BOOK REVIEW: NEVERNIGHT BY JAY KRISTOFF
I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but when I do, O, my gentlefriends, it’s awesome. Nevernight came out in 2016 and it’s the first novel in a series by Jay Kristoff, of The Illuminae Files fame. To be perfectly honest, I just bought this book because of the cover, and I have to say maybe judging a book by its cover is not necessarily bad (we all do it anyway, so).
Meet Mia Corvere, a girl born and raised in the highest social class in the Itreyan Republic’s capital, Godsgrave. All was well (I assume) until her father, captain of the Luminatii (something like the national guard of the Republic), is caught after being part of a coup against Consul Scaeva (something like an emperor who’s not trying really hard to make it seem like he’s not an emperor) and hanged for treason. After this and the imprisonment of her mother, 8 year old Mia is taken in by Mercurio, a Shahiid of the Red Church. He trains her for six years so that she may be ready to go to the Red Church to...train some more. The Red Church is an organization and school for assassins, and graduating from it is Mia’s best chance to get her revenge on the people who destroyed her family. That, and she can kind of control shadows.
Kristoff has built a world that feels a lot like a medieval Imperial Rome, the idea of which he describes as “thought experiment - what would've happened if Julius Caesar's bid to overthrow the Roman republic failed and the Republic itself survived to the middle ages?” It also feels a bit like Harry Potter...if Harry Potter was about learning the best and most efficient ways to kill someone and get away with it, completely undetected.
I have seen some negative comments online regarding the overly descriptive and metaphorical language used, but I guess that’s a matter of taste. You’ll definitely notice the particular language full of adjectives and adverbs and sometimes bizarre similes right away, it never bothered me, and I thought it quite nice after I got used to it. Another particularity of Nevernight is the often heavy use of footnotes to give historical and world-building context to the story. Again, I didn’t mind it, and I honestly thought it was a nice change of pace from other fantasy fiction. However, in general I still am of the opinion that information of this kind is more organic when it’s integrated into the story. These two elements, which are the only negative comments I’ve seen about this book, can be attributed to an unnamed (so far, although I do have a theory) narrator who is telling the story long after Mia has died, and that’s another reason why I don’t see them necessarily as shortcomings.
Nevernight has pretty much everything I want from a fantasy kinda-YA novel about a shadow-wielding aspiring assassin on a revenge mission. The sequel, Godsgrave, comes out on September 7th in the U.K. (order below) and on the 5th in the U.S. Can’t wait for that! I definitely recommend it if you like any of the things I’ve mentioned.