Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Book One of the Nevernight trilogy
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***

Summary (from Goodreads):

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?

What I Liked:

I'm going to be completely honest - when I first started reading this book, I struggled with it. I had been so excited to read it for months, and I'd finally gotten a review copy earlier in the year, and I'd been tearing through my summer review books in eagerness to get to this one. And then the time came, and I started reading... and barely made it past chapter one. I don't know what it was. The story was okay, but not boring (at least from the first chapter). I still desperately wanted to read the book. But something was off, and I struggled to get past chapter one. I read several adult romance novels in the interim, a few YA books, and finally, I returned to this book, and tried again. And promptly read it from start to finish in a few hours. I don't know what held me back initially (maybe my mood?), but it didn't bother me the second time around!

Mia's family was brutally taken from her by the Senate years ago, and she has been bent on vengeance ever since. She has been trained by a man named Mercurio to become an assassin, and the time has come to join the Red Church, to become a Blade of the Lady of Blessed Murder. She and about thirty other acolytes learn and fight and compete to become a Blade - only four will be granted the title and role. But there is a traitor in the midst, a killer who has no mercy on acolytes. And the killer has a greater motive than killing acolytes, one that goes beyond achieving the title of Blade.

First and foremost: this book is not a YA book, or an NA book. People, PLEASE do not make the mistake of thinking that this is one of Kristoff's YA books. It's not. There are very explicit sex scenes (scenes I'm used to reading in steamy adult romance novels - you know how much I love my romance novels), graphic violence, lots of profanity... none of which surprise me in an adult novel (whether it's adult romance, adult contemporary, adult sci-fi, etc.). I might expect cunnilingus in an adult novel. But not explicitly so, in a YA novel. The author and publisher are marketing this is as an adult novel.

So, ADULT STORY, PEEPS. If you're not comfortable with some very detailed sex scenes, or some graphic violence, or a ton of profanity, maybe this isn't for you. Yes, Mia is sixteen. That does NOT make this book a "YA" novel or an "NA". No way. Check out the price of the hardcover - it's $25.99 (USD). No Young Adult novel in the history of Young Adult novels has ever been that expensive (usually a YA hardcover is $17.99-$18.99). ADULT BOOK, EVERYONE.

Phew. Now that we have that out of the way... I really liked this book! It's my first solo Kristoff read, and I was quite pleased. I already talked about how I struggled to read past chapter one, but I don't think that was any fault of Kristoff's. When I tried again, I couldn't stop reading. Each chapter got more twisted and intriguing, especially once Mia (and Tric) arrive at the Red Church.

The brutal training school setting is nothing new to fiction, but I absolutely love these types of stories. This one reminded me a little of An Ember in the Ashes (yes, I know, that one is a YA book). The training at Red Church is murderous (not even exaggerating), brutal, physically and mentally demanding. Imagine all of your instructors trying to kill you, whether by sword, or poison, or ingestion or inhalation of vapors... yup, these assassins are no joke.

Mia has been hardened by a terrible and heartbreaking past. Her father was hanged as a traitor when she was ten. Her mother and baby brother were taken from her shortly after. She was facing the end of her life then, when she struck back and found a way to survive. Mercurio found her, took her in, and began to train her to become an assassin, to join Red Church.

Mia is so strong and so fierce, in an intense way. She has a gift/curse that few have - she can control and speak with shadows. At Red Church, she gets no special treatment though. Mia wields her power (the shadow power and her physical power) well. She's sixteen and sometimes makes not-so-great decisions, but Mia is very smart. In fact, by the end of the book, she seemed to have gotten cleverer and cleverer. Though not as cold and bloodthirsty as she thought herself to be. I like her a lot!

The secondary protagonist is Tric, another acolyte whom Mia meets before finding Red Church. Both of them were trying to find the Maw, and so they wander in a ghost town to find it, together. At the Church, their kinship remains, and they watch each other's back. I underestimated Tric; I thought he seemed a little goofy and weak, but he isn't. He is a very good acolyte and assassin-in-training. He wrestles with his own demons from the past, and I felt for him all the time. I liked him too!

I like how Kristoff tells the story. We do not get everything from Mia's past all at once. The reveal is slow, throughout the book, which may be a bit confusing at first. We don't get Tric's whole story all at once either. Kristoff subtly weaves in backstory, present story, and foreshadowing, and it is masterful.

I've already mentioned the setting of Red Church (the training school type of setting), and I should mention that this is an adult fantasy novel. You could guess the fantasy part, since we're talking about assassins and a Republic and Senate and whatnot. Oh, and Mia being able to command shadows. I love the world that Kristoff has created, though I'm terrified of it!

There are plenty of secondary characters besides Tric that I really liked (and some I hated, with good reason), though I won't bore you with the details. I must say, I never underestimated Hush, and with good reason. Same with one of the girls. Nope, I saw that coming. 

The climax of the book was something I saw coming, and that's either because of slightly too-good foreshadowing, or reader astuteness. I like how Kristoff brought it about, like a puzzle coming together. It was exciting and terrifying and one part shocked me, because it seemed to come out of nowhere. 

Now would be a good time to mention the romance... I liked Mia and Tric together. When they first meet, there is a lot of sarcasm exchanged, and some banter. As their friendship continues, they get to know each other better, and rely on each other more. And then their relationship turns into more. Did I already mention the explicit sex in this book? Good. I'll have you know that there is no love triangle in this book. I'm not sure what to expect in book two, because Mia and Tric's relationship isn't all rainbows and sunshine. But I'm hoping for certain things to happen. Or one certain thing, specifically.

Overall, I liked this book. It's intense, intriguing, sexy, and a little horrifying at times, but without doubt extremely enjoyable. Oh, and Kristoff leaves us with a nice big cliffhanger at the end, so I guess I should compliment him for making me crave book two right this very moment... sigh.

What I Did Not Like:

A few things. Maybe it was the book/Kristoff, maybe it was me, but I already mentioned how I struggled to get into this book, the first time I tried to read it. I was supposed to review this book in mid-June (and I picked it up and tried reading at that time), and it's now almost mid-July. So. 

There is a part of the romance's plot that makes me a little anxious! Those who have read the book know what I'm talking about. I don't want to say anything more, for fear of spoilers, but know that it's nothing love-triangle-y. I'm not sure how to feel about the aspect though!

Would I Recommend It:

For those who like ADULT fantasy novels... yes! I would recommend this book. There is nothing controversial or debate-sparking about this book, if you know that it's an adult novel. It's adult, people. Nothing controversial about explicit sex and violence and profanity in an adult book (trust me, I know). Ever read Game of Thrones? Or books by Guy Gavriel Kay? Lots of explicit content in those. And they're not considered controversial. Just because Kristoff has written YA books in the past doesn't mean that this book is YA (because it's not!). So, I recommend this book to people who read adult novels and like adult fantasy.


4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. For reasons I'm not stating specifically in this review. You'll have to find out and decide for yourself. But I really liked the book and cannot wait to read the next one! It needs to be here now. Perhaps binge-reading this series might have been a good idea! No regrets though.

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. I'm so very excited from the first time I heard about this one!! Cannot wait till I get my hands on my preorder!! =D

    Glad to hear that despite a false start, you ended up loving this one and reading it front to back on the second try! Sometimes we really aren't in the right mood/moment for a book!

    1. Woohoo! I hope you love it, Pili! I know you will. I think it was my mood, the first time around. Since I read in chronological order (and not by mood), sometimes (rarely) I feel myself forcing myself to read a book and I'm just not in the mood. Usually what I do is what I did here - let the book sit for a few weeks and come back! It works nicely. :D

  2. Oh wow, when I first saw this I really thought it was children's book hah !
    Now that I know it's not, I think I'll actually give it a try !
    Anyways' glad you liked it, lovely reviews :)

    @ "Book Addict"

  3. LOL! I'm guessing this poor book got pounded on by folks who thought it was a very graphic YA novel. ;) But buyer beware particularly when it's marked appropriately.

    Anyhoots! This does sound pretty good with her vengeance plot, the assassin training and the killer with the romance on the side. I liked the book I read earlier when he partnered so I want to give it a try.
    Nice review, Alyssa, and glad it worked out for take two.

    1. So far, I've seen very positive reviews, but I've also seen some people who *only* read YA get very upset with the graphic content (read: sex) in the book. But... it's not even marketed as YA. So. I don't know what to say to those people.

      This book was quite epic! Kristoff did a great job with the story. And Illuminae too, as you mentioned!

  4. Sorry you struggled in the beginning, but I'm glad you ended up really loving it. I don't know why, but I thought it was a YA book. Honestly, the fact that it's not intrigues me even more. Excellent review!

    1. Almost *everyone* I know thought it was YA! Just look at Kristoff's Twitter stream if you doubt me. It is not YA!

      Thank you, Erin!

  5. I kinda feel shocked to know this is an adult book because I found it in a YA catalogue a few months ago(I don't remember where). But I'm so excited anyway! It will be my first adult fantasy and I'm lucky to have an ARC.
    Also... hmmm.. You're right about no YA books being that expesive, except Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Been wanting to read it for a while, but hell! that book is freaking expesive! lol.

    1. I hope you like it, Lis! It doesn't read like YA, and the content is definitely not YA (well, not currently found in YA).

      I think the Clare book was that expensive because of 1) size and 2) popularity... the publisher sure knows how to make money off of people, when they know a book is popular. I mean, look at what Bloomsbury is doing with Empire of Storms! So ridiculous. -_-

      Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox. :D

  6. I just started this one last night and the writing style is intense and slightly confusing so I might do what you did and read something lighter today and then jump back into it tomorrow when I'm more prepared.

    It is confusing but also super cool. It reminds me a bit Laini Taylor's writing.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    1. Intense indeed! But again, an adult book. It's definitely a dark read, and it gets darker. Hopefully you enjoy it overall, Karen!

  7. Well now I can't wait to read this and chat about it with you :D I have no issues with it being an adult book, I'm just here for the fantasy and feels! Great review^^ xx

    1. YAY! I hope you read it and love it! Definitely hit me up, I'd love to chat about it.

      Thank you! <3

  8. This is coming up on my review list, so I'll keep in mind about the awkward beginning.

  9. This book looks SOOOOO good!!!!! Thanks for explaining that it's NOT YA, though. I totally don't care (I read across all age groups, but mainly YA), but if I had gone into it thinking it was YA, I would have been shocked, confused.. Who knows what else. And then I might have DNF'd. Now that I'm prepared and know what to expect, I'll simply be able to enjoy it :)

    1. Right! That's the thing - a ton of YA readers are expecting a YA book and will be disappointed that it isn't... it's a great story but definitely not YA. :D

  10. The fact that this book is adult only makes me more excited! Thanks for the great review Alyssa :D I'm so looking forward to picking up a copy when it comes out!

    1. I'm glad! I just thought I'd explain so much so that anyone who might read my review would know for sure, it's not YA. =) I hope you love this book, Eileen!

  11. Ohhh I didn't realize this was actually adult! Which I'm totally cool with haha. Glad to see you enjoyed it!! It seriously sounds awesome (I'm all in for uncensored everything, ha).

    Great review, Alyssa!

    1. YES! I'm cool with it too, but many people who strictly read YA thought this was YA... definitely not. I hope you love it, Cyn!

  12. EEE :D I AM SO HAPPY that you loved this book too sweet girl. <3 YESS :D Your review is amazing Alyssa. <3 So so happy that you enjoyed it :) But yeah. That ending. I CANNOT. It better change. I hope it will. I think it will. Fingers crossed ;) Anyway. Sigh. I loved reading your thoughts about this special book. <3

    1. YAY! The ending was so crazy! I'm hoping it won't stick... but with knows, with Kristoff. Cross your fingers!


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