Book Review: Nevernight (Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that this book contains harmful racial themes and imagery. This review was written before I realized this, and my current view of the book has been severely hampered by not only the racial problems, but by the author’s unwillingness to own up to his flaws. I do not plan to continue the series.

For a comprehensive breakdown of the problems and Kristoff’s responses:

An addictive fantasy novel that is complex and badass in equal measures.

4/5 stars


synopsis for reviews 2

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?

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my thoughts for reviews 1

From page one, I was in love with Mia’s character. She starts off the book your typical badass, hard-as-stone protagonist, which I loved. But as the story progresses, her softer side starts to show, and it made her a really unique character that I loved even more. She is ruthless, bloodthirsty, and vengeful, with a twisted set of morals and an unpredictable merciful side. I loved that though I expected her to be exactly the same protagonist I had read about a dozen times, her personality managed to break the mold.

The plot of Nevernight surrounds Mia’s training as she tries to become initiated into the Red Church, basically an assassins’ guild. I loved that Mia actually didn’t know everything already. Sure, she’s been trained for years already, but she isn’t a natural at anything in the training. I wouldn’t say that the fact humbled her—nothing can do that—but it definitely made the plot more interesting.

The one thing that sets Mia apart from the rest of the assassins is her darkin powers, which allow her to manipulate shadows. In a refreshing turn from the Chosen One mold, Mia’s powers do not earn her the respect or awe of her teachers. She does not receive special training for her powers, and though she actually is more powerful and special than the other initiates, she is never treated that way.

I loved Mia’s powers anyway. Her control over the shadows was interesting, especially because they were not a perfect weapon. Mr. Kindly, her shadow cat, was one of my favorite characters—he’s Sass Incarnate—and his ability to take away her fear added more layers to her character. Nevernight explores the ideas of courage and fear in a way I haven’t seen other books, never getting excessively preachy about the need to face your fears to be strong.

Nevernight’s world building is really complex, but also fascinating. The world has a complicated history, a nuanced government, a layered mythology, and an almost sci-fi physical organization. However, the way Kristoff wove the world building in—with footnotes and slang, mostly—made it easier to absorb. I still feel like there is more to learn, but I also trust that the footnotes will remind me of whatever I need to know for a particular scene.

I have a love-hate relationship with the footnotes. They are long and usually happen right in the middle of a scene. It would annoy me that I needed to stop in the middle of the action to read the footnote…but then every footnote is hilarious, so by the end I was not annoyed anymore.

The rest of the characters of Nevernight are also a mixed bag for me. There are some obvious pros: 1) There are a ton of interesting and strong female characters. 2) Mia has feelings for Tric without falling in love with him, a refreshing plot twist in the YA world.

Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of the side characters were missed opportunities. I could tell they were part of larger subplots, but those subplots never really emerged. I trust that some of them will be important in the second book, but I wish that they had been more influential in the first one.

Nevernight was addictive, pure and simple. I read most of it in one day, unable to put it down (which screwed me for homework, but that’s okay). There were lots of surprising moments. And yet, the pacing was missing something. As much as I could not stop reading the book, I still wanted more from it. Hopefully the second book will grab me more completely.

I would recommend Nevernight to fans of assassin stories, who are willing to read about ruthless and unforgiving characters. Though it was not perfect, I loved Nevernight and I cannot wait for the next book.

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