“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, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.
My Thoughts: A city built out of the bones of a god. A mysterious religion devoted to the shadows and death. A power-hungry group of men intent on eliminating those that oppose them. A little girl thrust into the center of it all. Such is the opening stage of Jay Kristoff’s latest masterpiece, Nevernight.
In any fantasy novel, there is always a danger of not explaining the strange new world fully enough for readers to understand the basic psychology of its inhabitants, the geo-political tensions and so forth. However, to explain too much can also damage the plot and prevent readers from fully engaging in the story. Mr. Kristoff solves some of this conundrum by adding familiar elements to his world so that there is less for readers to learn. By basing the Senate on historical Roman politics and setting it in an ancient Venice-like city, readers can move past basic location and political structure and focus on the differences that make his world unique.
If there was ever a need for more strong female heroines, Mr. Kristoff answers the call by giving the world Mia. Simply, Mia kicks major ass. She is lethal; in a secret society that prides itself on one’s body count, hers is a large number. She is intelligent; she manages to stay one step ahead of pretty much everyone through street smarts and impressive deductive reasoning skills. She is kind; even though her life’s goal is revenge on those who tore her family to pieces, she still understands the value of life and knows between right and wrong. She knows what she wants and is willing to do almost anything to achieve that, but it is in the almost where she truly shines. While Mia may not be someone you want to meet on a dark alley (not that you would ever see her), it is safe to say that if you do end up on her list, there is a good reason for it.
The world in which she learns her craft is intriguing. To add to the mystery, Mr. Kristoff ensures that readers never learn more than Mia at any given time. Much like the outside world he based on real-life locations, the macabre finishing school of the Red Church is eerily similar to other boarding school stories. There is the small group of students who live together in a dorm area. The classes are demanding, as is the staff. There is the cafeteria and trips to “town” to blow off steam. Yet, this school is unlike anything you have seen in previous novels. Learning these differences alongside Mia is half the fun of the novel.
In Nevernight, Mr. Kristoff creates one of the most fascinating fantasy worlds that you will find. He does an excellent job balancing world-building with storytelling so that you never feel lost in this strange new world. His characters are intricate and well-developed but with plenty of unplumbed depths to explore in future stories. Mia’s world is dark and brutal, and Mr. Kristoff does not skimp on the gory details. However, he never includes gore for gore’s sake. Everything is masterfully crafted so that readers learn just enough to whet their appetites, to fully appreciate the dangers of Mia’s life, and to understand the moral trade-offs Mia must enact in order to maintain her sanity when it would be so easy to lose herself to the darkness. There is no doubt there is plenty left to discover about Mia’s past and present, which only kicks your anticipation up a level as the wait begins for the second book in the novel. It is going to be a long wait.