Nevernight by Jay Kristoff book review
Updated: Jan 24, 2021
by Jay Kristoff
Published by St. Martin's Press
Book 1 in the Nevernight Chronicles
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?
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Violent New Adult Intriguing
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff is the first book in his Nevernight Chronicles. It centers around Mia Corvere, an orphaned sixteen year old girl, who is determined to become a Blade - an assassin - to avenge her family. But there are many things standing between her and the revenge she so desperately wants. Friendships. Love. A murderer killing fellow acolytes. The mystery of her darkin powers, that were gifted to her the day her family was torn away from her. Her own struggle with what is right and wrong.
So Nevernight wasn't on my tbr list. Apparently, the 1000+ books on there are not enough, and I just had to join a bookclub, and Nevernight was the pick of the month. To be honest, I didn't think I would like this book after I started it. I hated the narration of the story, and the footnotes. Hated that once Mia made it to the Red Church, that it felt like a weird combination of Hogwarts and Hunger Games (come on, admit you pictured potions class when they were studying poisons. Jessamine is Draco. Solis is Snape.).
Funny thing happened though. Things I didn't like starting out, I ended up liking them.
By the end of the book, once the world has been set up, I forgot that the narrator was telling me a story, and was able to immerse myself in it. The benefit of third person, was that at rare times, we got different perspectives from different characters, when Mia wasn't around. The footnotes I hated, either built on to the setting, or were weird side tangents that could end up being quite funny. On top of these things I grew to like, there were the things I instantly liked about this book too. A strong, determined female character (extra points given that it's a male author who wrote her), the action and mystery, the romance and sex, and the dry humor that pops up at unexpected moments.
The characters were very interesting, if somewhat a little too alike (which I guess is to be expected when the characters in question are all assassins, or training to be.) Mia is strong, and ruthless when she needs to be. She tries hard to be cold, but she can't help who she is. She can't stop herself from feeling. She has a sense of right and wrong, which I appreciate. She doesn't quite fit the mold of assassin. Murder needs justification. She won't kill those who don't deserve it. She is a very grey character, which I like. Hell, most of these characters I like despite the fact they are cold blooded killers. I enjoyed Tric. He was a sweetheart, and, spoiler ----------> Fuck that ending! No body was found. I refuse to believe he is dead. Aside from that, I loved how in the epilogue, Mia fulfilled her promise to him to carry out his revenge. <------------. Can't say my thoughts on these characters without spoiling, so here you go -----------> Ashlynn has got to die. Ugh. I feel like Cassius's character could have went further in the story, and I hate that he was killed. I think his wolf pairing with Mia though will be interesting. I suspect that Jessamine and Mia will eventually become friends. <-------------. Not sure what to think about Hush. His backstory is heartbreaking, but he is ruthless. I suspect he is a true believer in the "mother", and won't harm Mia for no reason.
Nevernight was a surprising treat for me. I went from thinking "why am I doing this to myself?" to truly enjoying it. Is it a favorite? Not really. I don't regret the time I put into reading it though, and I'm excited to jump into the next book!
Mia's first kill
Mia and Tric discussing why he named his horse flowers
The moment Tric fell in love with Mia
Mia telling Mister Kindly to stay with Tric while they were blindfolded so he wouldn't be scared
Mia meeting the old man at the library
Tric agreeing to help Mia
Mia and Tric hooking up
Mia saving the ministry, and being annoited as a blade, despite failing one of the tests.
Mia getting Tric's revenge for him after his death
Where to Buy
Mia: "What does oshk mean? Mercurio never taught me that word."
Mister Kindly: "...unsurprising..."
Mia: "It's something to do with sex, then."
Wolfeater: "It's the smallest spiders that have the darkest poison, lads."
Mia: "I was told - specifically told, mind you - to come to the Old Imperial on the coast of Ashkah and give Fat Daniio my tithe. So take it."
Daniio: "What's in it?"
Mia: "Trophy of a killer, killed in kind."
Mia; "The teeth of Augustus Scipio, high executioner of the Itreyan Senate."
Daniio: "IS he comin' 'ere to get them?"
Mia bit her lip. Closed her eyes.
Mia: " ... No."
Tric: "I guess the churchmen nest on high. I suggest we start with those mountains to the north, then swing east. After that, we'll probably have been drained lifeless by dustwraiths or eaten by sand kracken, so our bones won't mind where they get shit out."
Mia: "Ow, fuck!"
Mia shrieked as the stallion bit her arm hard enough to leave a bloody bruise. The horse threw back his head with what sounded an awful lot like snickering. And tossing his man, he began a limping canter back toward Last Hope, bloody hoofprints in his wake.
Mia: "Wait! Wait!"
Tric: "He really doesn't like you."
Mia: "My thanks, Don Tric. When you're done singing your Ode to the Obvious, perhaps you'll do me the honor of riding down the horse escaping with all my bloody gear on his back?"
Mia: "Why do you call your horse Flowers?"
Tric: "... What's wrong with Flowers?"
Mia: "Well, most men name their horses something a little more ... manly, is all."
Tric: "Legend or Prince or suchlike."
Mia: "I met a horse named Thunderhoof once. Light's truth."
Tric: "Seem's a silly thing to me. Giving out that kind of knowing for free."
Mia: "What do you mean?"
Tric: "Well, you call your horse Legend, you're letting people know you think you're some hero in a storybook. You call your horse Thunderhoof ... Daughters, you might as well hang a sign about your neck saying, "I have a peanut for a penis."
Mia: "I'll take your word on that."
Tric: "It's like these fellows who name their swords 'Skullbane' or 'Souldrinker' or somesuch. Tossers, all."
Mia: "If I were going to name my blade, I'd call it 'Fluffy'"
Tric snorted with laughter.
Mia: "Byss, yes. Think of the terror you'd instill. Being bested by a foe wielding a sword called Souldrinker ... that you could live with. Imagine the shame of having the piss smacked out of you by a blade called Fluffy."
Tric: "Well, that's my point. Names speak to the namer as much as the named. Maybe I don't want folks knowing who I am. Maybe I like being underestimated. Or maybe I just like flowers..."
Mia: "Never flinch. Never fear. And never, ever forget."
Tric: "So. The puzzle begins to make sense. The last daughter of a disgraced familia. Headed to the finest school of killers in all the Republic. Planning on settling scores after graduation?"
Mia: "You're now about to regale me with some wisdom on the futility of revenge, are you, Don Tric? Because I was just starting to like you."
Mia: "You know, I've never understood that. How being named for a woman's nethers is somehow more grievous than any other insult. Seems to me calling someone after a man's privates is worse. I mean, what do you picture when you hear a fellow called a cock?"
Tric shrugged, befuddled at the strange turn in the conversation.
Mia: "You imagine an oaf, don't you? Someone so full of wank there's no room for wits. A slow-minded bastard who struts about full of spunk and piss, completely ignorant of how he looks to others. Cock is just another word for 'fool.' But you call someone a cunt, well ... You're implying a sense of malice there. An intent. Malevolent and self-aware. Don't think I name Consul Scaeva a cunt to gift him insult. Cunts have brains, Don Tric. Cunts have teeth. Someone calls you a cunt, you take it as a compliment. As a sign that folk believe you're note to be lightly fucked with. I think they call that irony."
Mia sniffed, staring at the wastes laid out below them.
Mia: "Truth it, there's no difference between your nethers and mine. Aside from the obvious, of course. But one doesn't carry any more weight than the other. Why should what's between my legs be considered any smarter or stupider, any worse or better? It's all just meat, Don Tric. In the end, it's all just food for worms. Just like Duomo, Remus, and Scaeva will be."
One last drag, long and deep, as if drawing the very life from her smoke.
Mia: "But I'd still rather be called a cunt than a cock any turn."
The girl sighed gray, crushed her cigarillo out with her boot heel.
Spat into the wind
And just like that, young Tric was in love.
Her mother: "Your mind will serve you better than any trinket under the suns. It is a weapon, Mia. And like any weapon, you need practice to be any good at wielding it."
Mia: "But mother -"
Mother: "No, Mia Corvere. Beauty you're born with, but brains you earn."
Mia: "I tried to quit once. Lasted fourteen turns."
Tric: "Missed it too much?"
Mia: "Withdrawals. Mercurio made me take it back up. He said me acting like a bear with a hangover three turns a month was bad enough."
Tric: "Three turns a ... ah."
Tric: " ... You're not that bad are you?"
Mia: "You can tell me in a turn or so."
Tric: "I had no sisters. I am unversed in ..."
- vague handwaving -
Tric: "... women's ways."
Mia: "Well, then, you're in for a treat."
Tric: "Your Shahiid was a wise man."
Mia: "What makes you say that?"
Tric: "Three turns of this a month is plenty."
Mia: "She's playing with you, Don Tric."
Tric smiled to hear Mia's voice, grinned as the knifewoman hissed in surprise.
Mia: "I've a better game we can play, though. It's called drop your blade and let him go before I cut your hands off."
Naev: "Naev will slit his throat."
Mia: "Then your head will join your fingers on the sand, Mi Dona."
Tric: "I can kiss that better if you like."
Mia: "O, fuck off!"
Mercurio: "I've got tea. And cake."
Mia: "...What kind of cake?"
Mercurio: "The free kind."
Mia pouted. Licked her lips and tasted blood.
Mia: "My favorite."
Mia: "Now, look here..."
Naev: "You must undress."
Mia: "You really picked the wrong girl. And most people offer a drink first."
Naev: "She must bathe before she meets the Ministry. If Naev may speak plain, she reeks of horse and excrement, her hair is greasier than a Liisian sweetbread and she is painted in dried blood. If she wishes to attend her baptism into the Blessed Lady's congregation looking like a Dweymeri savage, Naev suggests she saves herself the pain and simply step off the Sky Altar now."
Mia: "Wait ... Did you say bath?"
Naev: "... Naev did."
Mia: "With water? And soap?"
The woman nodded
Naev: "Five kinds."
Mia: "Maw's teeth. You picked the right girl after all."
Mercurio: "Who told you to go for a boy's cods in a scrap?"
Mia: "My father. He said the quickest way to beat a boy is to make him wish he was a girl."
Mercurio: "A traitor's just a patriot on the wrong side of winning."
Mia: "Is that wise?"
Old man: "What?"
Mia: "This is a library. You can't smoke in a bloody library."
Old man: "O, shit ..."
The old man plucked his cigarillo, pondered it briefly, popped it back into his mouth.
Mia: "What if the books catch fire?"
Old man: "O, shiiiiiiiiit."
Mia: "Well ... can I have one, then?"
Old man: "One what?"
Mia: "A smoke."
Old man: "Are you daft? You can't smoke in a bloody library. What if the books catch fire?"
Mia: "O, shiiiiiit."
Mia: "My brave centurion. Riding in on his charger to save his poor damsel? Hold me, brave sir, I fear I shall swoon."
She pulled open the ties at her throat, looked down to the place her breasts hadn't been.
Mia: "Daughters. Those are new ..."
Mister Kindly: "... i trust you've noticed i have politely refrained from comment ..."
Mia: "Your restraint is admirable."
Mister Kindly: " ... i actually just can't think of anything witty to say ..."
Mia: "Thank the Maw for small mercies, then."
Mister Kindly: "... or noticeably larger ones. as the case may be ..."
Mia rolled her eyes
Mister Kindly: "... we both knew it was too good to last ..."
Naev: "This place gives much. But it takes much more. They may make her beautiful on the outside, but inside, they aim to shape a horror. So if there is some part of herself that truly matters, hold it close, Mia Corvere. Hold it tight."
Mercurio: "Your face looks ... different. Better."
Mia: "Would that I could say the same for you."
Mercurio: "Still the same smartarse underneath the pretty, then."
Cassius: "It matters not what you are. Only that you are."
Cassius and the Ministry had no clue. No idea at all what she was made of. But he knew.
Iron or glass? they'd asked.
Mia clenched her jaw. Shook her head.
She was neither.
She was steel.
Mia: "Well, thank you very much. If you'd like to go somewhere and quietly fuck yourself, I'll be waiting here patiently for your return."
Tric: "Why would I help you?"
Mia: "Because I said please?"
Tric: "... You didn't say please."
Mia: "A mere technicality."
Mister Kindly: " ... though i have no face, believe me when i say i am scowling the pants off you right now ..."
Mia rolled her eyes
Mia: "Yes, Father."
Mister Kindly: "...of course, a state of pantslessness seems to be your goal, so perhaps I should stop ..."
Mia: "Yes, Fatherrrr."
Mister Kindly: " ... do not take that tone of voice with me, young lady ..."
Mia: "Better than Pigfiddler."
Tric: "Byss and blood, Mia ..."
Mia: "What? I'm sure you give lovely cuddles."
Tric: "Black Mother help me. I need a fucking drink ..."
Mia: "The truth of what I am must be in here somewhere. I'm not leaving 'til we find it."
Tric: "Maybe we should start at the letter S?"
Tric: "S for stubborn. S for stupid. S for smartarse."
Mia: "S for shut it."
Tric: "See, that's the spirit."
Mia: "What is it?"
Tric: "I can't smell it."
Mia: "At all?"
Tric shook his head
Tric: "All I get is the books. And you."
Mia: "Bath time?"
Tric: "... is that an invitation?"
Mia: "O, fuck off -"
Mister Kindly: "...bravo ... if only i had hands to applaud ..."
Mia smacked her backside
Mia: "I'd settle to lips to kiss my sweet behind."
Mister Kindly: "... I would have to find it first ..."
Mia: "Arses are like wine, Mister Kindly. Better too little than too much."
Mister Kindly: " ... a beauty and a philosopher. be still, my beating heart ..."
The not-cat looked down at its translucent chest.
Mister Kindly: "... o, wait ..."
Mia: "I'm becoming something of a bitch, aren't I?"
Mister Kindly: "...becoming...?"
Mia: "She never takes it off, Ash. I've seen her wearing it in the damned bath."
Ash: "Speaking of, I couldn't help noticing those bite marks on your inner thighs a few turns back ..."
Mia raised a brow
Mia: "You've been checking on my inner thighs in the bath?"
Ash: "No harm in looking."
Ash: "Eh. I've seen better."
Mia raised the knuckles in her friend's face.
Mia: "O, look, mine work too."
Ash: "Aye, aye, very good. Point is, she does take it off. She has to when she makes the Blood Walk, because it's made of ... help me out here ..."
Ash: "Huzzah! She can be taught!"
Mia: "Fuck you."
Ash: "Fair warning, I'm not much of a biter ..."
Ash: "Maw's teeth, Corvere. When my da go tortured in the Thorn Towers of Elai, they chopped his bollocks off and fed them to the scabdogs. What's your excuse?"
Mia: "For what?"
Ash: "Um, your complete lack of balls?"
Mia waved at her breasts
Mia: "Um, you do see these, don't you?"
Mia: "Maw's teeth, put it back in your pants."
Ash: "You really do leave the door open for me, don't you?"
Carlotta: "She set fire to her bed."
Ash looked between Mia and Tric. Opened her mouth to speak as Mia cut her off.
Mia: "Not. A. Fucking. Word."
With a knowing grin, Ash turned back to her meal.
Tric: "Marielle will take them away. Adiira warned me. They make me memorable. But what will I be when they're gone? They're what makes me, me."
Tric blinked in shock
Mia: "This makes you who you are."
She punched the slab of muscles above his heart.
She slapped him atop his head.
The girl took hold of his hands, knelt in front of him, staring into the boys eyes.
Mia: "Slavemarks. Tattoos. Scars. What you look like doesn't change who you are inside. They can give you a new face, but they can't give you a new heart. No matter what they take from you, they can't take that away unless you let them. That's real strength, Tric. That's real power."
Mia: "Maw's teeth, I've got to cut down."
Mister Kindly: "... there are more dangerous things around here to out in your mouth ... dweymeri boys, for example..."
Mia: "O, bravo. Been working on that one for a while, have we?"
Mister Kindly: "...most of yestereve..."
Mia: "Time well spent, then."
Mister kindly: "...there are more dangerous ways i could -"
Mia: "All right, all right. Enough. The last thing I need to hear before my executions is you criticizing my choices in penises."
Osrik: "Black Mother, don't talk with your mouth full, Ash."
Ash: "Funny. I told a handsome soldierboy the same thing last time I was in Godsgrave."
Her brother covered his ears.
Ash: "Sang like a choirboy, he did. During and after. Luminatii boys get all the juice."
Osrik: "I believe I said, 'La. La. LA."
Mia: "Ashlinn, I could kiss you ..."
Ash: "...I thought you'd never ask?"
Mia: "You're a fucking genius!"
The girl turned to her brother and smirked
Ash: "See, I told you ..."
Mia stood and grabbed Ash by the ears, hauled her close and planted a loud kiss square on her lips. Tric led a round of impromptu applause, but Mia was already scooping up her notes and dashing from the Sky Altar.
Osrik: "All over the shop like a madman's shite, that one."
Ash: "Good kisser, though. I can see why you're bounce over boots for her, Tricky."
Mister Kindly: "...ingenious..."
Mia: "If it works."
Mister Kindly: "...and if not?"
Mia: "You might be looking for a new best friend."
Mister Kindly: "...i have a best friend now ...?"
Swordbreaker: "Wh ... Wh ..."
The old man nodded, stifling another groan of pain.
Mia: "You'll never know my name, I'm afraid. It's the shadow road for me. I'm a rumor. A whisper. The thought that wakes the bastards of this world sweating in the nevernight. And you are a bastard, Swordbreaker of the Threedrake clan. A bastard I made a promise about to someone I cared for, not so long ago."
The old man's face twisted, fingers clawing his belly. His insides were boiling, burning, all acid and broken glass. He shook his head, tried to spit, groaning instead. The girl looked to the spilled glass of goldwine. Fire twinkling in black eyes.
Mia: "It's Spite. A purified dose. It's already eaten a hole in your stomach. It'll chew through your bowels in the next few minutes. And over the next few turns your belly will bleed, and bloat, and fester. And in the end, you'll die, Swordbreaker of the Threedrake clan. Die just like I promised him you would."
Mia: "Die screaming."
Eclipse: "...SERVANTS COME. WE SHOULD BE AWAY..."
The girl nodded.
Mia: "If you should see him in your wanders by the Hearth, tell Tric hello for me."
Swordbreaker's eyes widened.
Mia: "Tell him I miss him."
Mister Kindly: "...she was mine before she was yours..."
Eclipse: "...IF SHE IS ANYONE'S, SHE IS HER OWN..."