Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, mystery
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?
When I see a really dark and bloody book, I usually run in the other direction. The only way I can get through a book like that is if it's also funny and/or I love the characters enough that I can stomach the blood (a la Gentleman Bastards). But this book grabbed my interest because it features a fierce young woman, a school for assassins, and a murder on the loose. Also the word on the street was that this book was "Harry Potter meets Lies of Locke Lamora". Two of my beloved series...how could I resist?
The first sentence of this book is gorgeous. The entire prologue is a mesmerizing few pages that alternates between two very intense scenes, and as you keep reading the two scenes begin to click together in a terrifying but absolutely beautiful way. That sets the tone for the entire book: you're going to be looking for the beauty in the blood, because there's a lot of both.
Jay Kristoff does an excellent job of making this one of the most feminist fantasy books I've ever read. Not only are there many fierce and powerful women, they all talk to each other and empower one another (female friends, wow!). Also, this is more of a subtle thing, but there was absolutely no male gaze in this book: no introduction of female characters by the size of their breasts or the color of their eyes, no sex scenes that focus solely on male pleasure and female objectification, and so many other things that fantasy books are full of. GRRM, take note!
I absolutely loved Mia Corvere. There are many authors who want to write a badass and fierce female protagonist, and she usually ends up fitting a certain cookie-cutter mold. Not Mia! She's broken and driven by revenge, hot-headed and cunning. She is a master of the shadows. The best thing of all is that she isn't fearless by any means, at least not without Mister Kindly.
Mister Kindly is easily my favorite character in this book. He's a cat, but not really. He's terrifying and hilarious and endearing, and I loved his wisecracks and sarcasm. Mister Kindly made the blood and guts more bearable and far less terrifying!
I don't want to say too much about the plot because so much of this book is best enjoyed without prior knowledge. There aren't really plot twists per se, just lots of layers that get peeled back slowly, making you rethink what you used to know.
This book is fantastic, go read it!
A free ARC was provided by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review