The best fantasy novel I have read in years.
If the Harry Potter series and The Lies of Locke Lamora ever got together and decided to have a dark book baby, they would call it Nevernight. This is the sort of book I dream about reading. Only a fantasy expert could have written one this well. It’s exactly why authors such as Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss are so successful: they know their audience. And here Jay Kristoff certainly knew his.
Nevernight captured my heart in all its pure evilness. It’s a wickedly delightful story centred on a young assassin, Mia, as she learns how to kill with stealth, precision and absolutely no mercy. It’s totally epic through and through. There wasn’t a single low point, just constant highs as I found myself lost in the story and completely invested in all its characters. It’s loaded with betrayals, stabbings and intricate schemes. After finishing it, I read it again before even thinking about moving on to the sequel. Simply because, I wasn’t over it yet.
“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You're a daughter of the words. A girl with a story to tell.”
Mia is attempting to become a blade of the Red Church, an infamous guild of killers. All in order to pursuit her own end goal: murdering those in turn that murdered her family. She is utterly fearless because she possesses a mysteriously dark magic that allows her to control shadows, and in such shadows lurk creatures that have distinct personalities of their own. She has a shadow cat as a familiar who drains all the fear from her giving her a distinct advantage in battle and in training. She is never separate from it and never afraid.
Mia takes her own path. Although she is training in an academy with strict rules over life and death, she still finds ways to be herself and not fall into the trap of a brainwashed slave. This made me really like her character. In a way, she is like a darker version of Arya Stark (only more worldly wise and talented.) There’s a fierce competition between her and the other acolytes who are all attempting to become blades. They face off with swords and daggers, with poisons and secrets, in order to become the best of the crop. Only four out of an initial thirty or so will prove themselves worthy and join the elite ranks of the Red Church, never any more year to year.
“You'll be a rumor. A whisper. The thought that wakes the bastards of this world sweating in the nevernight. The last thing you will ever be, girl, is someone's hero.”
So, this really does have a lot going for it, though for me what really makes the book stand out is the mystery. Jay Kristoff is a careful writer and he has certainly taken pains not to reveal too much early on. The dark magic that courses through Mia’s blood remains a complete mystery to all. There’s also a lot of hidden surprises here and I don’t doubt there will be more through the rest of the series. In a world of assassins, honestly will only get you so far. And although Mia was played quite significantly here, I think moving forward she has learnt a great deal about people: she has become better at the game of killers. In the next book, I think she will be a much harder person: she has to be.
A much deserved 10/10* from me. This is the best fantasy novel I have read in years, I shall be moving straight onto Godsgrave next.
Review by Sean Barrs
Alice Wybrew interviews Jay Kristoff, author of the recently published Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy, Stormdancer.Congratulations on publishing your first book! Tell us a bit about Stormdancer (is it true you got the id [...]
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