Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicles #1) by Jay Kristoff
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This book series has been a very firm favourite with fantasy readers and reviewers for some time and having spotted the first book, Nevernight, sitting on my library shelves I decided that I'd be prepared to give it a try. I've read Jay Kristoff before but in a very different setting through his joint writing in the Illuminae Files with Amie Kaufman. I loved the Illuminae files but they are a very different proposition being sci-fi as opposed to Nevernight which is pure fantasy writing so I was not quite sure what to expect.
The very first chapter of this book was enchanting. I immediately fell in love with the setting of the city of Godsgrave. It felt a little Venetian, absolutely rich with fantastical elements and historic feeling and the writing was so clever. By the end of the first chapter I knew that the potential for me to love this book was strong as even in those first few pages Kristoff twists his story and delivers the unexpected. Having said that, I struggled with the following few chapters a little.
In his world-building efforts Kristoff uses footnotes to his narrative to expand upon elements he is discussing. So if his main character Mia comes across something in her journey around Godsgrave he feels we need to know more about there will be an asterisk and we have to jump to the bottom of the page where he expands for us with information about the historical significance or myths about this part of the world. The footnotes, however, were not just one-liners, some were massive paragraphs, some even several paragraphs that meant in the written book the page of narrative text would only take up around half the printed page, the footnotes took up the other half and this would go on for page after page. This jumping up and down and up and down the page meant the first few chapters read quite slowly as you had to really focus to take in the 2 side by side storytelling styles. Was it worth persevering through, hell yes!! Absolutely! It was intense for a few chapters but this is because Kristoff is building Mia's world for us and has lots to say but as the chapters progressed slowly the footnotes slipped away and would become fewer and as a reader I lost myself in the narrative and when footnotes came I knew it was because Kristoff had something witty or important to impart and I enjoyed them more and really liked them.
The story itself was really immersive, the story of Mia Corvere, a 17-year-old girl whose father was hung as a traitor when she was only 10 years old, her mother and baby brother imprisoned and she taken to be drowned by the soldiers responsible for her father's execution. Mia was taken in by a man by the name of Mercutio who has taught her all the skills she needs to join a church for assassins where she will learn even more about how to get revenge upon the 3 men she holds responsible for her father's death and the destruction of her family.
Nevernight is about Mia's journey to the church where she will have to prove and hone her skills as a fearful killer. It's about the people she meets on her journey, the skills she must learn and the magical elements that will help her prepare for the revenge she must seek. The world Kristoff builds is so rich and well fleshed out that you absolutely fall in love with it. It's no quick read, there is so much going on you really don't want to miss a thing so I found myself lingering longer over chapters, taking my time to really enjoy the time spent with each character.
And the characters are absolutely the most incredible thing about this book. There are so many I fell in love with, Tric and Mia are just beautiful together. The journey they go on in this book together is so emotional and we root for them both. Kristoff's characters are so good to read because they are so complex, no one is written as straightforward bad or good. Each has different intentions for their actions and this means that we can be cheering them on one minute and then he turns around and twists it around and suddenly you are unsure if you really should be cheering them on. This led to me caring really deeply about them all so that even when disaster looks set to befall those we haven't perhaps felt empathy for throughout the narrative we want them to be okay. We cheer when they pull together and use their collective skills. It's a character based narrative and whilst there are fantastical elements and magic at work it's the people who ultimately pull us through.
One element I was not expecting was the sexual element to be quite so strong. In a few chapters, Kristoff lets things get pretty hot and heavy for a while. It's explicit and it's full on and absolutely in fitting with the parts of the narrative he is telling but just be aware in case you aren't expecting it.
I am itching to read Godsgrave, the second in this series, because the ending of this book has left plenty of questions we have not answered, Mia has lots still to achieve and there are so many stories still to be told. I am also thrilled to see that the third book in the Chronicles will be out later this year so I'm not going to be waiting too long for even more wonderful writing from Kristoff.
I've had a good reading year so far in 2018, I've read lots of wonderful books but this one is something really special. It is worth every bit of hype it has received and I am an absolute fan. I read many reviews which slated Kristoff's writing style as too convoluted and intense but for me this was why I loved his writing so much. It was deliciously rich and immersive and if you allow yourself to just slow down for a bit, forget your Good Reads challenge for the year and take the time to go on Mia's journey with her however long that takes you it pays you back in dividends. I would give this more than 5 stars if I could.