Book Review: Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Nevernight Chronicle
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (September 5, 2017)
Length: 448 pages
Jay Kristoff appears to be working the popular fantasy tropes, first with “Magic School” in Nevernight and now with “Gladiator Games” in the sequel Godsgrave. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not complaining. I could always go for some Sword & Sandal action and the intense thrill of combat in the arena.
Following the events of the previous novel, our protagonist Mia Corvere has completed the trials of the Red Church and has become formidable assassin. And yet, for all the blood, sweat, and tears she has poured into honing her body into the perfect weapon, she is still no closer to her gaining access to the two prime targets on her kill list: Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, the ones she holds responsible for the deaths of her father, mother, and baby brother. Worse, she has been forbidden to take any action against them, making Mia suspect that the Red Church itself may be in the pockets of the two men. Disregarding orders, she decides to take matters into her own hands, teaming up with an unlikely ally to fulfill her vow of vengeance.
Together, they hatch up a mad plan to have Mia compete in the Venatus Magni, which is the final bout of the grand gladiatorial games at Godsgrave where both Scaeva and Duomo would be present to bestow their favor upon the victor. Mia will first sell herself to Sanguila Leonides, owner of the most illustrious collegium, at which she will then climb the ranks to become their champion fighter and be guaranteed a spot in the culmination of the contest. However, their plan immediately falls apart as Mia is purchased by a fledgling and impoverished collegium—owned by the bitterly estranged daughter of Leonides, no less. Left with no choice but to forge ahead, Mia knows she still has a small chance to win a place in the Venatus Magni, but the road ahead will be many times more difficult now, filled with dangerous enemies and obstacles beyond her control.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from having half a dozen of the author’s novels under my belt, it’s that his writing might not be the most elegant and his ideas might not be the most original, but damn, the man can spin one hell of a good yarn. Much like its predecessor, Godsgrave was a fast-paced and addictive read, filled with just as many twists and turns, bargains and betrayals, secrets and lies. However, when it comes to action, this sequel may have Nevernight beat. The pacing simply DOES NOT LET UP. While we may get a brief respite between fights—just long enough to catch a breath—the story never waits too long before plunging us into the fray again. But still, trust me when I say there’s always something new and exciting to see each time we step into the arena, and Kristoff maintains the reader’s interest by keeping the encounters varied.
As a gladiator, Mia is also a force to be reckoned with, painting the sands red with every fight. Brutal and undaunted as she is though, Godsgrave lets us see her personality develop as some of her inner vulnerabilities start to show through the cracks in her armor. One theme I believe the novel tried to explore was the idea of revenge and how it can consume a person’s life. While I’m not sure it did so fully or satisfactorily (because all the outcomes turned out to be pretty obvious), I still really enjoyed seeing how Mia’s inner conflicts affected her choices and kept us rooting for her as she dealt with anything—or anyone—in her way.
Another aspect that is much improved is the writing. In past reviews of Kristoff’s books, I’ve talked about how he has a tendency towards purple prose, but happily I found it to be much less noticeable in Godsgrave. What’s not so easy to ignore, however, are the footnotes—though I’ve learned to tolerate them somewhat. To be fair, they’re definitely a creative and often humorous way to inject some extra history or background into the world, even if I find them to be insanely distracting. Admittedly, I mostly skimmed the footnotes in this book (because sometimes they do provide important foreshadowing), but since that has more to do with personal preference, I don’t hold it against the book or author, and only mention them because they appear to be a main feature of this series and are here to stay.
Overall, I’m really glad I decided to continue with The Nevernight Chronicle, for there was in fact a period time in which I was uncertain. As much as I enjoyed the first book, Mia’s stint at the Red Church felt like a prolonged side-plot and I was growing a little impatient with her lack of progress, but I have to say Godsgrave eased those concerns tremendously. Even if the ending did leave us with an infuriating cliffhanger and verified my predictions as to how things would play out, I feel we’re making huge headway with Mia’s quest. Final verdict? I’m having a blast, and I can’t wait to read the next book to see how this epic story will conclude.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Nevernight (Book 1)