Review: GODSGRAVE by Jay Kristoff

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Page Count: 419
Release Date: September 5th, 2017
Series: THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, Book 2
Rating: 5/5 Stars – LOVED IT

Warning: Light spoilers ahead for book one, NEVERNIGHT.  Haven’t read it yet?  You can read my review here.

23264671Eight months ago, the Red Church was dealt a devastating blow.  Betrayed by one of their own, the fellowship of assassins saw the majority of its members die at the hand of Republic soldiers, their safe houses destroyed and their sanctuary compromised. Rebuilding has been slow, but in the meantime, contracts must be fulfilled.  And so it is that Mia Corvere finds herself tracking down targets in backwater cities instead of closing in on her real prey: Consul Scaeva, the man responsible for the death of her family, whose mere existence motivated her to join the assassins in the first place.  The Church Leadership has warned Mia against pursuing her personal vendetta, but when a job yields unexpected information, Mia finds herself plotting a way to take out Scaeva without the Church knowing. And that plan involves infiltrating and surviving the brutal gladiator blood sport that entertains the nation.

Here we are ladies and gentlemen: I’ve made it to book two of THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLES, finally FINALLY making good on my promise to read one of Kristoff’s series this year and OH MY GOD was it worth it. This was one of those books I simply could not put down.  I mean that almost literally; when I began this book on Sunday, it took all of my willpower to take a break and go to the grocery store (very important because I was out of that necessity called food).  On Wednesday, I still had half the book left, a little over 200 pages…and I spent the entire evening forgoing my usual activities of TV and video games in favor of plowing through GODSGRAVE and finishing it.

Mia has always been a single-minded, determined character.  She wants revenge on those who killed her parents and her brother, and will endure just about anything to make that revenge happen. As book two progresses, the question is increasingly raised: just how far will Mia go, who will Mia sacrifice to make her revenge happen?  In typical fashion, when Mia arranges to be sold into a company of gladiators, she makes a vow not to make any friends, to keep everyone at arm’s length and see them all as pawns.  You can imagine how well that goes.  But more importantly, living in the worst part of society, as an actual slave, opens Mia’s eyes to the larger problem of just how terrible the Republic is as a whole. She’s forced to look beyond her own myopic goals and realize that the country she’s lived in her whole life is pretty terrible if you aren’t part of the rich elite.  And what exactly will happen to it all if she goes about killing its leaders?  It’s the first time Mia’s had to consider the ramifications of her actions beyond her own self-satisfaction.

On top of the excellent growth for Mia as a character, Kristoff knows how to write a finale.  The last forty or so pages move at a breakneck speed, with moves and countermoves unveiling one after another.  I spent the last several pages loudly cursing as things unfolded, final pieces moving into place, setting up a doozy of a cliffhanger going into book three.  In this instance, I’m thankful this series has already been completed because the year-plus gap between installments would have been agonizing.  But the finale isn’t simply great because of plot.  There’s plenty of emotional moments coming to a head, as characters face off in reckonings that were a long time coming.  It’s the kind of climax that makes you fist pump in victory for the moments you’ve been waiting for, even as things don’t always go the way you thought.

I also appreciated the smaller dramas at play inside the Crow’s Nest where Mia spends most of her time as a gladiator.  The love triangle between the domina of the estate and two other men, the political maneuvering between the domina and her father (owner of a rival stable of gladiators), even the mistrust between Mia’s “passengers” and her newfound allies, all deepen the characters and add levers for Mia to observe and pull on as she tries to ensure her plan comes to fruition.

I have one tiny quibble with the book, and that is that I was a little frustrated that the thread of Mia and her darkin abilities feels dropped for large portions of the story.  After Mia discovered tantalizing clues at the end of NEVERNIGHT, I thought that progress was going to be made on figuring out what she is, what this mysterious “moon” is, and other mythological parts of the world.  But although there are some more clues dropped in the first act, that aspect of Mia’s life largely takes a backseat as Mia figures out how to navigate the politics of her new situation and maneuvers herself towards her final revenge.  I still loved what was on the page, but felt like this thread has just been thrown in without payoff.  I’ll be curious after reading DARKDAWN if I feel the same way or if things are resolved enough that I’ll forgive GODSGRAVE this tiny flaw.

GODSGRAVE was a fantastic fantasy adventure, one that absolutely lived up to the hype. I haven’t even touched the new love interest (the chapter entitled “Please” had me fanning myself after its particularly steamy love scene) or the spectacular gladiator fights as the organizers come up with new and inventive ways for the slaves to fight each other to the death. If you like revenge quests, action, and political maneuvering in tight-knit circles, GODSGRAVE is the book for you.

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