Thursday, 11 August 2016

Review: 'Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle 1)' by Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff is one of those authors that everyone seems to have read while I am lingering pathetically behind. But here I am, catching up with the blogosphere at the beginning of Kristoff's new series. With assassins. In an Italian Rennaissance setting. YES! I'm also a part of the blog tour for the release of this novel and got to ask Jay Kristoff some questions about Nevernight earlier this week. Hop over to the Q&A to see what he has to say about footnotes! Thanks to HarperCollins and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 11/08/2016
Publisher: HarperCollins UK

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?
Sometimes all a girl wants is a book about a girl who is an assassin and a sass-master. At over 600 pages Nevernight isn't a short book by any means, and as the first book in a new series it has a lot of work to do. Kristoff introduces Mia Corvere in a brilliant first chapter which I simply have to talk about for a second because it's perhaps one of the best contemporary opening chapters I have ever read. Kristoff combines describing Mia at "work" as assassin and Mia as a normal girl. Woven in at the same time is the set-up of Mia's journey. The first chapter is a pretty good indicator for the rest of the book in which Kristoff never forgets its main character. In a strange twist of fate, Young Adult novels are so full of characters who strike you as neither Young nor Adult. There is either not enough fun or there's so much fun there is no story. Mia is one of the best YA characters I have read in a while, even though her situation is definitely not one most readers will be able to recognise. She is also surrounded by a great set of side-characters, who all develop in a really interesting way. There are some typical Fantasy-tropes which Nevernight engages with but in usually in an interesting way. There is violence, gore, sex (not the 'and then we made love but that's all I'm going to say'-type either), some politics and religion, and loads of moments that made me go 'nice!'. The pages do almost fly by.

What I loved most about Nevernight was the world-building. A Fantasy novel simply can't do without and yet so many seem determined to do so anyway. There was/is something of an epidemic of Tolkien-esque fantasy novels which are basically lacking rehashes of Tolkien's Middle-Earth. Too often the landscapes are boringly recognizable and no effort is made to create any kind of culture, history or system of religion. Not so in Nevernight. The footnotes may not be for everyone, but Kristoff clearly has ideas about what it is he wants to see in his world. There is a distinct Italian feel to Mia Corvere's world, from her name to the description of the architecture to the set up of the Republic. There are gods and goddesses, street gangs, familias with country estates, and, of course, a school for assassins. It felt different in a way that was really good. I was completely sucked in by Kristoff's world, by Mia's voice and by the Republic's history. This is how world-building should be done, creating something fun and interesting that readers want to sink into, while always letting the reader know there is more, much more. Especially when starting a new series that is exactly what a good author should be doing.

I really enjoyed Jay Kristoff's writing style, more so than I was perhaps expecting. On the one hand his writing is very descriptive and atmospheric, but on the other hand there is this historic edge to it with footnotes full of background information, random dates, and characters you'll probably never hear about again. It works very well for me but that is because I'm a nerd for world-building. There is a dark moodiness to Nevernight as well which fits perfectly with the book's topic. However, I don't think it will be for everyone. There is a lot of unnecessary information, at times the description is very heavy and the prose a little bit dense. The beginning of the plot, after a great first chapter, takes quite some time to get underway, to get to what most readers want to read about, i.e. the assassin boot camp. However, if you're willing to stick with it then Nevernight definitely rewards your patience and determination.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

I really enjoyed Nevernight, it was a great introduction to Kristoff for me but also a great beginning to a new series. He creates a fascinating world in this novel, one which at times almost overshadows the story he is telling, which is grittier than what you're usually served in the YA Fantasy genre. I'd recommend this not just to fans of Jay Kristoff but also to Fantasy and even maybe Historical Fiction fans.

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