Nevernight | Thoughts
“'Never Flinch.' A cold whisper in her ear. 'Never fear. And never, ever forget.'
The girl nodded slowly.
Exhaled the hope inside.
And she'd watched her father die.”
I can't decide if this book is madness or genius. This was my first book by Jay Kristoff, and it is abundantly clear that this man's a poet. At least in Nevernight, anyway, phrases and entire pages read like poetry. Kristoff takes creative license with the very structure of each page, and while my editor mind balked at this approach initially, once I calmed it was a fantastic read.
Murder, mystery, vengeance, blood magic, a library of dead books, flesh sculptors, a completely new world, darkin...
Okay, wait. Let me calm down and get a little organized here. I'll start with what I loved.
“'Your mind will serve you better than any trinket under the suns...It is a weapon...and like any weapon, you need practice to be any good at wielding it.'”
It takes a good deal of the first half of the book to get a handle on this land. I'll break it down simply. There are three suns that are in rotation at all times in the sky. Thus, "days" is an irrelevant term, and our characters live by "turns" instead, which are marked by each "nevernight". "Truedark" is the once in a two-year event where all three suns set at the same time. Our story is set in Godsgrave—literally a city built into the skeleton of an old fallen god—and in the mountain fortress of the Red Church, where assassins pledge fealty to their goddess and murder not just the guilty in their devotion.
Damnit. It's really not so simple. Which is why it is so worth it to stick it out if you're feeling as I did (um, a little lost) at the start.
Mia's father was murdered by the Senate when she was a child, her mother and brother imprisoned. At the moment that could have been her death, a shadow responds to her call instead and she is set on a path of revenge, finding herself initiated with twenty-seven others into the service of the Red Church. Only four will become assassins of the church, however, and it's an incredibly deadly path under the mountain with not just her fellow students trying to kill her.
Mia is ruthless, and I loved that about her. The narrator does warn us, after all.
"Now understand; she could have spared this boy. And your narrator could just as easily lie to you at this juncture—some charlatan’s ruse to cast our girl in a sympathetic light. But the truth is, gentlefriends, she didn’t spare him. Yet, perhaps you’ll take solace in the fact that at least she paused. Not to gloat. Not to savor.
Mia is Darkin, which as far as we learn in Nevernight, means she can control shadow. Since answering her first call, Mister Kindly—her shadow companion—has been with her, drinking her fear (that's right) and offering her the only comfort she's known since her family was ripped away. There is a mystery of what she is and the promise of what she can accomplish when she fully understands what it means to be Darkin, and I for one am dying to find out myself.
Also, how do I get my own little sarcastic Mister Kindly?
“'I’m becoming something of a bitch, aren’t I?'
She glanced at the cat as he chuckled, flicked ash in his general direction.
'It’s not meant to be easy. But I can do this, Mister Kindly.'
'… i have no doubt. and i am with you to the end…'
All right. Time to get all technical. My main complaint with Nevernight is the narration. I like witty narrators, but the third person omniscient is decidedly not my favorite, mainly because I never feel I am connecting to the characters on the level I'd like to. Kristoff takes it even further by utilizing footnotes, which are much of the time comments that could have been included via EM dashes or even parentheses (though I reserve parentheses for first person, usually).
As I was already struggling to connect with Mia, just when I'd be getting there I was yanked out by another asterisk forcing my eyes down to the footnote and tearing me out of the moment. While many were witty—and yes I laughed out loud a few times—far too much of the footnotes were used for infodumping. I understand this information is integral to the world building, but infodumping can be bad enough when jammed into the flow of the story—tear me out of the story for a footnote half a page in size, and I'm annoyed.
Throughout the first half, I thought this complaint was going to be substantial enough to get a three star rating...as I moved into the second half that rating crept up, until who the F cares about a little technical writing preference when the story and technique play out so perfectly. My mind was spinning by the end, as Kristoff is as brutal as Mia with dangling mystery after mystery and wringing out our hearts in unexpected ways.
Some spoilery questions and suspicions:
Mister Kindly...I want to trust you, but I have this sneaking suspicion something may be off...
Lord Cassius...WHY?! I'm saddened by his end, and it's probably because I've been reading so much YA with their romantic entanglings and I just love the idea of a dark prince. *shrugs* Can't help it if I was being drawn in by the power of the Lord of Blades!
Speaking of his end, did Cassius say he was HUNGRY when Mia was near? Really need to know everything about the Darkin, right away please.
Tric...I am sad for Tric as well. Not for lost romantic ideas, but because I wanted to see him accomplish his goals right alongside Mia, though not tied to her.
I am ever curious who the narrator is...I have a guess or two. But honestly I thought I was on to several key elements and I was just flat out wrong. And yes I know, that was likely intentional, but Kristoff leads us (or me at least) so subtly in certain directions that I wasn't even aware I was being set up.
There's so much to say about Nevernight...just freaking read it and come back to discuss with me!
“The brighter the light, the deeper the shadow.”