Jay Kristoff is an absolute master storyteller. This is such an exceedingly well-balanced novel in all its grandness. I expected some of the momentum to dwindle, as often is the case with the second book in a series, though this retained its sharp edge. And boy does it sting!
He is not afraid to kill off characters. He is not afraid to destroy friendships and watch his heroes crumble into the dust. And he certainly isn’t afraid to take his book in new and exciting directions. Mia spent most of the novel training to be a gladiator, an ingenious ruse in order to get close to her intended target. It a long-drawn-out game, one that completely changed her perspective on exactly who she is and what she wants from the world. There’s more to this assassin than murder, much more.
“But those who stand for nothing die for the same. And if you stand only for yourself, you fall alone.”
Some parts of this had an almost cinematic quality to them. The arena fights were so massive and well-orchestrated that I couldn’t help but imagine them on the screen (or as part of the actual audience in the stadium.) And that says a lot to me because the way he writes is just so damn exquisite. The prose flows beautifully from word to word, from sentence to sentence. The fight scenes are spectacular. And the sex, well, that’s on an entirely different level. Some authors avoid writing about it, closing the scene as the action is about to ensue. Some authors do terribly clumsy jobs attempting to describe it, and some make it seem quite real on the page. Jay Kristoff, on the other hand, writes the best sex scenes in fantasy. It was done so well, so organically, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. I’m impressed with the level of emotion he managed to get on the page here in both forms of action, so to speak.
This series has everything I could ever want in fantasy: a rich world, conflicted characters, assassins, dark magic and a protagonist that is strong, clever and necessarily brutal. It’s the dark magic haunting her steps that is slowly pushing the series forward. As Mia is trying to plan the downfall of the two most powerful men in the world, and as the Ministry of the Red Church are trying to guide her blades for their own ends, her magic is becoming stronger and more complete. Her shadows are becoming darker as she absorbs more power from slain Darkin. By series end she will have everything her mysterious destiny demands and where this all takes her will be quite the shocker, I have no doubt.
“Patience, she’d tell herself, whispering the word like a prayer. If Vengeance has a mother, her name is Patience.”
Godsgrave completely exceeded my expectations. I thought I knew where this was all going but I really didn’t have a clue. Darkdawn, the final book in the trilogy, is out later this year and I can’t wait to read it. This ended on such a monumental cliff-hanger. If Jay Kristoff writes with the same level of imagination and originality as he has here, this could be one of the best trilogies fantasy has ever seen.
Review by Sean Barrs
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