Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Review to come…after I find the right words to express my sheer joy with this novel…
Okay, deep breath…here we go…
**A massive thank you to Thomas Dunne Books and St. Martin’s Press for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via Netgalley for the purposes of review**
…be advised now that the pages in your hands speak of a girl who was to murder as maestros are to music.
It is rare, indeed, that I stumble upon a book that grips me with its first page, but Nevernight holds that distinction. I was so gripped, in fact, that I immediately messaged several of my reader friends, telling that, “I’m only 1% through this book, but I already know I’m going to love it.”
I can count the times this has happened on one hand.
And even now, at Nevernight’s end I worry I won’t find the right words with which to describe just how thoroughly I enjoyed this book. But first, a little history: I’ve been a fan of Mr. Kristoff since his Lotus War trilogy — and more recently his co-authored Illuminae — but as much as I liked that trilogy, it doesn’t hold a candle to Nevernight. Whatever skills were being forged in Lotus War, got honed for Nevernight and it really shows. Everything is tighter, the pacing more consistent, but Kristoff has lost none of his power of creativity. This is a wonderfully rich and unique world, filled with characters who are not only entertaining as hell, but about whom I cared a great deal.
And into the shadows, she walked.
This is a viscerally brutal and (at times) horrifically violent story of one girl’s revenge, and the lengths to which she will go to achieve it. But, beyond that, Mia Corvere is a fully-realized and fully-actualized character: she is not just walking revenge. After all, that’s not particularly interesting — give me flawed humans, but humans nonetheless with faults and foibles. Mia makes mistakes, she learns from these mistakes; she kicks ass and outsmarts plenty of very smart, equally vicious young boys and girls. They are training to be assassins who worship a goddess of Night, after all.
“The brighter the light, the deeper the shadow.”
Did I mention there’s religious conflict? There’s religious conflict, where the usually standard trope of “light v dark” (read: “good v evil”) takes a more interesting turn by creating two different religious factions, each with their own kind of power. And, interestingly enough, we’re following a girl who walks in the shadows, who follows the religion of the dark; in this story, we want the dark to win. Or, at the very least, we want Mia Corvere to win. This badass girl has grit and gumption — frankly, she’s many amazing things that I cannot say because (a) spoilers and (b) probably shouldn’t be said in polite company. She and her better half, Mr. Kindly — there is something both endearing and eerie about that name — are the backbone of this novel, and it’s been a while since I met a book with such a strong spine.
And who is Mr. Kindly, you ask? That’s a good question. He is Mia’s shadow-cat — yes, really, he is a cat made of shadows — and functions as both Mia’s companion and a pseudo-familial figure, as well as something like a weapon, should he feel like it. Yes, a weapon: assassins, remember?
“Hmm. I appear to have misplaced the fuck I was about to give for what you think.”
Since we’re on the topic of assassins: this book is violent. Horridly violent. This novel is graphic and vulgar and gruesome, filled with constant profanity that would make a sailor blush scarlet, sex scenes that make it very much NSFW, and more blood than an episode of Game of Thrones. This book is merciless and I absolutely fucking loved it.*
*Damn…I thought I was going to get through this without swearing.
Oh yeah, there are footnotes. For anyone who loved Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus series and the use of footnotes there, rejoice because we have found their successor! This book is written by an unknown narrator — though I have my suspicions as to his/her/its identity — and they frequently interject themselves within the narrative via footnotes to provide background information and a good helping of snark-entary. It’s brilliant, though I will admit it was a little difficult to maneuver in the digital format, but I suspect that is due to this being an ARC more than anything. Whatever the case, this brilliant addition is like the cherry atop this entertaining sundae.
“Never flinch.” A cold whisper in her ear. “Never fear. And never, ever forget.”
You need this book. No, I’m not exaggerating. You need this book. Prior to this book, I’d kind of figured that I’d apparently sold my soul, tears, laughter, and emotions to Mr. Kristoff — but I feel like this book was just his way of making sure. Yes, I’m sold. I’m ready for the rest of this trilogy. Bring it on!
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