James McStravick reviews Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.
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, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?
What can I say about a book that takes the tried and tested fantasy trope of the protagonist attending a school, and turns it on its head by having it as a school for assassins? I believe the word I’m looking for is ‘amazing’.
The world Jay Kristoff has created is a thing of beauty, intrigue and suspense. From the moment I started reading Nevernight, I was instantly gripped by the astounding world and its inhabitants. I felt the background being based during a time possibly similar to the crusades was a stroke of genius as I think the idea of assassins having their own religion fits perfectly into it.
With regards to the religion having their place of worship, The Red Church, act as a school where the assassins can improve their skills and learn more was brilliantly executed. This allowed us to learn more about the Red Church, its ideals and history.
The addition of footers on the pages to explain certain areas of interest was a welcome addition, as it allows you to read more on what the author is trying to tell you without drawing you out of the story. I have seen these types of notes before being used in an appendix, but I think putting them on a page where they are relevant makes linking certain aspects a lot easier.
I have read many books before that give you the backstory of the main character and I have seen a number of different ways of accomplishing this. The way Jay Kristoff accomplishes the jump between past and present is through the use of a different font and formatting. I think this is done very well and I never once felt it broke the flow of the book or made it difficult to follow the story.
Throughout the first part of the book, Mia’s backstory is explained, allowing us to discover what happened to her parents, as well as an incident that changed the lives of everyone in the city. Learning about Mia’s past is very interesting to read about, especially during certain key scenes in the book when you learn more about her early assassin training as a child, and the origin of the Not Cat “Mister Kindly”. For me, the Not Cat seemed to represent another side of her personality as an assassin as well as her past, and it was very intriguing to see how Mia and the Not Cat interacted.
One of the best aspects of the book was reading about the different assassin lessons and how each primary character interacted and dealt with them. I felt that the different lessons the characters had to take sounded very much like core areas an assassin would need to know for survival, and this only enhanced my enjoyment and intrigue of Nevernight.
With regard to the characters in Nevernight, there are quite a few with different backgrounds and stories, which can sometimes mean that it is difficult to remember each character and their different traits. I never found this an issue with Nevernight, as the charactisation is done so well that each of them are very memorable in their own way. I enjoyed how they book didn’t info dump everything about a character at one point, but instead as the book progressed we learnt more about what makes them tick.
The only issue I had with the book was that there were a few scenes that I felt dragged on a bit; I felt it was unnecessary to go into them to that extent as I feel they didn’t lend too much to the story. With that in mind though part of me does understand why Kristoff had these scenes as it helped show the characters at their most venerable moments, and it showed us how they dealt with these in their own way.
I think Kristoff has created a spectacular book and I believe it is one of, if not the best, assassin book I have come across in the fantasy genre. This book will grab you from the start and you won’t want to put this down. I would highly recommend this to any fantasy fan and particularly those who enjoyed Brent Week’s Night Angel trilogy. Jay Kristoff certainly knows how to leave you wanting more as not only did it finish on a high, but it was also left on a cliff hanger, and I can’t wait until the release of the sequel.
- Lotus War series
- The Illuminae Files series