The first in a new fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author. In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined. Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves. Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?
The writing is all dancing shadows and devil’s lair. There’s nothing pretty or peaceful about it. It’s gritty and dark and honest to the point of gruesome details and macabre images that you just can’t shake. And if you’re like myself, one to dance with those shadows, than this is the book for you. If not, your little heart may stop where it rests. The tone may be shocking to readers because of how raw it is. The author doesn’t shy away from honest, gruesome details such as when people die, their body loosens and can’t exactly keep in what it was holding. And this dark, brutally honest tone is set right from the beginning, when our MC Mia finds out all on her own what bodies do when dying, dead. This was so utterly satisfying for me because I have been searching for a dark read like this for as long as I can remember, and nothing else will ever even begin to compare to how dark and brilliant this novel is. Which is why I was eager to keep reading; I flipped through pages like I couldn’t bare to breath without getting some more dark details in my soul. I WANTED MORE. I wanted all the gritty, raw details on death and poisons and manipulations, on everything their wickedly talented teachers taught them. I also wanted it to be longer, which is why I’m grateful there will be more books.
What really got me hooked right from the get-go though, is the cat. Mr. Kindly is my favourite character, merely because he is literally made of darkness and he’s a devious little thing. There’s more to him, I can feel it. He helps Mia however he can, siphoning her fear so she doesn’t have to deal with it, being her eyes and years when she sleeps or can’t do it on her own. But still, he’s made entirely of shadows and darkness, and kindness isn’t something I can him giving out unless he gets something in return. I’ve got my eyes on the little guy, because I have many, many suspicions. And I love him all the more for it.
As brilliant and lovely as this book is, I must admit that the beginning confused me. We would get flashbacks, and then be in the present where it would be a play on words from what had happened then and what was happening now. It was interesting and definitely engaging, but confusing because I didn’t entirely understand where the story was going or why it was happening. I caught on quickly though, and once it made sense everything fit and fell into place.
Overall, Nevernight is a compelling, dark tale full of murder and competition, death and heroics. This gritty, brutally honest and gruesome story is one that will stick with you for as long as Mr. Kindly hangs on to Mia’s shadow. The promise of darker shadows and murderous plots for the next book definitely have me eager already. If you think you can handle the dancing shadows, be my guest and enjoy your journey into Nevernight.
Nevernight follows the story of sixteen year old Mia Corvere whose life was destroyed after the tyrannous Senate executed her father and imprisoned her mother and baby brother. Mia narrowly escapes death and discovers a mystical part of her: she is a darkin, a person capable of weaving shadows and using them for her own benefit. She is accompanied by a talking shadow in the shape of cat, her constant companion who devours her fear so she is never afraid. Mia’s only thought is enacting revenge on the three men who destroyed her life, so her guardian trains her and sends her to the infamous Red Church to apprentice there and learn the skills she needs to become a feared and accomplished assassin. Only four out of thirty-something students are able to master steel, poison and ‘subtle acts’ to be inducted as a Blade of the Lady of Blessed Murder. Mia must learn how navigate her new home, train to be better than the other fledgling assassins, and contend with a murderer amongst the other murderers who is slowly killing off the congregation.
Mia was an amazing protagonist. When we first meet her, she is in the process of murdering someone in order to gain a tithe to be accepted into the Red Church. While she is doing the deed, we are shown a flashback from earlier that night when Mia lost her virginity. As soon as I read the first chapter, I knew this book wasn’t going to be like other YA novels. Already, we are shown the female protagonist have a blasé attitude to sex and what it means to lose one’s virginity. This is obviously something that many YA books focus on, but I have never come across one in such a manner before and I was so glad Kristoff wrote it this way. Mia is also a little ball of anger, which really spoke to me. She frequently loses her temper and lashes out. She is a very flawed character and that just made me love her even more. I love her sassy attitude, her fierce personality … even with these somewhat selfish flaws, Mia is still capable of kindness, despite being a killer. She clearly knows the line between killing someone who deserves it and killing for pleasure – and she doesn’t allow herself to cross that line.
Mia’s tragic backstory, when revealed, simultaneously scared and excited me. She reminds me a little of Adelina from The Young Elites. The whole book was slowly setting up Mia’s rise to ultimate power and how, if she is not careful, that dark power will completely ensconce her and destroy everything and everyone. The mini prologue also frightened me: it is clearly written from the perspective of someone (I have a pretty strong guess as to who it is) after the third book in the series, as it mentions that Mia is dead and has taken the Republic of Itreya with her. The remaining books in this series can’t come soon enough – I need to know exactly how powerful Mia becomes and the devastating consequences of that power.
The world-building was so fascinating and created in a way I had never seen before. Kristoff utilised footnotes in order to explain those details of his fantasy world. Such details are important for the world-building, and a great way to explain something without effecting the progression of the scene. I thought the inclusion of the footnotes was very creative and clever. The fantasy world itself was just amazing: a hybrid mix between Ancient Rome and merchant Venice. Mixed in with the writing, which was so beautiful and poetic, I was able to perfectly picture the setting that was described. The structure of the government was clearly Roman, while the city descriptions where primarily Venetian. Just take a look at the maps at the beginning of the novel to get a feel for how epic Kristoff’s fantasy world is.
My favourite aspect of the world of Itreya was their religion: I am so interested in the history of Aa and his wife Niah, who he banished from the sky, as well as the fact that this world has three suns (!!!). In one of the footnotes, Kristoff makes mention of another god, one of Aa and Niah’s children, but says he cannot expand on it because that would be “spoiling things.” Clearly, this god is an important part of the story, and will probably be introduced in the second novel, if the last chapter of Nevernight is any indication. Kristoff is unmistakably setting up for the second and third novels and I am in awe of the scale of his planning. There were so many times I thought I knew where this story was going, and then something would happen and my mind was just blown away as everything changed. My absolute favourite part of the novel was the last ten or so chapters where Mia just turned into the biggest badass ever by saving literally everyone. This girl is just amazing.
Nevernight was simply an incredible novel. I was contemplating giving this book a 4.5 star rating, but considering the planning that went into the plot, as well as the descriptions of history, religion and culture, this book really deserves the full 5 stars. This was an amazing series starter. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series; there are some clues I picked up in Nevernight that I am excited to see come to fruition in the next book. Go Kristoff!