For What It's Worth

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review: nevernight (the nevernight chronicle #1) by jay kristoff

26114463The first in a new fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author.
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, p
oison 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? ~
Goodreads

Source: ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review:

As soon as I realized that Nevernight was about a teenage assassin, I wanted it. When I heard that the assassin’s actually get their assassin on I KNEW I needed this book. There’s nothing I hate more than when books about violence all of a sudden get sanitized and don’t show the gruesome results. Yeah, well no worries on that count with Nevernight. The very fist line is this:

“People often shit themselves when the die.”

Nevernight follows Mia, after the execution of her father, embark on a lonely life, training as an assassin to get revenge on those who tore her family apart.

So with all this going for it this was a slam dunk – 5 star – best of 2016 – right? Not so much. There were things I LOVED about Nevernight; the pull no punches plot, the complex background given to Mia and the boy, Tric, she meets on the way to apprentice at the Red Church to officially become a Blade of the Lady of Blessed Murder, the way Kristoff uses similar words and phrasing to explain both past and present. (more on that below…)

But the writing. It was dense and plodding. Unnecessarily so imho. The closest I can compare it to is Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series (which I loved btw) There are stories within the story – within the story. Present/past, current political intrigue mixed with past clashes between the Gods.

At first I loved the way Kristoff pulled things off, weaving the past and present. For example... He described Mia losing her sexual virginity using almost the same words as he did as he losing her first kill virginity. It was inventive and effective.

I should preface my next comment by saying the fantasy genre is always a bit of a struggle for me but Kristoff seemed so enamored by his cool world that every description felt overwrought and clunky.

He also used footnotes to expand the world building. So in addition to the struggle to understand and keep up with the slow pace of the story – you had to stop and read footnotes. Some were funny little anecdotes, some explained the origin/history of certain events happening on page. But they were lengthy and distracting.

Once Mia reaches the Red Church the pace picks up as she expands her assassin training to poisons, seduction, and combat and starts interacting with both teachers and students. This was kind of like (as my friend Amber says – Not-Hogwarts). I thought ok – now the good stuff is coming. There is more action, sex, and betrayal but this basically felt like a suped up, gruesome version of Tris's Dauntless training in Divergent.

Again, Kristoff pulls no punches. This is dark yo! And I can’t say I didn’t connect to anyone or not feel emotion for - certain things that happened - but overall, I was just trying to finish the book in my lifetime at that point. I also felt that Nevernight was treading on much safer ground at the Red Church/No Hogwarts, and the characters/plot fell into their predictable roles and the conclusion left me scratching my head. So a whole school of highly trained assassins didn’t see what Mia saw coming??

On the other hand, the ending left a door wide open to the next, and more interesting, chapter in Mia’s life, now that we have the basics laid out. I can’t honestly say whether I will continue or not. I don’t think the author’s writing style is for me, even though I LOVE what he’s writing. Does that make sense? Not really lol

I ended up giving this book 4 stars on Goodreads just for the unflinching violence and Mia’s gritty, off putting personality. I loved her. It’s just that the writing – filled with similes, metaphors and footnotes isn’t my thing.  I suggest trying a sample first to see if it’s something you will like before buying.

*Note: There seems to be some confusion as to whether this is YA or adult. The protagonist is 16 years old but her experiences are adult. There is graphic violence and explicit sex. Why people are getting more hung up on the sex than the violence is beyond me though. The sex scene is explicit but it’s also healthy and sex positive. Of course each reader (& parent) has their own level comfort but that’s my two cents.

30 comments:

  1. I have yet to read his books lol but this books sounds interesting and good to hear about the sex positive. This book with the red church reminded me of Terrible :)

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    1. A lot of people love it so I would say give it a try. Even though it didn't totally work for me there were parts I loved.

      It's not really like Chess's church - more like a school for assassins to do God's work. More like Robin LaFever's My Fair Assassin kind of thing. But the writing is ore like Laini Taylor.

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  2. I'm pretty sure Jay called it Adult when I saw him on tour. Just because a character is a teen, doesn't mean it's automatically YA, but I think it's been categorized as such in places and confusing people. haha

    But anyway, thanks for your honest thoughts. I think it makes sense to like the story but not necessarily the writing. I do want to check this out at some point though. I'm curious!

    -Lauren

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    1. It's really interestign so I think everyone should try it despite my review. It's one of those books that not everyone is going to have the same opinion about.

      For example - I found Mia fascinating but other readers thought her to be cold.

      Maybe becasue all his other books are YA and there's a young girl on the cover. It confused people. It's pretty dark so I would say for older teens and adults.

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  3. Um...definitely different, but it sounds really heavy. Then again, I don't like straight-up fantasy :/. Kudos for the sex positive scene though!
    And I didn't know you were so thirsty for blood ;D.

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    1. I am bloodthirsty!!!! In my reading anyway lol

      I really wonder if it was the fantasy aspect that made Nevernight not work for me.

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  4. Look at this, so late again, *sniff* I am so late to your blog.
    Sounds amazing to be honest

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    1. I would love to know what you think bout this one! We're both pretty impatient readers but you enjoy fantasy more than me. Read it! lol

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    2. Really excited about this one. I think I will have a better time at it than i did with his other books.

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    3. This was my first book by him. I've been interested in his books for awhile now. I thought for sure this would be the one that I would love.

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  5. The readers are split about this it seems. Footnotes... I wonder if it'll appear in egalleys. I have one but with all the reviews I'm not compelled to read it right away.

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    1. I would assume yes - because, while not necessary, they are part of the story at times. Little info dumps to help explain things.

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  6. I'm currently reading Nevernight and I'm really enjoying it just now (I'm about halfway) but I have to agree with you about the writing. It is a bit of a slog to read and it took me ages to get into it.

    Lauren @ My Expanding Bookshelf

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    1. I don't know if it's the writing or the fantasy element that made it so hard for me to read but I'm bummed because I did love the core story and characters.

      I'm glad you are enjoying it more!

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  7. I'm not sure if I'd enjoy this one, but I'll have to see if my library has it!

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    1. A lot of readers love it so give it a try!

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  8. I honestly don't know what to think. Your opinion is shared by so many of my other trusted reviewers. At this point, I'm not even tempted to read this. I have a feeling I'd be annoyed with so many things in it.

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    1. Really? I'm the only one I know of that didn't love it.

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  9. I've been wanting to read a book by Kristoff FOR SO FREAKING LONG so I may start with this one since it seems to be ALL THE RAGE these days. :) I like the fires and all that snd after reading Game OF Thrones I think I'm kind of... ready to read this one. I'm sure it can't get worse than Game of Thrones. :)

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    1. Mia reminds me very much of Arya (is that her name?) in GoT so you might like this one a lot.

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  10. I didn't have problems with the writing per se, but I did not like the footnotes. Actually, I liked the footnotes (as it did expand the worldbuilding) but I didn't like the stoppage of the flow. I'm not a huge fan of footnotes.

    I also consider this one adult for BOTH the sex and violence. Yes, I totally agree about how you saw both. Brilly review.

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    1. YES! with the footnotes. They DID add to the story and some were funny/fascinating but they were long so to read them you had to stop the story and then go back.

      I actually loved the violence lol and I was kind of bummed when it switched to training. I just wanted her out killing people. Hahahaha

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  11. It's so dark!!! I agree that I didn't connect with Mia as much as I had wanted to, I think it was because she was such a dark character, but I did like her complexity as well!

    Totally true about the explicit sex. While it was explicit as hell, it's realistic which is refreshing. It wasn't overly romantic which you usually hear in fantasy novels.

    I wonder if we're done with Not!Hogwarts now. Hmmmm.

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    1. I liked that about her but I can see how she was hard to connect to for some.

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  12. oh boy...the authors writing sounds so confusing!! I know I would have issues with that as well. But good to know it was still a solid read.

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    1. Although it wasn't what I was hoping for - I enjoyed it enough to recommend it.

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  13. I do agree with it being adult fantasy, even with the young adult age of Mia. I personally thought as an adult reading it, that the sex scenes were well written too, empowering that she took charge of her sexuality. I can see why some readers may have issues with the sexual content though. From the synopsis, you know it's going to be a violent and brutal read, but the sex scenes are unexpected. But if it's being marketed as adult, then that should be an issue. It's one of those books that is clever to span across two markets. Mia is young so it lures in YA readers and also the adult YA readers as well. I actually wanted more brutality. Awesome review Karen, so glad you still enjoyed it despite those niggling issues <3

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    1. I think I had read so much about the sex stuff before reading that I was kind of like - was that it?? lol I thought it was so well done and not gratuitous in any way.

      Once they got to the school the violence kind of tapered off and that bummed me out. But yes - overall I still really enjoyed it.

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  14. Yeah I don't think this one is for me. I don't think I could get on board with behaviors/actions when she's a kid. I've seen a few struggle with this one now but end up rating it fairly high which surprises me.

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  15. Fantastic review, Karen! I think I'll still give it a try to decide if the clunkiness will put me off :)

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