Book Review: Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

Nevernight-Jay-Kristoff-Book-Review

Title: Nevernight (2016)
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle – Book 1
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy
Extent: 434 pages
Release Date: July 25, 2016
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

Destined to destroy empires, Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in the shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student. The shadows loves her. And they drink her fear.

Review

Reading Nevernight is a bit of a strange experience. As you can tell from my rating for the book, I actually liked it, but when I looked at my notes, I had more complaints than I had praises! I don’t think that’s ever happened before, but there you go. 😛

For a book with such a strong, exciting, action-y blurb, Nevernight was incredibly slow. While it would take me two or three days to finish a story, a week maximum, this one took me about three weeks, during which I wondered if I would ever find that right opening where I could dive headfirst into the plot. Eventually I did, but that came at around the 50% mark, and for the first half of the book I was left grasping at straws.

“Love is a weapon. Sex is a weapon. Your eyes? Your body? Your smile?” She shrugged. “Weapons. And they give you more power than a thousand swords. Open more gates than a thousand war walkers. Love has toppled kings, Mia. Ended empires. Even broken our poor, sunsburned sky.”

I attributed this to Kristoff’s writing style, which is very dense, very descriptive, and very… tailored. New words and phrases were used in place of the English language that we all know and love: ‘turns’ for ‘days’, ‘yesterturn’ for ‘yesterday’, ‘sunsset’ for ‘sunset’, ‘mornmeal’ for breakfast time, ‘cigarillo’ for cigarettes, etc. These words weren’t hard to understand and kind of speak for themselves, but they did throw me into a loop.

There were also so many words in general, I often had to reread because I didn’t get what was being said. I honestly think maybe 30% of this story could be cut out and the rest condensed into a more… efficient book. Sentences like the following don’t make a lot of sense to me, and there were tons of them:

Tric gave another half-hearted stab, but the beast had forgotten its quarry entirely, great eyes rolling as it flipped over and over, dragging its bulk back below the sand, howling like a dog who’s just returned home from a hard turn’s work to find another hound in his kennel, smoking his cigarillos and in bed with his wife.

One of the most unique things about this book is the footnotes, which frankly speaking, I’m not a fan of. Since I was already struggling with finding my footing (ha ha, pun) in the story, having to read these footnotes was more distracting than not, so I just ended up skipping perhaps 95% of them. Such is the nature of a footnote, though, that even skipping them, I was able to understand the story.

Where the book truly wins for me is the incredible setting. The Red Church is basically Hogwarts for assassins-in-training, and dear god, it shows. It’s home to a whole host of very ‘quirky’ characters: cold-blooded murderer-teachers who are there to teach all there is to know about killing, wickedly calculating students who may or may not have their own agendas, weird creatures lurking in the library… This part of the book I enjoyed so much, I managed to forgive the sluggish dullness that was the first section.

“Killers one, killers all. And each death we bring is a prayer. An offering to Our Lady of Blessed Murder. Death as a mercy. Death as a warning. Death as an end unto itself. All of these, ours to know and gift unto the world. The wolf does not pity the lamb. The storm begs no forgiveness of the drowned.”

It was once the Red Church was introduced, too, that things became so much more interesting. The pacing picked up. Characters said hello, made their places, and dropped like flies. Relationships formed and crumbled. Kristoff didn’t shy away from torturing and killing his characters, so I was constantly concerned that somebody I like would be very, very hurt the next page.

It took me a while to warm up to Mia, but I liked her in the end. I found her banter with Mister Kindly, her ‘not-cat’, to often be amusing, and I liked her complicated friendship (and relationship) with Tric, her classmate. He wasn’t as developed as I’d like him to be, but this book is not a romance. There are still funny, flirty bits though:

“That bastard Solis,” Tric hissed. “I wanted to gut him for what he did. Gave it a roll, but he knocked me flat on my arse and kicked me senseless.”

Mia looked over the new bruises on Tric’s face, shook her head. “My brave centurion. Riding in on his charger to save his poor damsel? Hold me, brave sir, I fear I shall swoon.”

One last thing that I’d like to mention is that Nevernight is not a Young Adult book. It’s quite explicit in its descriptions of sex scenes, and there are lots and lots of brutality and violence in its pages. I think this was great because, well, when your main character is training to become a weapon of death, it’s just natural that she’ll be surrounded by it.

Overall, Nevernight was a dark, intense ride into an inventive, gloriously brutal world. The entrance fee might be rather steep (it was Really Hard to get into this book, capital R, capital H) and the queue was mind-numbingly long (it took me Ages, capital A), but the end result was quite worth it — if you don’t mind wading through the writing, that is. 😛

REAL RATING: 3.5 stars. Man oh man did it take me forever to love the book.

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49 thoughts on “Book Review: Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

      • Well, I saw the author’s comment somewhere about how his book “shouldn’t have sex acts,” but it’s filled with murder…he was upset about the double standard…and I just thought, well, maybe it should be for an older audience, you know?
        Or is that the one with the Angel on the cover? I get the two confused…there’s the one with the crow on the cover, and then there’s a book with an Angel on the cover…is that named something similar? Do you know what I’m talking about? There’s like Neverfall or Evernight or something…and I get both confused. Please tell me you know what book I’m talking about!

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        • I’m a little bit confused – so he said that his book shouldn’t have sex acts but murder is OK? Nevernight has both, especially the latter… and I do think it’s generally for an older audience.

          Are we talking about the same thing? I think the book you have in mind is Nevernight, which I’ve reviewed for this exact post. 😂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh, the author was being sarcastic in that comment, because he was getting a lot of crap for all the sex in the book.
            It’s probably the one you posted…but there is another book out there and I can’t remember the name…it has a picture of a ghostly angel on the cover and it’s called something similar, and I get the two confused…unless there are multiple covers for this book? I’ll see if I can find the name…

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  1. Ah, yes, Nevernight…
    Whenever I try to convince someone to read this book or simply describe it, I use words like: other, different, hard to get into, took me about 100 pages to understand, alien world and language… and yet, I ended up really liking it.
    Nevernight is a *hard* book, both in concept and in writing. But, I believe, it is worth it. To those who are eventually able to understand it and see beyond just the confusion and weirdness.
    I totally get what you are saying. And I agree.
    And yet… despite all that, I couldn’t help but eventually fall for Nevernight. And Mia.
    I’m very much looking forward to book 2. Just imagine, now that we finally have the setting and language in our head, we can focus soley on the awesomness of those charcters and this world (:

    My review of Nevernight: http://magiverse.blogspot.co.il/2016/08/nevernight-by-jay-kristoff-book-review.html

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    • Yeah, I’d agree that it’s a “hard” book – the setting is not an easy one you can just fall into, and it takes quite a lot of world-building and setting up the stage before the plot actually moves at all (in my opinion). 😛

      For me it was worth the trouble, but I honestly believe that some people wouldn’t like the writing or be intrigued enough to continue past the first few chapters. It is a bit of work, after all.

      I’m looking forward to book 2 as well! And I’ve actually already commented on your review. 🙂

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  2. I’ve been seeing this book everywhere, and I haven’t read any of the author’s previous work yet, so I didn’t automatically add it to my TBR. The synopsis sounds so promising, but I have to say I’m a bit thrown off by this writing, and all these WORDS – I had to read the sentence you mentionned as an example of this twice to see what was actually going on ahah. I think I’ll have to think about that one before giving it a try 🙂

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    • This is actually my first Jay Kristoff as well, and I think his other books are less heavy than this (from what I’ve seen)! To be honest the writing isn’t my favourite part – it’s a little bit too much, if you ask me. 😛

      I can totally understand your doubt. I think this book takes a bit of hard work, and that might not sit well with everyone, especially if you’re in the mood to read for pleasure and pleasure only.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Personally I really took to Jay’s writing rather well and I’m of the opinion that the footnotes weren’t really essential to understanding the story. Understanding the world, probably. There’s a lot of history in those footnotes that literally have NOTHING to do with the general plot. It’s really flavor text. Since I’m one that loves intense world building, I really ate it up haha. I think that the first book of the novel is pretty slow moving and dense, though. It was extremely expository, but that’s kind of necessary for the kind of novel this is and it’s not something I haven’t seen in more of the “adult” fantasy novels. Either way, I’m glad you enjoyed it!!

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    • I’m glad you did! I usually love intense world-building as well but I feel like the footnotes could almost be in their own book (i.e. an ‘encyclopedia’ of the world, or something) instead of footnotes in this story.

      If I ever reread this book, though, I’ll definitely be reading the footnotes as I think it’ll give me a better idea of the world… but during my first read ever they were just really confusing to me. 😛

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  4. It took me a week to finish Nevernight and if I hadn’t locked myself in my room for 2 days, it would’ve probably taken me longer. I’m hoping that they do away with the footnotes in the next installment and maybe have a more fast-paced, action-filled plot. Hopefully you enjoy the second installment much more than the first.

    Great review, Reg! 🙂

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    • I had to actively set aside some time as well for this book, no other distractions allowed! I hope so too – I feel like the footnotes could almost be a book on their own (maybe like a companion book that only explores the world), but right now they’re a bit superfluous for me. :/

      Thank you. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve read a lot of reviews on this book but you put it very articulately- so thanks for that! I’ve been wondering if its worth a read or not. Now that I know more clearly it’s good & bad side, I’m feeling more confident about giving it a chance 🙂

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    • Thanks for your kind words! I’d say that despite my appreciation of it, this book is not for everyone – I’d suggest flipping through the first few pages in a bookstore or a library before you commit to giving it a chance! That way you get to know the writing style and see for yourself if you’d like it. 😛

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  6. I’ve only hit the 60 page mark and I’ve already gone back to re-read some passages. The footnotes throw me in this loop. I’ll read it and then forget what was actually happening in the story so I have to go back and read it. I agree with your comments on the words as well. They’re easy enough to understand but it’s still taking some time to get used to them. I’m definitely going to power through it because some passages have already given me chills and I’m curious to see what happens in the Red Church.

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    • I struggled a LOT with the first 100-150 pages, and I’ll admit that I skimmed most of those because I just don’t have the time to reread. It left me a liiittle bit confused but I was able to get into the flow of the story afterwards, so hopefully you will too. Powering through it is the best way forward, I think. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review Reg! I agree with you on pretty much all the points. I thought this was an amazing book but it took me ages to get into it as well. I think it took me well over a week to finish this book and normally I can read something of this size in two days or so.
    I actually really enjoyed reading the footnotes, I thought they added a lot to the world-building but I don’t mind footnotes in books and I do agree when you say you could have easily skipped them and not missed any major or even minor parts of the main story. The only problem is the ARC I had didn’t have the footnotes at the bottom of the ‘page’ so sometimes I’d have to skip through two or more pages just to find the relevant footnote!
    By the end of this book I was hooked, I couldn’t put it down, and in my opinion it was well with the slow start to get to the last few chapters when it seemed like everything exploded into action. I’ already looking forwards to the second book in the series! 😀

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    • Thanks, Beth! Yeah, it’s a very heavy book in terms of writing – it took a long time for me to get into it and while I liked it, I can see that not everyone would like it. 😛

      Oh no! I read the finished copy but I can’t imagine having to flip back and forth just to read the footnotes, haha. Even when they’re on the bottom of the page I skipped them… I feel like if they’re on another page entirely I would have bothered even less.

      By the time Mia and Tric were in the Red Church, things definitely picked up, and I really enjoyed it. Can’t wait for the second book too. I hope Tric makes a comeback. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • I imagine a few people will have possibly given up on this book because of the writing, and the fact that it’s hard to get into, which is a shame because once you do it’s a good book.
        Yeah, I managed that for like a day and then I just read the footnotes as they appeared and tried to remember what they were refering to in the main text. Not ideal but I managed to get the gist of them.
        Oh definitely, and I loved reading about their lessons as well. I would LOVE to see Tric make a comeback, I can’t imagine it after what happened to him but I’m not ruling it out either knowing this book! 😀

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        • I do wonder though if the first half was condensed into maybe like, three chapters, the book would be a better one. Once Mia arrives at the Red Church everything picks up amazingly and the writing becomes much more natural and settled. 😛

          I knoooow, I’m 50/50 on it and knowing what Kristoff has done with his supporting characters, Tric might be gone forever. But one can hope! 😂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Possibly, but hopefully the slow beginning won’t be an issue at all in the second book, Mia is already at the Red Church and a blade as well so it’s got to be more about her next steps afterwards.
            I was so shocked when what happened to Tric’s character happened. But yeah I’m definitely hoping there’s still more for him in this series! 😀

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  8. I looove your reviews so much! You touch on all the topics that I need to know before going into read them 🙂 I might still read it even though its not YA but I am very curious. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it!

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  9. I absolutely adored Illuminae so I’m so glad to hear this was just as good! 🙂 It sounds like such a dark and gory read. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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  10. Glad you liked it! I gave this to a friend and she had basically the exact same thoughts as you 🙂 I’m lucky I got into the world quite fast but I could see how it could have been faster paced. I LOVED all the teachers and the red church, very hogwarty feeling but with a lot more deaths XD

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    • Thanks, Casey! Yeah, I think that really made the difference – for me it was SO SLOW and it took me forever to ‘fall into’ the story. I also loved that Hogwartsy feeling, though, so overall it was a more positive experience than negative for me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My boyfriend is reading books of Kristoff now, a trilogy where Stormdancer was the first book. And he hasn’t been talking about anything else but the book since he started reading it 🙂 Cool to read a review of another Kristoff book as his birthday is coming up and I need tips for a present 😉

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    • Oooh, that sounds good! I actually have Stormdancer but I haven’t gotten the chance to read it yet… I have a feeling it’s lighter on the writing than Nevernight, because Nevernight is very much a ‘big book’. The book is BEAUTIFUL though (physically) and I think would be great as a birthday present, especially if you can get the hardcover. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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