Review: Nevernight – Nevermore Will I Give into Hype

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Title:
Nevernight (Nevernight Chronicle 1)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: August 6th, 2016
Genre(s): Fantasy
Subjects and Themes: Fantasy School, Assassins, Revenge
Page Count: 448 (hardback)

Rating: 6.0/10

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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, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic ― the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.

 

flourish

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Lying cat! SHHHHHH. I can’t think of a better title right now, okay? Let me have this clickbait one. Also, I think you’re just jealous because there’s a cat character in the book and he has cooler powers than you.

 

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I’ll preface this by saying that I didn’t think this was a bad book (so hold your rotten vegetables ’till the end). I thought it was an okay fantasy story with quick pacing, snappy action, and good humour. But from all the things I’d heard about it, I was expecting something a little more…exceptional. I had an image of Harry Potter bathed in blood and guts and dripping sensuality, and instead I got a typical school fantasy with stabby action (of several sorts) and illogical plot points. It was underwhelming to say the least.

(Also, I read this as a buddy read with my friend and it took us nearly four months to finish–which isn’t an indicator of the quality of the book but rather my lamentable efforts at buddy reading.)

Quick points on what I did enjoy about the book:

  • The footnotes provided interesting details about the world and its history. Some facts were silly, others more serious, and I liked the variation in tone. They’re akin to codex entries in video games; information that won’t hinder your understanding and enjoyment of the story if you choose not to read them, but will add extra depth to the narrative.
  • Mia’s shadow powers are pretty cool. And I’ll always champion the existence of magical animal companions in fantasy. I heard great things about Mr. Kindly the shadow cat and I wasn’t disappointed.
  • I really really liked the teasing of a possible enemies-to-lovers F/F for the sequels (it’s probably the main reason why I want to continue reading)

 

The biggest problem for me is that I couldn’t take the Red Church and its people seriously.

This is an assassin’s school (church/organization–whichever) that one enters knowing full well that it’s an assassin’s school. It’s an organization of the best cold-blooded killers in the realm that churns out more cold-blooded killers into society. Its teachers aren’t there to whack you over the head a few times and then hold your hand afterward. They’re there to let you break or be bent into their image of the perfect assassin.

So it makes ZERO sense for the apprentices to be constantly dumbstruck by the trickery that occurs during their lessons. I can give a pass for the first few times; they’re still kids, after all, and there are probably dregs of naivete still pooling around in their collective psyche. But when poisoning and maiming and “gotcha!” moments are part of your weekly routine and yet you’re still fooled time and time again by situations you should be learning to recognize as suspect, I have to ask what you’re even doing here.

“They’re not playing about anymore,” exclaims Mia two-thirds of the way into the story, somehow forgetting that they’ve been poisoned and tortured and thrown to the enemy since day 1.

These characters act like they’re in a boarding school and like they’re playacting as assassin trainees. Which would be fine if at any point the apprentices or the instructors address this by saying, hey, maybe they’re too soft to be here. Maybe they’re not cut out for this. But they don’t.

The lack of seriousness given to their situation (exacerbated by Kristoff’s upbeat, over-the-top writing style) combined with the fact that no major side character dies during these lessons/trials takes all the tension out of the story.

The characters are interesting enough but I didn’t feel like I got to know any of them very well. And while I like Mia’s attitude, she’s a combination of “over-powered hero” and “plot-convenient obliviousness” that frustrates me. Also, Cassius? The Black Prince? The Lord of Blades? The most powerful and feared assassin of the realm? He ended up being the biggest disappointment of the book. (spoiler: you either live long enough to become a villain or die unceremoniously in a random inn, skewered with a sword)

Other than that, there’s a myriad of plot points and character actions that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Like the convenient series of events leading up to the ending (spoiler: how is it that the greatest–and probably only–assassin’s guild in the world gets so easily infiltrated via the actions of two teenagers?) There’s also a criminal “investigation” at one point that ends with the church’s higher-ups accepting circumstantial evidence as concrete proof which I found fairly ridiculous. You’d think that as criminals they’d have seen their fair share of unfair judgments handed down by the Luminatii. So you’d think their justice system would be a little more robust. A little more on the just side. But nope.

I absolutely get why so many people love the book. I mean, firstly, it’s a fantasy in a school setting which is the literary equivalent of crack. There’s also a certain addictiveness to Kristoff’s writing that I can’t deny–a combination of flowery imagery and dry humour (the latter comes out really well in the footnotes). I just expected less plot holes and more of…well, everything.

 

flourish

Now you may begin pelting the vegetables!

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41 thoughts on “Review: Nevernight – Nevermore Will I Give into Hype

  1. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    Great review! I must admit this is one I’d really like to check out and I think for the most part I’ve been quite lucky in that I haven’t seen as much hype around this book as there obviously is in the bookish community. I was recently let down by Red Sister, though, so I think I’ll take a break from magical assassin schools for the time being!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bitsnbooks says:

    Love the review! I bought this book last year but haven’t read it yet. I’m hesitant because I don’t read a lot of adult fiction so I don’t know if I’ll like it but I’d still give it a try haha 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tammy says:

    I can definitely see your points. I hadn’t realized that there were so many plot holes, but I’m sure if I thought about it more I’d see them. For me the good outweighed the bad, I was so caught up in the writing, plus I loved the cat😁

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Norrie says:

    Seems Red Church has good marketing, but they can’t manage client’s expectations! 😀 😀
    Haha.
    This is one of those books i have on my list, knowing full well that i most likely won’t read for the next 10 years, simply cuz it’s not really a genre i read but the author is cool, so i might make an exception 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. acquadimore says:

    No vegetables! I’ve read many reviews of this, positive and negative and in-between, and this one is by far the funniest (also, I love the lying cat.)
    Having read the Illuminae series, I can’t say I’m surprised to hear that the plot has holes and that the character vary from “genius” to “catastrophically unobservant” from one moment to the next, that happened all the time in those too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Hahaha thank you!! I’m glad my attempts at humour are appreciated. 😅 And Illuminae is another one that I really want to try this year. Mostly because I heard the audio version is really well done. And thanks for the heads up on the characters! I’ll go in with appropriately adjusted expectations this time. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  6. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    At least you liked Mr. Kindly 😉 He is the best! I’m glad you weren’t disappointed by him 😀 As for the rest, I’m glad you enjoyed it but sorry you didn’t like it better! I loved it ❤ But I also have the uncanny ability to get swept up in stories and not notice any of plot inconsistencies (tho maybe I would have noticed if it took me 4 months to read it 😉 )

    Like

  7. evelynreads1 says:

    Great review! Personally I love the book, but I always enjoy seeing why people don’t like it (or less like it) 🙂

    (www.evelynreads.com)

    Like

  8. Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

    This is a really interesting review because all I hear about this book is how amazing it is so it’s quite refreshing to read one that doesn’t sing it’s praises.

    It’s definitely one of the hyped books that exists out there that’s for sure and that can definitely bring up expectations that just can’t be met. I have this on my TBR but haven’t picked it up yet. I’ll still give it a go though but I like reading reviews that don’t say how amazing it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      First The Cruel Prince and now this! Hyped books and I have NOT been getting
      along this year. I think Nevernight can be a really fun read if you can turn your brain off and just go along with the ride. I’m a chronic overthinker, though, sadly. 😛

      I’m really curious to see what you’ll think of it!! The MC does kind of remind of Arya at times (probably should have mentioned that in the review haha), so I did like that aspect. And probably why so many people love the series as a whole!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Off The TBR says:

    I’m always hesitant to give a popular book a less than great review. I always feel like I got something wrong or everyone is gonna hate me. But I have to remind myself I’m just expressing what I personally felt about the book. Glad to see you did that.we can always use that counter-balanced honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Oh I definitely get that! Though, for me, it happens more with those award-winning, critically-acclaimed books than the popular ones. There’s always that voice in my head telling me that there was something I missed in the book. That I just didn’t *get* it. So I try to remember that there’s no such thing as an objective review, and seeing all the differences of opinions IS what makes the blogging community interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. @lynnsbooks says:

    Aww, I loved this and the second – although I found the footnotes really irritating – moreso because of the formatting. Shame you didn’t like it though – that’s so disappointing for you. No rotten veg but I might break out the torches and pitchforks. LOL. Just think what a boring old world it would be if we all liked exactly the same things.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      I wasn’t too into the footnotes at first (they felt like lazy substitutes for proper worldbuilding) but they grew on me! My friend listened to the audiobook, though, so the narrator would insert the notes between the normal text, and I can imagine how jarring that must been lol. I’ll still give the second book a try! There are a couple of plot points that I’m curious about and I like it when a “meh” series flips around and ends up being good. 😀

      And I know right?! I love seeing unpopular opinions in other people reviews, so I have to tell myself that, chances are, those people like seeing them in mine, too. 😛

      Like

  11. 24hr.YaBookBlog says:

    What a great review! I personally don’t see myself reading Nevernight anytime soon 😅 but your review was awesome to read! I loved reading more about the points that didn’t work for you (–because now I know I wouldn’t have liked this book much either) XD!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    I read a ton of Kristoff for some reason… I think we may just have similar tastes in premises. This wasn’t my favorite of his but what it was, was decent enough. I LOVED Mr Kindly I think he’s my absolute favorite. (As is lying cat!!) Mia was okay she was contrived at times. What really was a major plot hole to me you didn’t mention… which is that moment at the end that was so contrived but “had to happen” otherwise no Mia, no end. Someone out for revenge wouldn’t have made that choice when they are an assassin and morally grey, etc! Because it goes against everything that Mia is and is becoming. ❤️ Great review I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Awww thanks, Dani! And YESSS I need ALL the snarky cat characters in my stories!! 😀 I definitely want to try more of Kristoff’s stuff. I do really like his premises and his sense of humour.

      If you’re thinking about the part at the end that I *think* you’re talking about (are we talking about Mia’s decision in the final trial?? lol oh god, we should be able to tag spoilers in the comments) then yes, I 10000% agree! It makes zero sense that she suddenly decides she’s going to have a conscience. I mean, this is what she’s been training for!! But nope, it needed to happen for the final plot event. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hannah says:

    Wonderful review! I have been super conflicted about picking this up – there are people who really really love this book and are very persuasive – but other reviews (like yours) are less favourable. I might also be the only person who isn’t suuuper in love with magical school settings, so I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Thank you!! And yeah, I think this is one of those books that you need to sample to figure out whether you like it or not. Because I was so sure I would love it (I mean, snarky cats + Arya Stark-esque protagonist + bloody action sounded like a dream combination!) The writing is super snappy and easy, though, so it never got *boring*. Which is a plus!

      Have you read Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series? I’d kind of call Nevernight a less-developed version of that. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  14. waytoofantasy says:

    You bring up a ton of great points here. I think books like these I tend not to overthink them and just go along for the ride so I don’t see as many flaws until someone else points them out, LOL. I had a lot of fun with these books. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Captain's Quarters says:

    I was just talking to the first mate about how I don’t think I will like this book because of the language style but I keep reading reviews about it in the hope that someone will convince me that I will like it. I said these reviews were like crack! And then yer “it’s a fantasy in a school setting which is the literary equivalent of crack.” Sigh. Ye understand me dilemma. I want to read about the talking cat and the footnotes and somehow miss the main plot! I want this book to be what the premise suggests it is. But I know the plot holes and ridiculous descriptions will make me want to throw it across me cabin!
    x The Captain

    Like

  16. snowlyramble says:

    Great review, I think the points are all explained really well! I have to agree I think this book was hyped up SO much, and I was left slightly deflated when I didn’t enjoy it as much as I imagined. I did like the footnotes though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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