Blood and Awesome: A Review of Nevernight

Nevernight (2016)
Written By: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 448 pages (Hardcover)
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle (Book 1)
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Why I Chose It: The cover mostly. I’m a sucker for good covers with stark contrasts. And wings. I really like wings.

Premise:

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.

No Spoilers!


Discussion: In retrospect there is very little that is unique about this book. With the fledgling killer from Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy, the brutality of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, the humor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the footnotes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, almost everything about it felt familiar. Even the Red Church, a group of assassins who worship a goddess of darkness and death, felt like the Dark Brotherhood from the Elder Scrolls, and Godsgrave, the city built from the bones of a dead god, reminded me of Guardians of the Galaxy.

But let me be clear. This isn’t a bad thing. All those stories I just mentioned, whether they be book, video game, or movie, are some of my favorites. I think Nevernight is a great example of how while there’s “nothing new under the sun,” there are myriad ways to tell a familiar story and infinite ways to tell a great one. And it’s how Kristoff weaves these familiar tropes together that makes Nevernight itself unique.

Mia herself is one of these tropes, a “strong female character,” and yet she manages to escape the bonds of cliché. She’s strong without losing her sense of humor, and she’s conflicted without losing her convictions. She’s merciless and yet she’s driven by love. Man, I love characters with a bit of nuance in them. Yes, there were places where I thought she made some dumb, impulsive choices, or she was thinking with her sex drive instead of her head. In her defense, there were a couple of those where I forgave her as soon as I saw how everything played out. And that was the key. These bad decisions never managed to ruin my appreciation of her resourcefulness or cleverness. I loved that cleverness.

A trait shared by the very person narrating her story. I think the very first thing that drew me into this book, even as I was recognizing all the familiar tropes, was the narrator. We don’t know who he is, what his relationship is to Mia, or why he’s telling the story. Heck, we don’t even know he’s a he, I’m just making an assumption for simplicity’s sake. But it turns out, I can wait patiently for the answers to those questions as long as I can keep listening to him and his commentary on the world’s history and society and religion. Because whoever he is, his wit and sarcasm and caustic wisdom were the light that contrasted the darkness of the rest of the book. His commentary was an integral part of the balance that made this story work.

Because otherwise it’s just blood. Blood and gore all the time, everywhere. If you’re squeamish, you might want to steer clear. I’ve dissected cadavers and had no problem being up to my elbows in dead organs, and yet there were still parts of this that had me going “…ewwww…” In the end, I think the humor and the intrigue were worth the blood and guts, and it’s not like the narrator didn’t make it clear on the first page what I was getting into. But still, fair warning.

In conclusion: Besides the blood there was really only one thing that put me off in this book. One choice made by one character that I can’t say any more about since it would be a major spoiler, but it didn’t quite jive with everything I knew and believed of him. Still, I really loved this book. I loved the idea of assassins in a world where the suns almost never set. I loved the humor and the adventure and the loyalty and betrayals. Other people might have a problem with the writing, the metaphors, the language. I loved those too. I am really looking forward to the sequel, Godsgrave (and oh my gosh, does that mean she’s returning to that fantastic and macabre city that I just want to spend hours exploring, because I really hope so).

2 Comments

  • Lane Robins February 7, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    This looks fun!

    Reply
  • Weasel of Doom February 7, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Cool!

    Reply

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