Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

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Rating 9.7/10
A brilliant, devastating, and worthy conclusion filled with big moments and bigger surprises.

Book of the Month

“See my shadow changing,
Stretching up and over me.
Soften this old armor.
Hoping I can clear the way
By stepping through my shadow,
Coming out the other side.
Step into the shadow.
Forty-six and two just ahead of me.”

- Maynard James Keenan

Gather round, O gentlefriends, for it is time to learn the final fate of our beloved assassin/lover/gladiator/shadowmaster/murderqueen Mia Corvere, the Girl with a Story to Tell. Jay Kristoff has penned his most massive and massively rewarding volume to date for the final entry to his Nevernight Chronicle. Darkdawn is a brilliant, devastating, and worthy conclusion filled with big moments and bigger surprises. Add me to Mia’s kill list because this book hath done slain me.

Don’t mention the word “hero” around Mia unless you wish to see what your tongue would look like pinned to the ceiling. Mia would have none of it, as she cares not for the political climate of the world at large. If her actions change the ruling class for the better, so be it. If (as told in the prologue of Nevernight) it leaves the entire city of Godsgrave as a riddled mass of ruin at the bottom of the ocean, well… she told you not to mess with her family. This is the heart of Mia’s story, and everything that drives her forward: there is nothing she won’t do for her family. It’s all she has. When all is blood, blood is all. Over the years, her family has expanded outside her bloodline into those who care for her, love her, and wish to serve and protect her. Mia struggles to decide if this is a strength or a weakness, as love can be used against her…

“She wasn’t a hero, driven by the cruelty and injustice of the Republic. She was a killer, driven by the pure and burning desire for revenge.”

Love plays a central role in this book, with much higher stakes than in previous entries. The shocking reveal from the final word of Godsgrave combined with what Mia faces after the stunt at the end of the Venatus Magni sets up a dramatic series of decisions for Mia to reckon with. Not to mention the fact that she’s now the John Wick of Itreya, with every assassin in the country trying to kill her and everyone she loves. Things get messy, but never predictable. Kristoff always seems to zag when you think the story is going to zig, and the final third of the story takes so many sharp turns, it’s best just to stop thinking and hold on. (And bring some tissues.)

But not all is doom and gloom, gentlefriends. This wouldn’t be a Nevernight Chronicle if the ultraviolence wasn’t once again offset by cutting and self-deprecating humor. In addition to the oft-hilarious, encyclopedic footnotes, Kristoff ventures into new territory as the book goes meta, breaking the fourth wall in a clever and unforeseen way. To say any more would ruin one of the bigger surprises of the story, but the manner in which this is utilized is a powerful statement on the strength of words over weapons.

If I may share one minor complaint: there are certain metaphors that were hit a bit too early and often. “His eyes were black as centuries. The silence was deep as centuries. Her eyes were endless pools of blackness. His eyes were endless black pools, deep as centuries.” I’m not quoting word for word in every case, but it’s close. After a while, the impact of the imagery’s effect lessened with each usage.

There are several differences in this book that stood out from the previous two entries that I quite enjoyed. First, Darkdawn has more changing POVs than the other two combined. Mia is still the centerpiece of the story, but we do venture away from her on a handful of occasions. Although brief, these viewpoints offered new perspectives and important revelations that we wouldn’t have learned from Mia’s path alone.

Kristoff also continues to play with the formatting of the text on the page, and new tricks are being used once again. It’s a bit reminiscent of e e cummings – if cummings had a penchant for smut and evisceration – and it adds yet another layer of gloss to the story’s package.

Even the chapter titles are mysterious until its poignancy is revealed in the narrative. I was often surprised at how much power a one-word chapter title could have, yet Kristoff achieved this feat time and again. It proved to me how much effort the author worked into constructing every facet of this story, from the intricate planning of the plot across three volumes, to the powerful chapter titles, to the way the text looks the first time Mia
discovers
she
can
do
something
amazing.

“I am a daughter of the dark between the stars. I am the thought that wakes the bastards of this world sweating in the nevernight. I am the vengeance of every orphaned daughter, every murdered mother, every bastard son. I am the war you cannot win.”

Conclusions are hard to do. How can you satisfy an audience after such a thrilling buildup? If you’re seeking Big Moments, this book is just lousy with them. Whether you’re pumping your fist or definitely-in-no-way-crying-nope-not-me, Kristoff has saved his best for last, delivering powerful, emotional, game-changing reveals meant to shock, stun, and grind you to a pulp. As Mia’s prestige rises, all her wins feels earned and it is immensely satisfying. Every victory, however small, is clawed for with every ounce of effort available. You feel with Mia. You hurt with Mia. And you certainly lose with Mia. If you’ve read this far, you don’t need my recommendation, you’ll be buying this book no matter what. Be assured that Darkdawn solidifies the Nevernight Chronicles as one of fantasy’s all-time greats.

ARC via Edelweiss.

Darkdawn will be released September 3, 2019.

This Darkdawn book review was written by

All reviews for: The Nevernight Chronicle

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