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, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic ― the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.
So, while the books I generally read aren’t exactly obscure, they don’t often have the kind of visibility that Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight has. This book is closing in on 5,000 Goodreads reviews, and over 21,000 ratings. Those are some big fucking numbers! I don’t feel any weird kind of pressure reading something like this, but it does take on a slightly different vibe from say, reading a brand new book from a debut author.
I have a lot of feelings about Nevernight. Most of them good, some of them frustrating, some just…confusing? I don’t know. I’ll try to unpack it all in a way that makes sense.
First off, this book is so fucking beautiful. That cover illustration by Jason Chan is goddamn glorious, and the font for the title & the chapters is eye candy. There’s also two (TWO!) beautifully detailed maps inside! Just…oof…a gorgeous book overall!
This is the story of Mia Corvere, a marrowborn (basically highborn) girl, born in the city of Godsgrave. When she was around ten years old, her father was ruled a traitor & executed. Her mother & brother were imprisoned, but Mia managed to escape. A chance encounter with a shop owner named Mercurio is what helps steer & shape Mia’s mission of revenge. She has a list of names of all the people involved in her father’s execution, and she’s determined to see them all dead by her hand. But she needs a lot of training to be able to target & kill such high profile people.
Mercurio is a retired member of the Red Church, a secret organization of deadly assassins. Mercurio becomes a bit of a father figure to Mia, and provides her with plenty of stabby & poisony training, until Mia is old enough to go to the Red Church, and attempt to become a full-fledged assassin. Or a Blade, as they are known.
Nevernight uses what is probably my favorite trope in all of fantasy (and I really don’t mean trope in a negative sense at all here): the magical school. This is something that I’ve just completely adored, most notably in Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series. Oh, and also in Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song. And then of course, you know…there’s Hogwarts. There are always going to be some similarities across books like these, but still, give me all the stories about a school where kids are learning about magic, about poison, and about STAB STAB STABBY STABBING!!
Ok, now I want to talk about the footnotes. They fell into a few different categories for me.
–Used as a sort of punchline, kinda funny
–Used as a sort of punchline, not that funny
–Incredibly long & detailed historical note, not super relevant to the story
–Really amazing pieces of background info about Mia & Mercurio’s relationship
If I’m being honest, for the first half of this book, the footnotes really distracted me from the story. I was trying to find the rhythm of a new (to me) author, story, and fantasy world. And I just kept feeling pulled out of that story. But as the book progressed, it felt like the footnotes decreased a bit in frequency. That, and I just…got the hang of them? And I also skimmed a handful of them, for sure. When it became clear that it was one of those VERY long historical anecdotes, I just skimmed through & didn’t let myself feel bogged down by it.
I’ve seen Jay Kristoff tweet multiple times about the fact that Nevernight is not a young adult novel. I know he (and some other authors) deal with this issue a lot, and it sounds frustrating. And apparently comes with the occasional angry parent email…fun! To that end, fair warning…Nevernight has more than one RATHER graphic (and long!) sex scenes.
If it sounds like I’m picking this book apart, I’m not. I fucking loved it, overall. There were some serious “WHAT THE FUCK NO FUCKING WAY!! moments in this one. I’m terrible at guessing twists, and with one exception (which, I think I saw coming due to that familiarity with the magical school trope I mentioned), there are some good ones here.
And Mia Corvere is a total badass. Funny, foul-mouthed, chain smoking, STABBY STABBY KILL KILL KILL…I liked her from the start! The book goes back & forth a bit, between Mia’s time with Mercurio, and the present, at the Red Church. This works really nicely in terms of character development, and seeing the impact that Mercurio has had on Mia over the course of the last 5+ years of her life. And he’s a great character, too…tough, but very fair. There’s a lot of love between these two characters, and their relationship was one of my very favorite aspects of the book.
The Red Church is populated with an extremely varied & colorful cast of characters. Some become Mia’s friends, mentors…also tormentors. Like seemingly every magical school story, there’s always that one teacher who seems more than a bit unhinged. In Nevernight, that role falls to Shahiid Spiderkiller, who teaches Truth (poison!)…she is FUCKING INTENSE and possibly even a little insane…LOVE HER!
As soon as I had finished Nevernight, I immediately grabbed a copy of Godsgrave! This is an incredibly vivid world Kristoff has created, and he’s got a really charismatic protagonist to carry this series. I’m quite eager to carry on with this series & see how Mia’s bloody mission of revenge plays out!