Monday, 15 August 2016
Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
So, to the book that kept me up with matchstick-eyes until 2 this morning. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. Nevernight is the beginning of a new series featuring 16 year old Mia. Out for revenge for the brutal loss of her entire family when she was younger, Mia strives for entry into the Red Church- a school for assassins. Think Hogwarts, minus the cute, fun bits and with far more blood, guts, gore and death. Mia's dream is to become a Blade, one of just four elite assassins to graduate from the Red Church, so that she can destroy those who destroyed her family.
There are several good bits I want to talk about for this book, but there's also a healthy handful of things that I didn't like. Ever the pessimist, I'm going to get the bad bits out of the way first. Firstly, I found the beginning of the book difficult to get my teeth into. The first chapter flits between two sections- both from Mia's perspective, both happening on the same night. These are differentiated by the use of italics and plain text. I get it- not difficult to grasp (other than one scene being sexually explicit- a bit too much too fast for me- but it did set the tone quickly!) The problem came in the next chapter when there was the same use of italics for flashback scenes to when Mia was 10 years old. Confusing. But fine when you get your head around it.
The second thing I wasn't a fan of- and there's been an awful lot of mention of this in the reviews, either loving or hating them - the footnotes. Kristoff uses footnotes extensively (as in several per page)- adding sarcastic asides as well as massive chunks of history and world building that don't have much (if any) bearing on the plot as it unfolds. I really didn't like these. World building is important, sure, but it should just colour what's going on in the plot- giving it depth and a reality to sit in. I found that they interrupted the flow of the story, and I hate to say it, they felt a bit like the author patting himself on the back for his own cleverness, unable to leave out all of this work and research he'd done to build his world. I have to admit that I did end up skipping many of them, and it was a relief when they all but disappeared in the final third of the book.
That makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the book- but, overall, I really did. It was packed full of unique characters who you get intimately acquainted with, and- despite being ruthless killers to a man- I found I truly cared for a lot of them, making the brutal nature of the entire plot pretty hard-hitting.
I loved Mia's dark side- strong and dangerous, especially with her skill in manipulating shadow. Mister Kindly, a cat made entirely of shadow, her constant companion and the physical presence of her untested powers, has to be my favourite character. Sarcastic, rude, dangerous and loveable, I have a feeling he's going to become something much more sinister in the later books in this series.
There's been a lot of talk about this book being a Young Adult read because of the age of the protagonist. Mia is 16 and most of the secondary characters are in their teens - but I would say that due to the extreme nature of the violence, graphic sex and overall tone of the book, this is very firmly in the category of epic fantasy for an adult audience.
Overall, a gripping read with some fantastic characters and a brilliant plot with that many twists and turns in the final third I just couldn't put it down. Told with an element of Pratchettesque humour, it has some great laugh-out-loud moments amongst the blood and gore. Just keep reading past the bitty beginning and ignore the copious footnotes and you'll find yourself in a rich seam of brilliant fantasy. I'll be watching with interest to see what book 2 in the series brings.
((P.S. If you're planing on reading this, I'd recommend a hardback over an ebook- it's worth the extra couple of ££ - this should make the footnotes easier to locate and read. I read an e-ARC and this was near impossible, which I don't think helped!))
Destined to destroy empires, Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day she lost everything.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her.
And they drink her fear.