Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle (Book #2 of 3)
Pages: 448 pages (US hardback edition)
Published: 7th September 2017 by Harper Voyager (UK) & 5th September 2017 by St. Martin’s Press (US)
Rejoice, O gentlefriends! Devious, gripping and fast paced, Godsgrave is a worthy sequel that delivers the expected and the unexpected in equal amounts.
Godsgrave reunites us with that daughter of shadows, Mia, as she continues her quest for vengeance. Taking place shortly after the events of Nevernight, the story has two alternating timelines, four months apart. The present timeline is where we first meet up with Mia again, wondering what in the blazes is going on as she finds herself being sold as a slave to a Collegium of gladiatii or gladiators. While mysterious, it of course holds the promise of seeing our girl as a gladiator, fighting in an arena. No complaints here. As for the past timeline, it will need to stay a mystery for now, as it contains spoilers for the first book. I will say however that it is the continuation of Nevernight’s denouement until some possibly devastating information crosses Mia’s path. Consequently, she is left to question much of what she knows and to formulate a new plan of attack, sending the plot in an entirely different direction. We get to follow both these timelines until their convergence, as the reasons for Mia’s current path is laid bare.
Patience, she’d tell herself, whispering the word like a prayer.
If Vengeance has a mother, her name is Patience.
While we get to see many of the characters from book one, Mia’s entry into the collegium and the world of gladiatii goes hand in hand with new locations and new characters. I did miss hanging out with most of the Nevernight crew, but I should have known that Kristoff would not drop the ball in Godsgrave, and the characters in it were once again well realized. I grew quite fond of a few of them and in hindsight, I should have guarded against that. The author’s pen uses blood for ink and is never afraid to yield it most savagely… Mia of course is fantastic and has grown leaps and bounds since we first met her. She is everything you could want in a protagonist; strong, snarky, courageous and brilliant. She rolls with the punches and always rises to the challenge. And while she does not always succeed, she gets up every time. But before you start thinking I’m all praise, I found her decision making wanting at times.
“If you can’t see your chains, what use is a key?”
So, here we go. A couple (pun, gentlefriends) of my dislikes of the books. Mia gets in a relationship with someone that I am not a fan of. That was the very mild version of my feelings. To be more truthful, I, unequivocally, hated it. In fact, hated sounds too tame. Although being the same thing, loathed and abhorred make better descriptors, for this other person has gone beyond forgiveness in my esteem, and should never, ever have been given even a whiff of Mia’s time of day again. Harsh on my part, but I side with the much-beloved Mr Darcy here: “My good opinion once lost is lost forever.”* In fact, the only way the odium I have attached to this character could be removed is through their violent death. I guess my feelings are clear on this point? 🙂 (*Darcy was wrong, so who knows, I may change my mind one day. After a few rereads though, that day is not here yet.)
Secondly…see the first reason. AAARGGHHH! I just know I am in the minority with this though, but at least two of my co-bloggers kind of feel the same. It’s the one thing that keeps me from giving this book five stars.
As for the prose, Jay Kristoff’s writing style just works for me and I think Godsgrave is even better written than Nevernight. Much of what we saw in book one is once more and used to great effect again. Brilliant uses of word placement on a page to denote specific actions. Cleverly juxtaposed paragraphs denoting vastly different acts but with similar wording. And footnotes. The author once again employs footnotes throughout the story, and if you read Nevernight you will already know whether you love them or hate them. Personally, I’m a fan, and there were some delightful ones in Godsgrave. On this reread however I found myself skimming the longest ones as they do tend to take you out of the story at times. For the most part an excellent addition though.
“The choice between looking plain and pretty isn’t really a choice at all. But any fool knows looking dangerous is preferable to both.”
On my first read, I felt that this book, whilst compelling and fast-paced throughout, never quite reached the level that Nevernight set the bar at. It hovered just below that level throughout most of the story, only reaching it and momentarily surpassing it with a pull out all the stops finale. (And WHAT. A. FINALE.) I have changed my mind with this reread though. This book is every bit as good. The tale is action-packed and enthralling, the author’s worldbuilding continuing to provide more and more insight into the fascinating place Mia calls home. Pacing is upped and relentless, with those action scenes mentioned being staggered perfectly through the book. And the twistiness, o daughters, the twistiness. Mr Kristoff has shown his true, sly colours. He giveth and he taketh, he is ever so tricky.
At the end of the day, Godsgrave is a superb sequel to Nevernight, holding its own and then some. I would have gladly given it five stars, had I not taken issue with that relationship, but other than that it gets two thumbs up from me.
PS: My hat off to Mr Kristoff on imagining the Retchwyrm – the most disgusting creature I have ever read about. Take a bow, sir. *shudders
PSS: Just taking a minute to acknowledge that both Jason Chan and Kerby Rosanes did magnificent work respectively on the US and UK covers for this series.