Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
“Meet a girl who was to murder as maestros are to music.”
I was so impressed with this novel, by the sheer scale of it and what Jay Kristoff successfully attempted to do. Nevernight is ripe with rich and fascinating historical aspects that would impress even George R.R. Martin. I devoured this novel in just a few days and am now disappointed with myself that I didn’t take the time to savour it, because now I have to wait over a year to get my hands on the next one.
Nevernight follows the story of sixteen year old Mia Corvere whose life was destroyed after the tyrannous Senate executed her father and imprisoned her mother and baby brother. Mia narrowly escapes death and discovers a mystical part of her: she is a darkin, a person capable of weaving shadows and using them for her own benefit. She is accompanied by a talking shadow in the shape of cat, her constant companion who devours her fear so she is never afraid. Mia’s only thought is enacting revenge on the three men who destroyed her life, so her guardian trains her and sends her to the infamous Red Church to apprentice there and learn the skills she needs to become a feared and accomplished assassin. Only four out of thirty-something students are able to master steel, poison and ‘subtle acts’ to be inducted as a Blade of the Lady of Blessed Murder. Mia must learn how navigate her new home, train to be better than the other fledgling assassins, and contend with a murderer amongst the other murderers who is slowly killing off the congregation.
“It’s quite a thing, to watch a person slip from the potential of life into the finality of death. It’s another thing entirely to be the one who pushed. And for all Mercurio’s teachings, she was still a sixteen-year-old girl who’d just committed her first act of murder.”
Mia was an amazing protagonist. When we first meet her, she is in the process of murdering someone in order to gain a tithe to be accepted into the Red Church. While she is doing the deed, we are shown a flashback from earlier that night when Mia lost her virginity. As soon as I read the first chapter, I knew this book wasn’t going to be like other YA novels. Already, we are shown the female protagonist have a blasé attitude to sex and what it means to lose one’s virginity. This is obviously something that many YA books focus on, but I have never come across one in such a manner before and I was so glad Kristoff wrote it this way. Mia is also a little ball of anger, which really spoke to me. She frequently loses her temper and lashes out. She is a very flawed character and that just made me love her even more. I love her sassy attitude, her fierce personality … even with these somewhat selfish flaws, Mia is still capable of kindness, despite being a killer. She clearly knows the line between killing someone who deserves it and killing for pleasure – and she doesn’t allow herself to cross that line.
Mia’s tragic backstory, when revealed, simultaneously scared and excited me. She reminds me a little of Adelina from The Young Elites. The whole book was slowly setting up Mia’s rise to ultimate power and how, if she is not careful, that dark power will completely ensconce her and destroy everything and everyone. The mini prologue also frightened me: it is clearly written from the perspective of someone (I have a pretty strong guess as to who it is) after the third book in the series, as it mentions that Mia is dead and has taken the Republic of Itreya with her. The remaining books in this series can’t come soon enough – I need to know exactly how powerful Mia becomes and the devastating consequences of that power.
“Never flinch. Never fear. Never forget.”
The world-building was so fascinating and created in a way I had never seen before. Kristoff utilised footnotes in order to explain those details of his fantasy world. Such details are important for the world-building, and a great way to explain something without effecting the progression of the scene. I thought the inclusion of the footnotes was very creative and clever. The fantasy world itself was just amazing: a hybrid mix between Ancient Rome and merchant Venice. Mixed in with the writing, which was so beautiful and poetic, I was able to perfectly picture the setting that was described. The structure of the government was clearly Roman, while the city descriptions where primarily Venetian. Just take a look at the maps at the beginning of the novel to get a feel for how epic Kristoff’s fantasy world is.
My favourite aspect of the world of Itreya was their religion: I am so interested in the history of Aa and his wife Niah, who he banished from the sky, as well as the fact that this world has three suns (!!!). In one of the footnotes, Kristoff makes mention of another god, one of Aa and Niah’s children, but says he cannot expand on it because that would be “spoiling things.” Clearly, this god is an important part of the story, and will probably be introduced in the second novel, if the last chapter of Nevernight is any indication. Kristoff is unmistakably setting up for the second and third novels and I am in awe of the scale of his planning. There were so many times I thought I knew where this story was going, and then something would happen and my mind was just blown away as everything changed. My absolute favourite part of the novel was the last ten or so chapters where Mia just turned into the biggest badass ever by saving literally everyone. This girl is just amazing.
“Forget the girl who had everything. She died when her father did.”
“Nothing is where you start. Own nothing. Know nothing.”
“But why would I want to do that?”
His smile made her smile in return.
“Because then you can do anything.”
Nevernight was simply an incredible novel. I was contemplating giving this book a 4.5 star rating, but considering the planning that went into the plot, as well as the descriptions of history, religion and culture, this book really deserves the full 5 stars. This was an amazing series starter. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series; there are some clues I picked up in Nevernight that I am excited to see come to fruition in the next book. Go Kristoff!