Assassins. Blood. Revenge. Death. O, yes. This book has all of that plus more. This is the best dark fantasy I’ve read in a very long time. I’ve broken this review down into two sections. The first section is a completely objective review of the book’s style, story, etc. The second section is a 100% biased opinion. All opinions are my own. No spoilers ahead.
So let’s get down to it.
The synopsis as written on 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.
First of all, this is not a YA book. Yes, the main character is 16, but again, it’s not YA as some say.
Nevernight is set in a world that is a blend of ancient Rome and Old World Venice. This is a story about assassins, so please believe there is plenty of blood, gore, and just all-around violence to go around. To say Mia had a rough life is putting it mildly. The girl’s mother forced her to watch as her father was executed when she was only a little girl, and what comes next only prepares her for a life of revenge and death. She eventually meets Mercurio (more on him later), a retired Blade of the Red Church, and he acts like a surrogate “father” and trainer to her, preparing her to join the Red Church.
The Red Church has been described as a place like Hogwarts but set in Venice, and instead of a school of magic, it’s a school of death. I’d say I agree with that. There are canals, gondolas, harlequin masks, piazzas, and all sorts of landmarks/phrases that scream Italian.
The world building in this story is top notch. Ok, maybe that wasn’t so objective — but it’s true. You can tell that a lot of effort was put into creating the world, so much so that there were footnotes after every chapter. The footnotes provide extra details about things written in the corresponding chapter, but some people may find this annoying and may skip over the footnotes entirely.
I skipped over a lot of them, and didn’t feel I missed anything important. Maybe I’ll go back and just read the footnotes now that the story is done.
Speaking on the writing style, Nevernight is written in heavy metaphors and very lyrical sentence structures. If that’s something that annoys you or something you can’t get into, then you may find this book hard to read. There are sentences like these:
Aalea’s smile was like the suns emerging from the clouds…
But if the inn were a man and you stumbled on him in a bar, you’d be forgiven for assuming he had — after agreeing enthusiastically to his wife’s request to bring another woman into their marriage bed — discovered his bride making a pallet for him in the guest room…
The horizon was crusted like a beggar’s lips, scoured by winds laden with voices just beyond hearing…
The girl’s voice was dull, flat as a flagstone, but her eyes glittered with a fierce intelligence…
So there’s that.
If that doesn’t bother you and you can get by with or without reading the footnotes, then you’ll be in for a treat.
100% Biased Opinion
This book was amazing!
There were parts in the chapters told in flashbacks that were written in pages and pages of italics, (which I found very annoying), and I already mentioned my skipping of the footnotes. But aside from those minor stylistic decisions, I loved it!
I fell in love with the characters very quickly. Oddly enough, Mia wasn’t one of them, but that’s ok. I still liked her and found her story compelling. It’s very Arya Stark-ish (watches father’s execution, trains with a religious society of assassins who worship a god of death), but I like Arya more. Anyway…
Tric. OMG, Tric. He was probably the best. I loved his backstory, the culture of his people, just everything. I just… I just… I felt so bad for him! He was probably the most sympathetic of all the characters, and he quickly became my favorite.
Mercurio. The teacher. The retired Blade. I could just imagine what he was like back in his heyday. He must’ve been something special because so many people respected him. He had the best one-liners, and of all of the teachers, he seemed to be the best. Lucky, Mia.
The Red Church worships a goddess. Not a god, but a goddess. A monstrous goddess. Enough said.
Naev. I knew when she popped up wearing a black veil over her face that I’d like her.
There is a library of the dead. Read to find out about that one.
Lord Cassius. Listen. Is it possible to fall in love with a character that’s only in a book for like 4-5 scenes? I don’t know the exact count, but it wasn’t a lot. However, it was enough for me to be smitten He’s like that stereotypical character that lurks in the background. Untouchable. Fierce Warrior. Everyone is afraid of him. But wants to be like him at the same time. Walks around with a shadowwolf. And I loved it. Ugh. I want more.
And there it is. Highly recommended.
-school of assassins
-plot based on revenge
-Italian (ish) setting
-heavy metaphors and lyrical structure
-footnotes at the end of every chapter
-LOTS of violence
-characters you will fall in love with
Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevernight can be purchased here.
Kyndal is a free spirit who finds it very hard to describe herself. Tea Snob. Daydreamer. History, Fantasy, & Book Blerd. Cursed with Wanderlust. Jams to show tunes. Obsessed with Hamilton (the musical). Always on the advent of her next adventure.