Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Page Count: 427
Release Date: August 9th, 2016
Series: THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLES, Book 1
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – REALLY Liked It!
Mia Corvere is sixteen-years-old, an orphan, and a murderer. That last one is crucial for Mia if she’s to have any hope of surviving her time at the Red Church, a secretive (and illegal) cult of assassins dedicated to the Goddess of Night, Our Lady of Blessed Murder. Six years ago, Mia’s entire family was killed or imprisoned, retaliation for her father’s part in a conspiracy to lead an army against the Republic. Mia barely escaped the massacre and has been plotting revenge ever since. All of her plans hinge on earning the rank of Blade, the only members the Red Church allows to kill in their goddess’s name. But with only four graduates out of every class given that title, the competition among her fellow students is fierce – and sometimes deadly. Mia will have to pull on every trick she knows if she’s to claw her way to the top. Good thing she has one ability her compatriots lack: a strange connection to the shadows that suppresses her fears and allows her to move unseen. But even that might not be enough to protect her in a temple full of assassins….
Long-time readers know that Jay Kristoff has been on my list of authors to read for months/years. Such anticipation is a double-edged sword, because while you eagerly await your chance to read a book, you also run the risk of crushing disappointment if the book doesn’t live up to the hype. Thankfully, Kristoff knocked it out of the park with NEVERNIGHT, creating a fierce heroine that captivated my attention and a world I’m intrigued to see more of.
Let’s get one thing off the table right away, NEVERNIGHT IS NOT YA, despite featuring several teens as the protagonists. It’s something Kristoff’s been vocal about since the book released and for good reason. Inside these pages, you’ll find gruesome torture, brutal deaths, and some graphic sex scenes. If that’s not your cup of tea, best skip ahead to the next book.
For the rest of you, allow me to introduce you to Mia Corvere, scrappy, deadly heroine of NEVERNIGHT. She’s cocky and arrogant, resourceful, determined, and absolutely willing to kill in pursuit of her goals. She’s had to get used to some brutal realities at a very young age, and she’s determined to kill some of the most powerful men in the empire. Mia’s surrounded by an ensemble of fellow students who bring their own piles of angst to the table, each with their own reasons for wanting to be trained in the arts of death. And then there’s Mister Kindly, a shadow creature of mysterious origin who acts as Mia’s advisor and confidant – though not without a generous helping of sarcasm when he believes Mia’s being an idiot.
All of these characters run around in a setting largely defined by the well-worn “magic school” trope – except instead of magic, these kids are learning to kill with deadly efficiency. You’ll find curfews, out of bounds areas, classroom competitions and more. But just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly well done; I found myself eagerly reading to see what harrowing test the students were going to face next. And unlike Harry Potter, the teachers aren’t particularly concerned if their students die, so expect casualties aplenty as the semester wears on.
Then there’s the world, that blends the familiar and original into an enticing package. A heavy amount of the world-building here borrows from Roman concepts, from the architecture to the consul who has assumed emergency powers over the Senate (you know, just until things calm down; yes, of course it takes six years for things to calm down, what are you worried about?). But this is also a world where three suns orbit the planet at varying speeds, meaning that it is almost always “daytime.” That’s affected everything from terminology (they don’t measure time in days, but in “turns”) to how people function in a world where night (“truedark”) comes only once every few years. And then of course, there’s the mysterious origin of the town Godsgrave itself….
What really sets aside NEVERNIGHT from the rest of the pack, however, is Kristoff’s writing, and I don’t just mean the prose (which, on its own, is engrossing, fast-paced, and full of dead-pan humor). Kristoff’s mastery extends to his manipulation of how the words are arranged on the page itself. From the way Mister Kindly speaks in all lower-case italics (and possibly a smaller font size?) to convey his insinuating whispers, to the lack of punctuation as Mia loses herself to haunting memories, the placement of every word is deliberate. Like the shadows Mia controls, this book wraps itself around you with every sentence.
NEVERNIGHT does have one small point I felt could have been improved. This is a book that relies heavily on footnotes for some of the world-building, and I went back and forth between delighting in the droll humor buried at the bottom of the pages, and being annoyed at the flow of the book being interrupted with a lengthy anecdote I didn’t feel I needed. There are some interesting tidbits tucked away in those footnotes, but losing some of them wouldn’t have hurt the book.
All in all, NEVERNIGHT is a fantastic book that pulls you into the depths of its world. From Mia’s first kill to a breath-taking finale, NEVERNIGHT is the kind of book that is hard to put down, and I am looking forward to the sequel with eager anticipation!