Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff

NevernightFor those of you too busy to read this whole post the ‘in brief’ version of this review is that I loved Nevernight.  Its a book that I’ve been highly anticipating and we all know how wrong that can sometimes go and yet it lived up to my expectations completely.  I really had a good time reading this. It’s a very entertaining and well thought out story with a very readable main protagonist and her sidekick set at it’s heart.  A story of assassins with a murderer running amok in their midst.

I’m going to set this review on it’s head in terms of my usual style by beginning with a few thoughts or maybe even criticisms.  I’ve seen, comparisons being made of this book to the Harry Potter series and I can see where those comparisons are coming from.  A sizeable chunk of this story is set in a school, the protagonists are teenagers and there are all sorts of fantasy elements blended into the school ranging from bookworms in the library to a labyrinth of tunnels and staircases that never seem to stay in the same place for very long.  However, I would point out that Nevernight is a dark tale of revenge containing torture, bad language and creative cursing and sexually explicit content.  This book is certainly not aimed at a younger audience so please bear that in mind.  The school (or church) in question only contains around 30 students and a good number of these will die during their apprenticeship.  Each student aims to become the best assassin possible.  Only four places are available in the Red Church for those wanting to become ‘blades’ for the Lady of Blessed Murder and so the competition is tough and the chances of staying alive even tougher.

At the start of the book we are introduced to a young Mia as she witnesses the execution of her father, accused and tried as a traitor and rebel rouser.  Her mother and brother are thrown into a prison where the darkness will eventually drive them mad and Mia herself barely escapes death.  The story then moves onwards as Mia, sixteen years old, shrouded in shadow, waits for her first kill.  Mia has a purpose that will give her focus for the rest of the story.

I thought that Nevernight got off to a captivating start that completely grabbed my attention and then succeeded in keeping it for the rest of the story.  The world is well described and easy to picture, maybe not entirely unique in terms of Mia’s home Godsgrave (built on the bones of a dead God)  but fascinating enough with a Roman style empire combined with a Venetian style setting.  This is a world with three suns, where, unsurprisingly, darkness rarely falls (once every 2 years I think) – hence the name of the book.  The religion revolves around the God of Light and Goddess of Dark who basically had a falling out.  The ruling faction worship the light and believe the dark worshippers to be heretics.  The Red Church, where would-be assassins learn their trade, is hidden within a range of mountains and protected by magic.  Once inside the students will be taught the art of swordplay, thievery, seduction and poisons.

The world building is assisted by footnotes – now, I’m not overly fond of this style (even though it’s not the first time I’ve encountered a similar set up).   I’m not sure whether it’s because I was reading on a kindle but I found this just didn’t work well and perhaps the paper copy will be better in that respect.  I also found the interruptions broke up the flow of the story at first – but, even though I didn’t love the use of footnotes it’s surprising how quickly I got used to them and they were used less as the story progressed so hang in there.

In terms of the characters there is plenty going on.  A good mix of people to like and dislike.  We have Mercurio who took Mia in as a young child.  We don’t know too much about Mercurio although we are given snippets as the story develops.  I won’t run over all the other characters but there is a really good mix of students and teachers with plenty to like and dislike.  I liked that nobody is perfect, I enjoyed the unpredictability of some of the character arcs and the easy way that the author builds them up and I admit myself impressed at some of the twists that the author pulls that I really didn’t see coming.

Mia herself is a darkin, this means that she can manipulate and use the shadows and in fact part of her ability means that she has her own constant companion in the form of  a shadowy cat called Mr Kindly.  Mr Kindly has been with Mia since she was a small child escaping death and running out onto the streets of Godsgrave.  Mr Kindly is a great character that I really enjoyed reading about although I confess that I’m still puzzled about the relationship and look forward to learning more about these darkin creatures.  He keeps Mia grounded in many respects, he helps her with her fear and the nightmares she has and more than that he ensures that she’s never alone.

In terms of the writing.  The story is narrated by a character as yet unknown and it appears that this will be a chronicle set in three parts.  The bulk of the story revolves around Mia’s time at the Red Church but we are also given a deeper history through the use of flashbacks.   Kristoff certainly appears to be one of those authors who is comfortable with description.  He has a way with words that I do enjoy even if they can be a little elaborate here and there.  As mentioned above he also makes use of footnotes to assist the world building and although this was a bit irritating to start off with I think my main concerns boiled down to how this worked (or not) on my own electronic device.

So, this is a story of revenge, although it’s not quite as simple as it first appears.  There is a twist in the tale here and a great set up for the next book.

Basically, I really enjoyed Nevernight.  I went into this concerned about all the hype but came out at the other side having thoroughly enjoyed the read and with no hesitation at all about recommending it to others.  I can’t deny this is a bit of a wordy novel and Kristoff has a certain descriptive style that may not be to everyone’s tastes but I just loved it.  It’s dark and twisted with a great streak of humour that softens some of the blows.

An excellent start to series and one that I’m really looking forward to continuing with.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



21 Responses to “Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff”

  1. jessicabookworm

    I am torn about this book after reading your thoughts – I love the sound of the premise but fear it might be a bit dark for me!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s possible that I’ve over egged the pudding – although this really isn’t YA and certainly although this story revolves around students it isn’t anything like Hogwarts. I’m pondering whether I think you would like it – I’m not sure to be honest, perhaps you should see if Amazon lets you read the first few chapters then you could get an idea of the tone. It does kick off to an immediate start so you could probably get a good idea that way.
      Lynn 😀

  2. sjhigbee

    I’ve just posted my own review of Nevernight, Lynn:)). It’s fascinating that I think we’ve both come to the same conclusions – I frankly hated the footnotes that were right pain on the Kindle and was very glad when they disappeared. And while I didn’t particularly have a problem with the darker tone – I can’t see how this book is a suitable YA read for the younger age range in this target audience. But like you – I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to where it goes next.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I just checked out your review which I thought was bob on! Amazing how much we agreed upon too. The footnotes were a massive pain on the kindle – perhaps I was missing something like a link or maybe it’s because this was a review copy. To be honest I think the footnotes would work perfectly in book format but not so sure even the released version will be great electronically. I don’t mind footnotes particularly, Morrell and Strange had a heck of a lot and I guess you can choose to miss some out if you’re not terrible interested – although I do feel like I should read them!
      I loved this though – even with the footnotes! Can’t wait to continue with Mia’s story.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Oh yes – I loved it, too. I get a bit twitchy if anyone writing fiction insists on usuing amusing footnotes after Terry Pratchett pretty much owned that device and even he overcooked it from time to time – and it was a disaster in my ebook. The wretched things kept turning up in the middle of the text miles from the mention of the subject they alluded to. But, like you, I’m really looking forward to reading what happens next:).

      • @lynnsbooks

        Yeah – No.2 – it makes me wish that I’d not read this straight away but waited for a few months! I hate waiting – I’m so impatient.
        Lynn 😀

  3. Tammy

    Interesting about trying to read the footnotes on a Kindle. I can see how frustrating that would be, unless the book is set up in such a way that you can click back and forth from the footnote to the page you are on. Maybe someone in Kindleland needs to work on that! I was grateful to have a physical copy so it wasn’t too bad. But anyway, I adored this book and I loved how dark it was.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, the issues I had with the footnotes could be because this was a review copy but it was a little annoying at first – particularly whilst there were so many footnotes – it felt like a lot of skipping back and forth. But, they eventually thinned out and I loved the story so much that in the end it wasn’t an issue.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Since I read about the footnotes in this book, I’ve been wondering how they work out in electronic form, so it would seem that they do actually work (even though not as well as in a printed book). That said, I agree that footnotes can be a huge distraction – no matter what kind of book you’re reading, and I often tend to avoid them to keep the story flowing, but I will keep your advice in mind and soldier on! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      To be honest I prefer to read electronically these days. Just too convenient But, footnotes I feel work better in a book. If you compare this to say, Norrell and Stranger which also had a lot of footnotes, sometimes the text on one page would have 2 or 3 footnotes – then imagine this on kindle. You read along and come across footnote 1 – skip forward to read, skip back, come across number 2, etc. it is really very distracting, BUT – I felt the story was so good that I was just determined to get over it and, like I said, it’s the first third (approx) where the footnotes are more heavily used.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Ew footnotes! Good to know they don’t persist heavily on through the story. I’m looking forward to diving into this soon (though how I’m going to fit it in, I have no idea) and hopefully I’ll enjoy it as much as you did 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      If you’re reading the book you’ll probably be okay – it’s just a bit messed up on the e-reader/kindle. Actually, how do you get on with footnotes in audio books?? Never really thought about that before.
      I did really enjoy this though – even with the provisos.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Danya @ Fine Print

    I’m reading this one right now so I only skimmed your review, but I’m so happy to hear that you loved this one Lynn! The footnotes are throwing me off a bit too, but I really love Mia so it’ll probably all even out in the end. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved Mia too and the book is so good that I simply had to forgive the footnotes for being annoying! Look forward to your review.
      Lynn 😀

  7. ‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – a place of study for would-be assassins.  A coveted number of places and a murderer amidst the students all lead to a fast paced and highly entertaining read. […]

  8. August: My month in review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Nevernight by Jay Kristoff […]

  9. Back to school? | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Nevernight by Jay Kristoff […]

  10. ‘…and they all lived happily ever after.’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight and Godsgrave were awesome – Darkdawn is due around September 2019.  I’m eager to pick […]

  11. “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […]  Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Another school for assassins (hey, they have to learn somewhere, being lethal doesn’t just, you know, happen overnight with the onset of puberty!)  Mia and her shadowy cat, Mr Kindly, have some fun times making friends and drinking lemonade – or maybe they don’t, maybe they’re at a school where the competition is tough and the teaching can literally be the death of you. […]

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