Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight

Rating: ★★★★★

Nevernight is the first novel in a new fantasy trilogy from Jay Kristoff, and I was thrilled to be sent an advance copy for review.

Mia Corvere is sixteen years old, and, after six years of training, she is to be admitted to the Red Church – a secretive organisation of assassins.  Whilst adept at many of the skills this requires, she has additional motivation, as she seeks to avenge herself on those who hanged her father as a traitor, who threw her mother into a prison and who sentenced the ten-year-old Mia to a death that she narrowly managed to avoid.

But training at Red Church will not be a straightforward affair – only four of the inductees will become ‘blades’, competition is fierce and there’s no guarantee that she’ll survive the training process.

In Nevernight, Kristoff evokes a richly imagined world, detailed in the places, people and their beliefs.  Much of the detail is passed along through the use of footnotes.  I liked these (if you don’t mind Pratchett’s footnotes, you should be fine here) – they added commentary and explanation without hindering the story, and many were humorous and had me chuckling.  For what is a relatively bloodthirsty work (you don’t get to be an assassin without a little bloodshed, after all) the novel maintains a tone of humour throughout which adds some light relief between some dark scenes.

I found the magic system used in Nevernight to be highly original – something I don’t get to say often.  Magic isn’t widely used (is, in fact, largely believed to have died out), but where it is utilised, it comes at a price.  Imagine having the ability to change the flesh of others – to heal, and make them beautiful, but for your own flesh to become ever more repugnant and repulsive every time you used this skill.  Such is the nature of magic in this novel.  Whilst helpful, it’s certainly no easy way, and I found this idea of a trade-off to be fascinating and refreshing.

As with the world building, Kristoff has also provided a rich cast of characters, all with their own motivations and back stories.  Somewhat unusually for the genre (although this is becoming less true), it’s the women that stand out in this novel.  There are male characters, but it’s the ladies that were the focus, at least for me.  And this is particularly true of Mia, who I found to be a fascinating character.  Feisty and temperamental, she has lots of bad habits but is ultimately driven to succeed, even when the odds are against her, and there were parts where I had to read on to make sure that she’d get out of whatever situation she landed herself in.

Like many novels, there are aspects of Nevernight that reminded me of other works – A Game of Thrones and Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind spring to mind – but there is plenty in Nevernight to set it apart from both these and others.  This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Nevernight will be published on 11 August by Harper Voyager.  Many thanks to Katie Sadler for providing a copy for review.

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