Backlist Review: Nevernight
Also by this author: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1), Gemina
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle #1
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on August 9th 2016
Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight is one of those books that has received so much hype that I’ll admit I kept pushing it aside on my shelf, fearing that it couldn’t possibly live up to the extremely high expectations I was building up in my own head for it. I finally picked it up this year for the Beat the Backlist challenge I’m participating in and despite a few hiccups that I had early on, I think it’s safe to say this book really does live up to the hype. As I was reading, I kept getting the vibe that it was basically a Game of Thrones/Harry Potter mash-up and since I love both of those series, it made for a winning combo for me.
Nevernight follows the story of Mia Corvere, a young woman who has recently lost everyone she loves at the hands of a corrupt government. Mia’s father was wrongly executed for treason, and as further punishment, her family was kicked out of their home and left to rot in a prison. Somehow, Mia miraculously escapes and goes into hiding. She is determined to avenge her father’s death and using a gift she has but knows little about, the ability to communicate with shadows, Mia manages to find a retired killer who is willing to train her in the skills she’ll need to master in order to achieve her goal.
Mia soon finds herself in a position she never imagined, as an apprentice in a deadly school for assassins, the Red Church. Here, she will continue her education in hopes of being chosen to serve as a Blade of the Lady of Blessed Murder, which would put her a step closer to her ultimate goal of vengeance. That is, if her fellow classmates don’t kill her first. The competition to become a blade is truly cutthroat, pardon the pun.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, there is also a killer loose within the Church’s halls potentially threatening all of them, Mia is also being haunted by secrets from her own past that have resurfaced, and there also appears to be a conspiracy afoot that could bring down the entire Red Church and everyone in it.
What has Mia gotten herself into and will she even survive to the initiation ceremony, much less live to exact her revenge?
Mia was my favorite part of Nevernight, and her storyline is what gave me the Game of Thrones vibe that I enjoyed so much. Mia reminded me so much of Arya Stark, who is my favorite GoT character. Mia is a badass character who is also fiercely devoted to her family and will stop at nothing to avenge them, even if it means making a dangerous journey to a faraway land to receive proper training in the deadly arts she needs to ensure she does not fail.
What I really loved about Mia though is the sense of vulnerability that was also there beneath the surface. Once she enters the assassin school, she appears to be quite skilled in several areas that are being taught. Her biggest weakness, however, is that she seems way too quick to trust and make friends with those around her. Given this is a cutthroat competition where only 4 out of 29 students will be chosen as Blades, this seemed a bit naïve. At the same time though, while I wanted her to be more vigilant and less trusting, I also just liked how human it made her seem in the midst of such a ruthless and potentially deadly environment. It added a nice layer of depth to her character and made her more relatable because of course we all want to have friends and she has been on her own since her family was taken away from her.
Mia wasn’t the only character I liked either. Kristoff did one of my favorite things with this book – he gave me a cast of secondary characters that I also fell in love with because they’re so well-developed. Mia’s fellow students and competitors were a fantastic bunch and I ended up loving even the ones that I probably shouldn’t have loved. I found myself giving all of them the side eye throughout the story, trying to figure out if Mia could really trust any of them or not, and I loved that the story kept me guessing throughout: will they be best friends or will they try to kill each other? Aside from that, I also liked getting a little backstory on them, particularly why each of them had chosen to come to the school. I knew why Mia wanted to be there, but it was equally fascinating to find out the motivations of the others.
Kristoff’s worldbuilding in Nevernight is truly exquisite. The details were so richly drawn that I felt like I could easily visualize Godsgrave and even more especially, the assassin school of the Red Church. And this is where my Harry Potter/Hogwarts vibe came into place. The students are schooled in the areas of weaponry, poisons, pickpocketing, and the art of seduction, all skills designed to make them of service to the Lady of Blessed Murder. As in the Harry Potter series, we actually follow Mia and her classmates to these classes and watch them progress in their lessons. The classes are taught by masters in each of these areas called Shahiids, which reminded me of the Professors at Hogwarts. Every detail of the school was well thought out, down to the contests and point systems in place to help determine the top four students at the end of the term.
Mia’s shadow gift is also pretty brilliant and I love the air of mystery it adds to her character. I don’t want to say too much about it since I think it’s best to learn more about her gift as she’s learning about it. But can I just say that I want a shadowy “Not Cat” of my own? Daemon or not, I loved that little shadow cat and the way it talked to Mia and stayed with her no matter what.
Overall I loved Nevernight, but I did have a couple of issues, one of which were the footnotes. Even when footnotes contain essential information, I don’t like them because I find it distracting to have to stop my reading, go down to the bottom of the page and read the footnotes (some of which were very lengthy), and then go back up and start reading again. I’ll admit that some of the footnotes were humorous and I liked the sarcastic tone of those, but most just left me annoyed that I had stopped reading the main action of the story to get what felt like a tidbit of trivia that didn’t really add much to what I was reading. I’ve come across plenty of other readers who love the footnotes though, so I’m going to chalk this up as a personal quirk of mine.
I also had a little trouble settling into the novel at the beginning. The language felt a little stilted and for the first few chapters, I thought the book might end up being a DNF because I wasn’t feeling wholly engaged with the story. Thankfully though, whatever was bothering me early on seemed to give way pretty quickly to a more natural flowing prose and then I devoured the rest of the books in just a day or two.
Nevernight isn’t a book for the faint of heart. It’s full of bloody violence, coarse language, treachery, and it has its fair share of smutty sex, but if you’re into those things, it’s a wild and entertaining ride!
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?
I really enjoyed this – can’t deny those footnotes gave me issues though. The second book I thought was even better – footnotes and other things being addressed.
I’m glad to hear you thought the second book was even better than the first. I need to hurry up and pick up Godsgrave so I can continue the adventure.
I came to Nevernight later than most and I absolutely loved it. I’m really looking forwars to the third in the series which I think is due out later this year.
Oh wow, the third one already. Guess I need to get busy on Godsgrave, lol.
I enjoyed this one, but it did give me pause that it was aimed at the YA market… I haven’t yet read the second book, yet – but I really want to.
Yes, I was a little surprised by that as well. Looking back to when I purchased my copy, I’m glad that my local bookstore shelved it in the regular Fantasy secion rather than in the YA Fantasy section.
I was really excited about this one when I first heard about it, but after reading a couple of not so positive reviews, it went to the bottom of my TBR pile. It sounds like I should move it up again. Thanks for your great review, Suzanne!
I had done the same thing. I’m glad to have finally read it. And I will say, if the footnotes get annoying for you, most of them can easily be skipped without missing anything from the main storyline.
I really do love the sound of this in theory, but I don’t know why I haven’t go around to it yet. Great indepth review, Suzanne.
I put it off for nearly two years, so you’re not the only one, lol. Thanks!
Great review. I really enjoyed this one as well…and I must admit I was a sucker for the footnotes, I just enjoyed the narrator’s voice so much.
Haha, from what I’ve been seeing, people seem to either love the footnotes or hate them. Still a wonderful read regardless though. Can’t wait to read Godsgrave.
I so need to read this one still! I do like Game of Thrones and Arya so seeing that comparison makes me excited. I’m glad you were able to get through the beginning. Thanks for sharing!
Oh yes, if you like Arya, you should really love Mia too. Both are really great characters, very easy to root for.
Great review! Glad you didn’t DNF. This one is on my shelf.
I’m glad I didn’t either. It ended up being such a good read. Need to get my hands on Godsgrave now 🙂
I had the same issue with Nevernight in that it took me quite a few chapters to get into the story. I didn’t really like it at first, but I’m glad I pushed through, because it ended up being one of my favorites for all the reasons you mentioned! Looking forward to starting Godsgrave 🙂
I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggled to get into the story at first. I’m definitely glad I stuck with it though. It was so worth it.