Book Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of The Nevernight Chronicle
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (August 9, 2016)
Length: 429 pages
I was a bit nervous diving into this book. It seemed to me that in spite of the great number of rave reviews praising Nevernight to high heaven, there are just as many savagely tearing it to pieces. After finishing this book myself though, I could understand a little better why this might be the case. There were times I couldn’t help but wonder what audience this book was intended for, exactly. Maybe the reason why the reviews are all over the place is because the story itself is kind of all over the place—though to be fair, that in itself doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
Nevernight is so titled because it introduces us to a world where its three suns almost never set. Our main character is Mia Corvere, a young woman whose father was a famed military leader until he led a failed rebellion and was consequently executed along with the rest of his followers. Mia was seized along with her mother and little brother, but she managed to escape, surviving alone for the next few years in the cold, merciless shadows of the city.
Well, not entirely alone. Mia knows there’s something very different about her, but she doesn’t really understand it. She has powers to cloak herself in darkness, which helps her hide from those hunting her. She is also always accompanied by a shadowy presence, a cat-shaped familiar she has come to call Mister Kindly because the not-cat has come to her assistance more times than she can count. As well, Mia has the help of her mentor, a shady man named Mercurio. Driven by the desire for vengeance on her father’s enemies, Mia ends up following her teacher’s instructions to a secret academy for assassins because she knows that in order to get at her targets, she’ll have to be the very best.
Along the way, she meets an enigmatic boy who simply calls himself “Tric”. It soon becomes clear to Mia that both of them are seeking the same thing—the Red Church, where the Republic’s most ruthless killers are made. However, to be inducted among their ranks is an honor only few attain. Not only is the competition fierce, the trials that the students must go through are also difficult and often deadly. To have her revenge, Mia will need to first pass all the Church’s tests to gain status as a full-fledged Blade—if she can even survive that long to do it, that is.
This isn’t my first experience with Jay Kristoff’s work; in fact, I really enjoyed his Lotus War trilogy, which is why I was pretty excited to start Nevernight. One of the first things I noticed while reading is that the author has made steps to move past his flowery prose—though admittedly, not by much. Kristoff is still very fond of over-embellishing his writing and peppering it with his long, sometimes head-scratchingly complicated metaphors. It clunks up the flow of the story somewhat, but I personally didn’t find it to be a huge problem. Of higher concern, perhaps, are the footnotes that have the potential to be way more distracting if you weren’t expecting them. I can’t even say it’s okay to skip them, because of how much background information they provide in fleshing out the world-building, and often they can be pretty funny. So, the pesky footnotes are just one of those things you have to grin and bear, I’m afraid.
In spite of our teenage protagonist, Nevernight is also most decidedly not a Young Adult novel. It features mature themes and content, including several graphic sex scenes (some of which were pretty awkward…I kind of feel bad for singling that out, but they were just not the best or the sexiest). With regards to my expectations for this book, this is where I stumbled a little. For one thing, this story contains an excessive amount of teen drama for a supposedly adult novel. Also, while I generally love “fantasy school” stories, in Mia’s case, her time at the Red Church felt sort of like one long stopover on her journey for vengeance. Maybe if you’re a YA reader looking for a more mature flavor in your reading, or an adult fantasy reader who wouldn’t mind a bit of high school cafeteria-type shenanigans in your stories, this would be the kind of crossover novel you’re looking for. Personally, it helped me to put myself in that frame of mind.
With all that said, I know I probably sound more negative than positive in this review, but the truth is I really enjoyed Nevernight. It’s not perfect, but it’s also far from being a bad book. I loved the world-building; a lot of effort was clearly put into it. And the plot is wildly entertaining, with plenty of twists and turns, even if they were predictable at times. On the whole, I have to say the book is really quite well-constructed, story-wise. It surely knew how to hold my attention because I could barely tear my eyes away.
Final verdict? Nevernight is not without its flaws, but in spite of them, at the end of the day if I ask myself whether or not I had a good time, the answer is an emphatic yes. Sometimes, that’s all that matters. I’ll definitely continue reading the next installment in the chronicle.