Audiobook Review: Darkdawn 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 (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 3 of The Nevernight Chronicle
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (September 3, 2019)
Length: 21 hrs and 35 mins
Narrator: Holter Graham
Wow, what an ending! With a flourish, Jay Kristoff deftly concludes the most entertaining assassin fantasy trilogy I’ve had the pleasure to read in recent years with Darkdawn, though to tell the truth, it probably wasn’t my favorite of the three books. Focusing heavily on familial ties and other relationships, as well as the political fallout from the end of the previous book, this one fell a bit short when it came to adventure and pure fun, but it made up for it with intrigue.
But first, if you’re not caught up with the series, this review may contain spoilers for events that happened in Nevernight and Godsgrave. We return to protagonist Mia Corvere, who has trained for eight years—first in the dark halls of a secret academy for assassins, and then in the bloody pits of the gladiatorial area—in order to come to this point. Ever since her father led a failed rebellion and was consequently executed for treason, Mia has sought vengeance against those responsible for his downfall, including her sworn enemy Consul Scaeva. And at long last, she thought she had her revenge, but as it turns out, the situation is more complicated—and her foe more diabolical and wily—than she expected.
But if there’s one silver lining, it’s that Mia has discovered her brother Jonnen, whom she had thought died along with the rest of her family, is in fact still alive and well. However, he is no longer the sweet little baby she remembers in their mother’s arms, having grown instead into an angry, insufferable spoiled young boy who sees Mia as the enemy. Not only does he not remember her or believe in their shared blood, he blames her for destroying his life. On the run together, the reunited siblings lay low while Mia tries to figure out their next steps. More details from her past have come to light, changing everything she thought she knew about herself and her parentage. Meanwhile, another person once thought lost to her forever has made a surprise reappearance, and the repercussions are making Mia question her relationship with her lover, Ashlinn.
That wasn’t the most adequate summary, I’m well aware. However, I purposely kept things vague because the less you know going into this final book, the better. There are some seriously insane twists and lots of emotional bombshells to deal with, especially if you’ve become as heavily invested in these characters as I have. Sure, our girl Mia has bested the deadliest poisoners and defeated giant sand worms in the arena, but nothing could have prepared her for the mental challenges of handling her little brother, who is more like her than she’d care to admit. This book is all about Mia coming to terms with all her relationships—not only with Jonnen, but also with Ashlinn, Scaeva, and other characters we’ve seen from previous books as well. For instance, Mercurio, our protagonist’s dear mentor, is given his own perspective chapters in this novel, and the inclusion of his voice and multiple POVs resulted in a fuller, richer narrative.
That said, in terms of sheer exhilaration and pure adrenaline-rush excitement, Darkdawn probably comes in last place, behind Godsgrave and Nevernight in that order. Granted, it’s hard to top epic gladiator battles and secret assassin schools, but I had hoped for a little more action. Instead, what we get is a lot of talk, talk, and more talk, punctuated with a few skirmishes here and there and, oh hey, why don’t we just throw in a lurid sex scene or two while we’re at it. I mean, I get it—it’s the last book in the trilogy and we need to wrap things up and take care of any loose ends, and sometimes that requires a lot of explaining and describing in great detail. I just wish more had been done to balance out the lulls and improve the overall flow of the story. Listening to the audiobook, there were even a few sections that put me to sleep, because nothing interesting was happening.
Still, at the end of the day, given how much has happened, I guess it was worth putting up with a few pacing issues if it meant a satisfying conclusion. And yes, for what it’s worth, it was a good ending, at once making me feel a deep sense of bittersweet sadness as well as the kind of relief that washes over you after surviving a particularly harrowing emotional rollercoaster. Overall, despite a few stumbling blocks, I have to say I’m quite happy with Darkdawn and the way it puts a cap on the Nevernight Chronicle. I’m also glad Jay Kristoff decided to make this final novel all about Mia and her relationships, calling back to the past and, in some ways, bringing everything full circle. While it might not be as action-packed or thrilling as the previous two books, it does lead to a stunning climax and resolution. And as befitting a series closer, it will fill you with a sense of completeness and leave you with a lasting impression.
Audiobook Comments: After listening to audiobooks for many years, I’ve found there are two types of narrators: those who do the minimum required of them and simply read the words on the page, and those who go above and beyond to add their own flourishes whenever the opportunity arises. Holter Graham is definitely in the latter group. Whenever a song verse came up in the book, for example, he would sing it out to his own tune. His voices were also superb in the way he would rasp out a certain character’s lines, or whisper another’s. Bottom line, he gave life to everyone in the book and made Darkdawn an incredible listening experience.