ARC Book Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Posted July 28, 2016 by Debby in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from American Book Center in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: Nevernight by Jay KristoffNevernight by Jay Kristoff
Series: The Nevernight Chronicles #1
Published by Harper Voyager on August 11th, 2016
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 643
Format: ARC
Source: American Book Center

Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student.

The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.

2 Stars

I did it. I killed the beast – this 600+ page monster of a novel. It took me three weeks to get through it not only because Pokémon Go was released in the same time. And it pains me to say it, but I do feel like it was a waste of those three weeks.

When I saw an opportunity to read the much hyped Nevernight early, I LITERALLY jumped at the chance. I did love the first book I read by Kristoff, Stormdancer, and at the time, a bloody book about assassins in a dark fantasy world sounded like a fantastic idea. I feel like a lot of us fantasy readers on the older end of young adult, who sometimes cross over to adult, are all kind of tempted by that, right? We love a fierce main character who isn’t afraid to take a life – who stands for something and will let nothing and no one stand in her way to achieve it. Revenge fantasies sound both dark and fascinating. So imagine my surprise when this book just didn’t really work for me on any level.

The first thing to know about Kristoff:
he likes his fantasy elaborate and wordy.

The number of pages should have already given part of that away, but this is not the kind of fantasy that’s easy to jump into or action-packed from the get go. Instead, the book takes over 100 pages to actually get going. That’s when Mia finally reaches the Red Church, where she trains to be an assassin. Before that it’s all world building and character development infodumps, about half of them in flashback form. Now, if you know me, you know I’m not the biggest flashback fan. So this was already working my last nerve, and I struggled to keep going. This book could have been so condensed, oh my god, I can’t even.

The writing style is kind of odd.

Yeah, it’s elaborate and some may call it purple at some times. But my detachment with the writing goes even further than that. Kristoff randomly interjects his own dark and snarky humor throughout the book. Not enough to give the narration a unique and consistent voice, but just sporadically, in random sentences and footnotes which make you kind of scratch your head a little bit. Oh yeah, FOOTNOTES. Because there wasn’t enough room for world building in the 600 page text, he also needed footnotes for more random facts and background information about the world that have absolutely no influence on the story and are neither interesting nor amusing.

Exhibit A:

But with the weight of her unneeded companions shed, Mia’s camels travelled all the swifter, spitting and snorting and making whatever noise it is that camels make as they ran.[72]

[72] It occurs to me there is no word to describe the noise a camel makes. Dogs bark, lions roar, drunkards mumble. What the ‘byss do camels do? ARC of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
(Note that some footnotes were so long they spilled over onto the next page. I’m not even joking.)

And that’s another thing, to keep his world consistent, Kristoff changes up the slang in an otherwise pretty modern way of speaking. This world has three suns, and the religion is devoted to Aa, the God of Light. Mia, as an assassin, serves Niah, the Goddess of Night. Instead of hell, there’s the “abyss”, which everyone naturally shortens to “‘byss” when they say, “What the ‘byss is going on?” (which they say A LOT). I appreciate the efforts to create a new world with consistent terminology and understand, mostly, where it comes from, but this really annoyed me. Also, two sorcerer characters speak Shakespearean English, so really this is all over the place.

The story picks up… a little.

When Mia finally reaches the Red Church, it does get marginally more interesting. IMHO we don’t get to see nearly enough of their lessons – those parts are kind of sped through or skipped for whatever reason – but it is an interesting setting. They do fierce training in combat, poison, seduction, and thievery. It’s not at all a Hogwarts, and this is no nurturing environment. From the outset, students are whittled away – most of them dying as a result of their training or as an added mystery.

I found some enjoyment in these scenes because all of the characters were rightly suspicious and combative towards each other – and yet, Mia still manages to strike up connections with select people. All the while, she’s not stupid enough to forget that she’s there on a mission, and they’re all actually competing for four assassin positions. The teachers set up some ruthless and potentially fatal tests for the group, and Mia navigates them really well, proving on more than one occasion that she’s smart as well as dangerous – physically but also psychologically.

Forced romance is forced.

I’m of two minds about this. I liked certain romantic scenes because – hell, that’s when it really became clear this is an adult book. There is some serious hotness going on, and Kristoff writes it surprisingly well. But I did not care much for Tric, the character. And as Mia develops feelings for him, but adamantly denies said feelings, but figures she needs to learn about sex and seduction, so what the heck, let’s have pleasure for the sake of pleasure… It feels forced. I kind of would have liked her to be wholly focused on her mission to be an assassin. I did not ship this. I also didn’t unship it. I just didn’t care for it.

Do not tease me with “the most shocking plot twist ever.”

As the UK advance copies were sent out, photos appeared online that the publisher had included a note at a certain page number that YES that shocking thing did just happen, and people should definitely post about it on social media with their shocked faces. Now, this does not work on me. Because for one, now I know something SUPER SHOCKING is supposed to happen. And then, I know the page number where it should happen. My mind goes off without my permission and dissects everything, thinking up one million options of shocking plot twists, and ultimately deciding what would be the most awesome. And no, it’s never the most awesome thing.

So yeah. I was not surprised. Considering the setting and the shady nature of literally every character in this book, I more or less expected exactly what happened to happen. My pick for a more awesome plot twist? View Spoiler »

Where exactly was this book supposed to wow me?

This is one of the most hyped novels of 2016. And yet… here I am. Let’s see how this book did.

  • Writing? Too long, overwrought, odd style. I have to be in the right mood to be able to read super dense high fantasy, and I definitely was not.
  • World building? Interesting, though too elaborate. Weird mix of Venetian and Middle Eastern terms/descriptions? Dunno how I feel about that.
  • Characters? Mia gets a firm nod of respect from me, but the rest I don’t really care about.
  • Romance? Decently hot, though I don’t care for the ship. I know it’s en vogue to ship couples who have sex for the heck of it without feelings, but I am not really that kind of shipper.
  • Plot? Alternates between intense, gory, high stakes action, intriguing mystery, and the slowest filler material.
  • Twists? Did not even blink.

So… that’s a hard no.

Summing Up:

I think I’ve adequately explained why this book didn’t work for me, but I get why it exists. This book is like what would happen if Arya Stark got to be in an even darker and bloodier House of Black and White. It’s playing on the trends in the book world to love assassins, blood and gore, casual sex, and revenge plots. In that sense, it’s brilliantly calculated and constructed. But it feels like I saw through all of it… and I was not impressed. Over-hyped and overrated? I would say so.

I mean, you know you’re pretty much over a book when the sentence, “After all, this tale is only one of three,” makes you visibly cringe and audibly groan. No thank you.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

Fans of denser fantasy, like A Song of Ice and Fire, or, hell, Stormdancer.

Thanks to American Book Center in Amsterdam for providing this review copy!

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6 responses to “ARC Book Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

    • RIGHT? Though seriously, I need to get my imagination under control. I can’t just rewrite books in my mind because I feel like I had a better idea than the author ^^;

  1. I’ve heard lots of talk about the writing style and that’s just one big pile of NOPE for me. I can’t deal with writing that’s too flowery or hard to understand. I’ll probably skip this one.

    • Yeah, it kind of broke my heart because Kristoff is such an awesome guy and his personality online is EXCELLENT but his writing is so freaking tough. x_x