Book Review: Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle, #3) by Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle, #3) by Jay Kristoff

Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am completely blown away by this trilogy. Finding a series that I love all the way through is rare for me. And I just found one to add to that very exclusive list. There’s a bloody beauty to Mia’s story. A vulgar elegance, if you will. The world Kristoff created here managed to be both stark and lush in equal measures, and something about that dichotomy resonated strongly with me. As did Mia. Her heartache, her rage and fear and determination, all felt honest. I found her and her journey utterly captivating.

“I am a daughter of the dark between the stars. I am the thought that wakes the bastards of this world sweating in the nevernight. i am the vengeance of every orphaned daughter, every murdered mother, every bastard son. I am the war you cannot win.”

First of all, let’s talk plot. In Nevernight, Kristoff gives us his spin on a school setting, one of my favorite tropes both in and outside of the fantasy genres. This school for young assassins is one of the harshest, deadliest I’ve ever come across in fiction. In Godsgrave, Kristoff gives us another favored fantasy trope: gladiatorial games. And he did so with wicked aplomb. The balance of bloodletting and emotion was perfect. Finally, in Darkdawn, Kristoff gives us his take on pirates, hero’s journeys, and epic battles on a magical, godlike scale. All of these tropes are among my favorites, and I absolutely love when an author can take one of these and put a fresh, unique spin on it. Kristoff did so again and again, and I was honestly a bit awed by how deftly he was able to seamlessly weave these tropes together into a tight, compelling narrative.

“To live in the hearts we leave behind is to never die.”

While I truly loved Mia and enjoyed the supporting cast immensely, they weren’t the biggest draw for me. Nor was the plot or the setting, though I was thoroughly invested in both. No, what actually drew me in and kept me coming back for me was the prose. Kristoff is a phenomenal author. Some writers want their prose to disappear as the reader sinks into the story, allowing their work to become a film of sorts in the readers’ minds. Others see the prose itself as the most important element of their work. Kristoff falls between these two mindsets, and actually made his prose into a character in its own right. I mean this both literally and figuratively; things get pretty meta in this final installment. The writing is brimming with humor and emotion and is often achingly beautiful and shockingly vulgar in the space of a single paragraph. I was delighted by every single sentence.

“You never know what can break you until you’re falling apart. You never miss your shadow until you’re lost in the dark.”

If there’s one thing I could change about this series, it would be the inclusion of a love triangle. It’s my least favorite trope in literature. I can honestly say I wasn’t invested in either outcome. But for some reason, I was able to basically just skim over the romance throughout the entire trilogy without being genuinely annoyed by it. While I would’ve been happier without it, the presence of the triangle wasn’t enough for me to downgrade my rating for any of the three books.

“You can’t know how sweet it is to breathe ’til you’ve had your ribs broken. You can’t appreciate being happy ’til someone has made you cry. And there’s no point blaming yourself for the kickings life gives you. Just think about how much it hurt, and how much you don’t want to feel that way again. And that’ll help you do what you need to do the next time to win.”

Kristoff has no problem killing off his darlings, but I was totally okay with that. Even though the deaths of characters I had come to love hurt my heart, I appreciated the fact that Kristoff didn’t pull his punches. This is a story with incredibly high stakes, and it wouldn’t have been as strong a tale without heartbreaking sacrifices along the way. There were a couple of instances where I thought Kristoff took the easy road but, as it served the plot, I could let those slide. Again, my frustration here wasn’t enough for me to drop the rating.

“Fear was Can’t.
Fear was Won’t.
But fear wasn’t ever a choice.
To never fear was to never hope. Never love. never live. To never fear the dark was to never smile as the dawn kissed your face. To never fear solitude was to never know the joy of a beauty in your arms.
Part of having is the fear of losing.
Part of creating is the fear of it breaking.
Part of beginning is the fear of your ending.
Fear is never a choice.
Never a choice.
But letting it rule you is.”

The Nevernight Chronicle is everything I hoped it would be, and more. I don’t know that I could possibly be any more excited for Kristoff’s upcoming release, Empire of the Vampire. I think I just found a new author to add to my “immediately preorder everything they ever write” list.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle, #3) by Jay Kristoff

  1. I definitely sobbed through like the last 70 pages or so of this one. My heart! I absolutely did not need the love triangle, even if it did actually serve a point in the end. But I’m SO glad my friend made me read this series, so great!

    1. I’m so glad my friends made me read it, too! Yes, I so could’ve lived without the love triangle, but the story was amazing enough to make up for it. Those last few chapters were BRUTAL.

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