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.

NevernightNevernight by Jay Kristoff

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Nevernight Chronicle

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (August 9, 2016)

Length: 429 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

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.


Mogsy 2

31 Comments on “Book Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff”

  1. I heard great things about the author and the books so I was curious after all the great reviews of this one. I’m glad it didn’t disappoint because the universe looks rich!


  2. I’ve been on the fence about checking out Nevernight. I finally read my first Jay Kristoff book recently (Stormdancer, which was really cool!), so I do want to check out more of his work. But Nevernight sounds very “grimdark,” and I’ve learned that grimdark only works for me when I’m in the mood for it… so… Hmmmmmmm….


    • Yeah, Nevernight is pretty dark but probably not as bad as grimdark. If you’ve read Stormdancer though, I think you should be fine. As I recall The Lotus War had some pretty dark themes too, I wouldn’t say Nevernight is that much worse 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review as always. It definitely gave me even more insight into this book, but I hate to admit I’m still torn on whether to read it or not. All the ultra negative reviews have had an impact, without a doubt.


    • Yes, I was really nervous before starting because unfortunately a lot of the negative reviews were at the top on Goodreads. I see the reasoning behind some of them, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This story interested me since I first read a synopsis for the book, but now I’m of two minds about it, and my biggest concern comes from the footnotes: IMHO they are perfect when you’re reading a text about history, for example, one you can momentarily leave to read the note and then come back to it with no harm done. But with fiction? I’m not so sure…
    And then there’s something in your review that jumped out at me, your comment about the author’s “flowery prose”: my only experience with Kristoff has been in his co-authoring of “Illuminae”, whose writing was all but flowery, so I wonder how much of this penchant of his was tempered by his co-author, and if I would get swamped in those complicated metaphors you mentioned…

    Illuminating 😀 review indeed! Thanks for sharing!


    • Yeah, footnotes feel a little out of place when I see them in fiction, and they can be really obtrusive when they’re all over a text!

      As for the flowery prose, I agree Illuminae is probably not the best indication of what to expect, though if you recall the AI’s narrative at the end of the, think something along the lines of that! 🙂


  5. I’m glad you enjoyed Nevernight! I have yet to read the Lotus War trilogy but really enjoyed the world building (even those footnotes) in the story. I’m curious what happens next and just how far our anti-heroine will go.
    Great review, Mogsy.


    • The world-building was pretty incredible, I have to admit…even with the footnotes. It’s why I read them all, they were very interesting and sometimes funny, lol!


  6. You’re not exactly making a great case for this book! 😀 I’ve only read Kristoff’s Illuminae, so I’m not sure if it’s fair to judge his writing by it (considering it’s a co-authored book), but I didn’t enjoy it. I’ll have to wait for more opinions on this one – or possibly the end of the series so I’ll see whether it’s worth it.


    • Yeah this is pretty different from Illuminae…nothing like it at all. Haha, I tried to strike a balance between my criticisms and my praise, I know I had some negative things to say, but in truth I really enjoyed this book! It was highly entertaining.


  7. Really? So far I’ve only read rave reviews for this one…it does make me feel a bit better that there ARE some people who didn’t like it. I’m wary of books with universal praise – mostly because that’s usually when I end up being a black sheep XD I’ve only read one book by Kristoff but I loved it and most of his other ones are on my tbr shelf so I know I’ll read this…sooner hopefully rather than later. I’m curious now to compare notes with you once I do!


    • It seemed the top reviews at Goodreads were all bad! But the average rating is good though. And yes, I feel the same way as you, sometimes I find myself being the black sheep with universally loved books as well 😀


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  9. This is just one of those ‘Marmite’ books isn’t it? I don’t know if you have Marmite in the US but basically it’s a spread that you either love or hate – there is no grey bit in the middle! So, yeah, Nevernight is Marmite The thing is I really liked it – in spite of hating the footnotes – why with the footnotes, just why? I have experienced footnotes before though in Norrell and Strange – to be honest I just don’t think it’s a good use of the tool. Footnotes, I think, are okay in a written paper where you want to provide some clarity on a specific point without elaborating on it in the body of the text – but in a book it feels like a very lazy way of world building. Like you’re either worried about info dumping or you can’t figure out a way to include the information – and neither of those scenarios seem to fit with this author do they so perhaps he was just experimenting and giving the readers a chance to choose whether or not they wanted the info – like you said I think you need to read the footnotes though. The other thing was the formatting of the footnotes – but that could just be because it was kindle (and it’s another one of those things that grates on the nerves when you’re reading an electronic rather than a paper book. If you’re reading paper you can quickly flip over from page to page without it being distracting but not with a reader. Rant over I still really enjoyed this book. I also take the point about the descriptive flowery writing – but I don’t mind that in fact in a world where books are becoming so blunt that they leave a LOT to the imagination I quite enjoyed his style. It is a puzzling book in that I certainly had negative ‘issues’ but then I still really liked it. Very perplexing.
    Lynn 😀


    • Haha, no I don’t think we have marmite here but I’ve heard of the term – I only recently learned what it meant too, like sometime last year? 😀

      Anyway, I agree, it’s an “either love it or hate it” book. The footnotes seemed like a pretty obnoxious stylistic choice (like, I’ll just put them in…because I can) but I also can’t help but admire some of the amazing world-building he had included in them, not to mention some of the notes were pretty funny! But yeah, I can also see it being a total PITA in ebook format, ugh.


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  13. I really need to get on and start this series soon. I love the sound of the plot so much and I somehow haven’t read a book by the author yet. I am kind of wary of the footnotes though, I’ve read fiction with a glossary or similar but not actual footnotes on the page. I’m still curious enough about the plot to pick it up though.


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