Nevernight is a new fantasy epic by Jay Kristoff, the first of a series. It’s one of those books that I heard about and immediately coveted with every fiber of my being. After acquiring an ARC through my ever-lovely publisher rep, I put it upwards in the priority pile. Last night I finished it and now I feel gutted, utterly. I did not want to leave this world. Frankly, I’m still inhabiting it as we speak, which I consider to be a good thing. I don’t know if there is a higher praise than to tell an author that their work is still sticking with you, especially considering how much I read.
In the city of Godsgrave, where the Itreyan Republic reigns, there is much fear and dissent. Rebellions bubble under the surface but are stamped out swiftly. Six years ago, Mia Corvere’s father, Justicus Corvere, was executed as a traitor. Her mother and baby brother were taken shortly afterwards to the Philosopher’s Stone, a prison of madness and death. Mia, at ten years of age, watched both happened. Since then, she has vowed to kill her father’s four murderers, slaughtering one of them when she gets a chance. She knows that she must better her skills in order to achieve her true end – revenge. Now, under the suggestion of her mentor Mercurio, Mia has traveled to the Red Church; a hidden place where skilled assassins train young acolytes in the timeless arts of death. Mia arrives with Tric, a half-bred Dweymeri man about her age whom she met along the way. Tric has his own past to overcome; a gruesome past that he was not meant to survive.
Within the Red Church’s halls, Mia devotes herself to her studies. There are contests of chance and skill that are presented to her; grueling physical and strategic mental contests that, if won, would better her chances at becoming a Blade in the service of the Lady of the Blessed Mother. Becoming a Blade would net her the opportunity to track down her father’s killers and avenge him and her family, but there are others who want it too…possibly even more than Mia does. Can she survive in an environment where everyone has an edge over her? Where everyone is skilled in the art of murder?
This is one of those books I was really happy to acquire early. That said, as I got further into the book, I found myself savouring it, putting it aside after a well-executed chapter to allow it to fully soak into my brain. I found myself immediately sucked in but I prolonged the finish as long as possible. I did not want to let this world, or these characters, go.
Mia is such a great character. She is dynamic and complex, full of ferocity and fire. I was talking to a customer about this book last week and I likened the protagonist to a cat who has been kicked one too many times – the cat becomes suspicious of kindness, too full of fear to give anything of herself but spite. That is Mia Corvere in a nutshell – wounded, broken, rebuilt, and triumphant. She is a perfect character for me to read as I felt so much in common with her emotional journey (though, admittedly, I have never longed to kill someone. Well…not much, perhaps.)
There are oodles of nifty world-building trickery within this book as well. Kristoff creates a world of ever-light; a world where three suns rule the sky and it is very rarely ever night, hence the title. With this detail, he also creates lots of mythos to subtly tie into his storytelling; mythos told in footnoted asides. As a result, you learn all about Itreya’s gods and goddesses, the ruling classes and their corruption, stories and gossips about the locales and the people, even humourous accounts and observations are added this way. It’s really quite clever and reminds me of what I loved about both the Larklight books and the Monster Blood Tattoo books as well – snarky footnotes! How much fun is that? Kristoff also creates a great familiar character for Mia as a great device to reveal a window of her personality. His name is Mr. Kindly and he is a cat made of shadows, frequently referred to as a not-cat. As one of the main characters in the story, he actually helps to propel the plot forward in a way not dissimilar to Pantalaimon in the His Dark Materials books. He’s there, and he seems to not be very important, but he is. He very much is. Trust me when I say that nothing is chance in this novel.
I might seem to be comparing this to a lot of other books, but trust me, it’s very much its own thing. It’s a very inventive and precarious world that Kristoff has built, one that makes me think of the Valdemar books as well as the Kushiel books. It’s very much for those brand of fantasy enthusiasts who love a lot of darkness with their escapism. I would also give this to adult Harry Potter fans and maybe one or two younger ones…with some serious caveats in place. I think the world-building is impressive and the execution is stunning. There’s just enough imagination without becoming unwieldy or garish as well. Bravo, Jay. Bravo.
I’m so glad to have gotten this early, however long I took to finish it. It’s Kill Bill meets Assassin’s Creed set in Hogwarts where the students are learning the deadly arts of murder and subterfuge instead of potions and charms. What more could you ask for?
5 out of 5 stars. One of my favourites for 2016.
– Follow the Reader –