Title: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: August 9th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 643 Pages
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?
“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You’re a daughter of words. A girl with a story to tell.”
I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Gory, violent, and visceral, the story of Mia Covere is unapologetically raw. It starts in blood and ends in blood and in between… well, there’s more blood. To avenge her family, the nobleborn Mia pledges herself to the Red Church and the dark Mother Niah. As a trained assassin, Mia gains the skills to touch the untouchable. Touched by Niah herself with a kinship with the dark itself, Mia gains an advantage both rare and terrifying. A feline shade twined to her shadow, Mia hasn’t known true fear in so long she’s forgotten the sensation. Useful, when one wants to squelch worries that could cost one their mark. Not so useful, when the lack of fear makes one arrogant, a lesson Mia learns shortly after beginning education in the arts of death.
Nevernight promised me assassins, an enigmatic anti-heroine, and a rich mythos—all things I tend to be drawn to in my fiction. Technically, it delivers on those promises. Technically. But, the fallen noble-turned-assassin story has been done, with both genders, across various media, many times over. Nevernight needed to present an exceptional take on the trope to make more than a passing impression. Unfortunately, I felt the book failed on that score. While I didn’t dislike the book, I didn’t particularity care for it, either. I’m of the school of thought that indifference is akin to death, and my feelings for Nevernight border entirely too close to indifference.
Nevernight suffers from the twin sins of inconsistent pacing and poor narration. It has lovely bones, formed of an interesting, engaging story; however, those bones move laboriously under formal and flowery prose, covered in skin made of sex and blood. Now, that shocking skin definitely grabs the attention; it just doesn’t hold that attention much after the first glance. Kristoff attempts to interject more flavor and history into the narrative via the tried and true footnote method, but those footnotes are long, winding, and cumbersome, and they add very little to the story.
That said, there is potential within the story itself. Once Mia reaches the Red Church, we meet characters that I find truly compelling, and it’s the small nuggets of their stories that kept me turning pages when Mia’s story faltered. The intricacies of the Church, and of its opposing religion of Light, provided a new look on the concept of murder as a sacred rite. Mia’s shadowplay abilities are well described, if not overly original. When the formality is dropped, the dialogue gets downright witty, and Mister Kindly, Mia’s shadowcat companion, is by far my favorite character in the book.
I’m a bit torn over Nevernight. I wanted to love this book, but it left me lukewarm at best. There are some missed opportunities with Mia’s character development that I feel could have made her much more compelling. I’ve enough interest in the world to say I’ll read the next two books, but not enough to really recommend it. It’s a quick read, with sex and gore scenes that really push the boundaries of what one would consider YA literature. Fans of dark fantasy and anti-heroes might find this to be a good read, as might those who enjoy the Assassin’s Creed or Dishonored game mythos.