The 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, 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? ~ Goodreads
Source: ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest 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.