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