of Blade’s himself, Lord Cassius would also have been nice, even if it was just one of the Shahiid’s regaling the apprentices with one of his kills during one of their lessons.
Back to Mia, she’s a great choice for the story to revolve around, unfortunately she suffers from another quite standard fantasy trope whereby she has memory loss of a traumatic event, that we find out about later in the story was in fact not the nightmares she has (Mr Kindly her shadowy companion keeps her fear at bay) but forgotten reality. This results in Mia’s dark/shadow powers coming to the fore and being far more powerful than they previously had been. Mia is a ‘darkin’ which sadly we don’t learn much more about in the book other than the actual ‘darkin’ name. Hopefully Kristoff will delve deeper into the darkin kind and explain more in future books.
As a gamer I couldn’t help but feel that some of Mia’s abilities were very reminiscent to the computer games – The Darkness 1 and 2. The main character in them controls the darkness often using tendrils born from the darkness and has darkling minions. Similar to how Mia does with shadow, using her shadow tendrils and her shadow companion. On a whole, it’s completely irrelevant to the book, story or this review, but for me, it was cool when reading the book to remember a couple of games I played years ago.
I’d like to have my say in what genre I’d actually class Nevernight as. A few websites have it classified as Y-A in the listing and also, after reading a few other reviews they to say Nevernight is Y-A merely because Mia is a young main character (10 years old when tragedy occurs and 16 years old for most of the book). Apologies, but I have to disagree, a young protagonist doesn’t immediately mean that the book is Y-A, ecspecially not in fantasy. I’m sure my fellow fantasy fans out there will agree with me that it’s a quite standard fantasy trope – start the series with a young main character who’s orphaned, lost, abandoned, stolen and sold into slavery, etc and then they age, growing older as the story progresses through each respective book in the series. A few examples I will give you are: Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb, the first book in The Farseer trilogy. Fitz, the main character and focus of the trilogy is a young boy, younger than Mia when the book starts. Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow book 1) by Anthony Ryan, Vaelin Al Sorna is also young when the series starts. Corban in John Gwynne’s Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen series book 1) is again a youngster. So, as you can see, it’s a standard trope in a lot of epic fantasy series to have a young central character. Perhaps you could even add Game of Thrones to the list if that’s the way of thinking, young characters = Y-A as lots of the cast in that series are very young when it starts (Bran, Sansa, Arya, Joffrey, Tommen, Mercella and Rickon) – if you’ve only ever watched the TV show, the characters ages were altered to make them older than they are in the books. I’ve saved the best for last in my little meandering diatribe. Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire trilogy book 1) by Mark Lawrence, in this book Jorg Ancrath is yet again another young main character and focal point for the whole series. And, the Broken Empire trilogy is as far from Y-A as you can get, it’s Grimdark fantasy through and through with Jorg making Mia look like a perfectly good, well behaved and mannered kind little girl (there are some similarities between Mia and Jorg I will admit that, but Mia has some occasional feelings and Jorg is completely lacking in any such compunction or morals). So, on the back of my ARC it says:
From the publishers who brought you George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb, Harper Voyager presents an action-packed and unforgettable new epic fantasy: Nevernight.
And that’s also what Nevernight is to me. With its language, violence, visceral action, sex scenes – two surprisingly quite graphic and explicit. It is epic fantasy and not Y-A.
Nevernight has been very hyped and is being touted with much fanfare as the next big thing in fantasy. And, unfortunately for me, it failed to live upto the hype surrounding it. Yes, it is a decent book but it’s certainly not the greatest fantasy novel ever written.
However, I do think the hype is a good thing as it’s brought the book to a lot of people’s attention who perhaps don’t normally frequent the fantasy genre. And, hopefully after reading Nevernight those readers may broaden their horizons and jump back into another foray into fantasy, as there truly are plenty of great books/series waiting for new readers to delve into their pages and read them!
Now, after writing all that, the question to ask is, did I enjoy Nevernight and would I recommend it to others to read?
And the answer is, on a whole, yes I most definitely would! I really did enjoy Nevernight. On the upside the book contains some really interesting ideas, a good core story, engaging minor characters, a captivating main character in Mia and the last 100 pages fly by in a page turning, epic, blood soaked, action packed finale. But on the downside, I also admit that I did find it at times to be bloated, flawed and overlong. However, it’s certainly a book you can get a lot out of and is well worth your time. And, I’d definitely recommend it to people and my fellow fantasy fans as I myself am looking forward to seeing where Kristoff takes the story in the sequel.
A good start to a new epic fantasy series. Being the first book in a series you’re always going to be left with an inconclusive conclusion to the story and unanswered questions and storylines – it’s the nature of being the first part in a trilogy, you need to wait until the end of the final book for the epic conclusion to the whole story. Kristoff however, finds a decent end point for the book and the ending of Nevernight feels like the end of one part of Mia’s tale and the start of the next. Leaving you intrigued to find out both where the story goes and what next awaits Mia.
I read this book as a buddy read with my fellow blogger and arch American nemesis Filly over at RantandRaveaboutBooks. And so my good people, now that you have finished with my rambled musings, might I suggest that you hop on over to her blog and peruse her own take on Nevernight checking out her review. Link can be found: !!HERE!!
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