ARC Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

3:29:00 PM

Genre: Fantasy, ???
Publication Date: August 9, 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books (US release date)
Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5 Stars

I was given this book at ALA Annual Conference by MacMillan Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (From Goodreads): 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?

You know when you pick up a book, and once you start it you just can't tear yourself away from it? When you're not reading it, it's all that's on your mind. And when you're so close to the end you know there's no turning back, not until you reach the very last page — even if that means staying up well past midnight to do so. And when you're finished, you feel like you've just spent the last few days with a good friend and now their absence is more pronounced. What's more, the wait for the next book becomes excruciating and it is all-consuming as the only book you can think of is this one, and you need to know what comes next, you need another couple hundred pages for your hunger to truly be satiated.
That's what Nevernight did to me. And I've spent days looking for the right words to do it justice in a review, but truth be told it doesn't work that way; it's simply not that easy. Because this book was 5 stars across the board. Right from the first chapter when dual perspectives of the same person narrated the action, comparing what it's like to have sex for the first time to what one's first kill is like, I knew I was hooked. Mia's quest to avenge her family has only just begun, and as we slowly learn more and more about this peculiar girl's past, we realize her plans for vengeance may shift as her future is evolving into something unexpected. Oh, and did I mention Mia is this think called darkin? In a world ruled by sunlight, a rare few possess the intense and unique power of heralding a second shadow; a familiar, of sorts, taking the form of a sentient companion made of nothing but the absence of light, as darkin are in touch with the darkness and can manipulate the shadows around them.
The story takes places in a world where 3 suns cycle through the skies, ruling the heavens only to set once every two years and change, when the dark of night can truly come out to play for a little while. You see, Nevernight is unlike any other fantasy book I've read. Ever. The mythology is so completely unique and fleshed out in such a way it still feels organic; and yet it belongs in a video game or on the set of a movie, it's that cinematic. Everything from the social hierarchy to the system of government to the colloquialisms within the language are so incredibly well thought out. Loosely inspired by Italian culture and themes, Godsgrave certainly shows parallels to the Venice we know today. Video games were a major source of comparison for me while reading. The social system and fashion style is reminiscent of that in the game Dishonored. The mythology aspect reminds me a great deal of the Black Books quest line in the Dragonborn DLC of Skyrim, and the order of assassins in Nevernight is reminiscent of the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim too. Bioshock Infinite and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood also exist in the same vein of fantasy as this story does. It's a heart-pounding read with never a dull moment. The first chapter or two were a little slow to get into, but only because of the information overload you were hit with as a new reader being introduced to a world and characters so unique and deeply concepted. Once you catch onto the swing of the narrator's rhythm and pay attention to the footnotes, you're immediately immersed in an unforgettable story.
There is a duality in the setting of Itreya and the Red Church, as well as a stark contrast between the constant turns (days) that mark the passage of time, and the seldom truedark (nights) that occur only once every so often. The religions within the novel are based upon the 3 suns, their ever-presence, and the rare beast of nighttime. The main character Mia, though only 16, is on her way to becoming one of the most revered and feared assassins in Itreya as she pays her tithe and is granted entrance to the elite Red Church: a Hogwarts for assassins, of sorts; if Hogwarts was in the middle of a desert surrounded by deadly man-eating, many-tentacled beasts and trained young assassins in the wicked arts of murder, thievery, and deceit, instead of polishing young wizards and witches into great sorcerers. Though don't be mistaken, there are sorcerers in this book as well. But what Harry and his friends do by wielding wands, these sorcerers are learned in blood werking and flesh weaving magicks.
But I digress. It is within the walls of the Red Church that Mia truly comes into her own and is honed to her full potential as she competes to be one of the four in her class to be granted the coveted spot as a Blade, an assassin for the church who carries out death sentences in the name of the Mother of Night, the goddess Niah. We follow Mia's journey from a young girl hell-bent on revenge to a weapon whose wit and dagger are equally as deadly. Mia is confident and tough, sarcasm is her favorite weapon, she's fearless and headstrong. She owns her sexuality and is unafraid to go after whatever — or whomever — she wants. Most of all, she is a heroine who is as multifaceted and dimensional as they come.
I won't promise a happy ending because if you know Jay Kristoff, you know he doesn't believe in those. I won't promise a swoon-worthy romance story of two star-crossed lovers; but I can promise the steamiest scenes you'll ever set eyes on. I can't promise you'll walk away from this book unscathed if you can't handle a little blood, (much less a whole pool full of it, for that matter) because after all, this is a book about ruthless assassins training to take lives. I won't promise a bland story that makes you feel the warm and fuzzies, because that's a far cry from the heart-pounding emotional rollercoaster and nonstop action this book entails.
There's action and adventure, there is romance and passion, mythology as unique as it comes and the setting to match, there's a cat made of shadowstuff; I promise you will never read anything like Nevernight.
And most importantly...
Never flinch. Never fear. Never forget.

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