Book Review: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1) by Jay Kristoff
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can’t quite figure out why I waited so long to read this book. This might be in part due to the fact that it’s labeled, quite wrongly in my opinion, as young adult. The only thing young adult about this book is the fact that young adults serve as the main characters. Whatever the case may be, I’m incredibly glad I finally decided to read Nevernight, and that it turned into a blog wide reading/rereading/rehashing event. I was utterly captivated by this bloody, beautiful, snarky story and the equally bloody, beautiful, snarky cast.
“Never flinch” A cold whisper in her ear. “Never fear. And never, ever forget.”
Within the first ten pages, I was stunned by the artistry of the writing. The first chapter is broken up into sections, each alternating with and mirroring its predecessor, half telling the tale of a girl ridding herself of her virginity and the other half describing a girl’s first kill. There’s something oddly beautiful about how Kristoff tied these two acts together through certain repetitions in the prose.
“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You’re a daughter of the words. A girl with a story to tell.”
I’ve already gushed over how exquisite I found the prose, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the almost eerie musicality to Kristoff’s writing. The only other books I’ve read by him were actually the Illuminae Files, which were coauthored. I loved that series, and so was expecting a pretty good deal from this book. But I wasn’t expecting the prose. There’s a lyricism to the structure that resonated deeply with me, making me feel more like a bard was telling me the story than that I was reading it with my own eyes. I found myself reading very slowly, and going back and rereading entire paragraphs, because the writing was just so gorgeous. There’s also a surprising humor that balances out the poetry perfectly, ensuring that the tone is never too heavy. All of this to say that I found the prose nearly infallible, and was reminded of one of my very favorite books, The Name of the Wind, while reading it. Not in terms of story or even style, but in the lyrical confidence of the author.
“The wolf does not pity the lamb. The storm begs no forgiveness of the drowned.”
I’ve come to love literary fiction over the past few years, though it still tends to be a hit-or-miss genre for me. In large part, I’ve gravitated more and more toward literary fiction because I just deeply appreciate good writing. There are a good many readers out there who tend to look down on genre fiction, like fantasy, because they believe it to be inferior in craftsmanship. I’ve read so many amazing fantasy novels that disprove that theory, and this is undoubtedly one of those. I can think of dozens upon dozens of literary fiction novels that can’t hold a candle to Nevernight in terms of prose. Kristoff has an ease with his craft that makes for an incredible seductive reading experience. That ease entices you to simply trust in his ability to tell you a great story in a beautiful way and, if you give in, that trust will certainly be rewarded.
“The brighter the light, the deeper the shadow.”
In terms of story, Nevernight offers up one of the most disturbing school settings I’ve ever come across. It’s seriously brutal. But what else should you expect from a school for assassins? It reminded me of a more hardcore version of the Convent of Sweet Mercy in Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series. But the brutality, mixed with the Italian flair of the setting, ensured that the story felt very unique. The variety present in the cast of characters populating the school did the same. I thoroughly enjoyed the cast, but Mia quickly won my heart. She reminded me a bit of Nona from the Book of the Ancestor series, but a hell of a lot classier. Actually, I think she reminded me most of V from V for Vendetta in terms of class and badassery, and he is one of my favorite literary characters. But Mia is very much her own character, and I found her fascinating. Mister Kindly is awesome, too. Everyone needs a fear-drinking shadow cat in their corner.
“Iron or glass? they’d ask.
She was neither.
She was steel.”
I loved everything about this book. There was a twist in the end that pissed me off, but I can respect Kristoff’s decision there, even if I wish he had made a different choice. Honestly, there’s nothing about this book I would change. I found it close to perfect. Nevernight will absolutely be one of my favorite books of the year, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes next.
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