“Nevernight” seems to be a long study into “this is why we can’t have nice things.” First, there’s Mia, who loses her entire family due to her father’s failed rebellion at the age of 10. She vows revenge, and the only way to get that is to go to a school for assassins (obviously). So, at the ripe old age of 16, she gains admission to a school full of would-be killers, all children with the most horrific and tragic backstories imaginable, because that makes this book edgy and dark and definitely not for young adults despite the main characters ages—and yes, I knew this was no YA fantasy from the get go. I like dark fantasy, I’m usually ok with grimdark stuff, too, but there needs to be a reason other than shock for certain things to be the way they are, and honestly, I think the author just delights in his “edge lord” status a bit too obviously in this first book. Did I like this book? Yes, I did, quite a bit in fact. But mainly toward the end though.
I’ll be honest, until Mia actually arrives at the church where she’ll learn to be the perfect murderer, I didn’t much care for the story. The narrative felt experimental with styles that the author was trying out, that don’t continue throughout the book. They were interesting-ish, but it made for a slow read. And I didn’t like the footnotes. I read them all pretty religiously early on for fear of missing some vital piece of information but, ultimately, they only brought me out of the story and didn’t actually matter to the world and story as a whole. Some were really funny! But some (re: a lot) were almost a page long and it made me wonder who and why they let Kristoff do that… Eventually, I gave up on the footnotes and enjoyed the book more, so just know that going in, in case you have the same issues I do/did. But it also took me awhile to feel like I even cared about Mia. If it wasn’t for Mister Kindly, I don’t know if I’d have liked her half as much. I thought Tric was a far more interesting character, but you really only get Mia’s POV so you don’t get as much of Tric as I’d have liked, smut aside. Oh right, there are some detailed sex scenes in this book alongside some really graphic gore, so, again, be forewarned. Which, also makes it weird to read such graphic sex scenes between 16-year-olds, but here we are…
That being said, I flew through the last 30% of this book. The ending was so good and intense! I’m still not entirely convinced that certain events are true, but I won’t elaborate in order to avoid spoilers. But the action finally felt on par with all the bloody things Mia had to learn and Mia’s darkin powers, her command over the shadows, really shines. There are twists and turns, secrets revealed, and more discovered, that I was enthralled. It’s this last half of the book that has me so conflicted about how I felt over the story in general. The book hits its stride, Mia (who never felt like a 16-year-old, let’s be honest) began to step into her own as an actual, fleshed out person beyond just the “I must avenge my family” driving factor. She becomes a fully realized person, as do several other characters in the book, and I loved that. The dark tone of Kristoff’s writing shines, and everything just kind of falls into place. But I really did not like the first 40% of the book…
I know I’m in the minority on this and that’s totally fine. But when your entire plot is basically “horrible things happen to children, these children want to get revenge on those who did horrible things to them, they go to a school for killers to learn how to be badasses, where the adults there continue to do more horrible things to them” there is no reason for the book to drag as much as it did. The early writing styles felt repetitive and forced rather than a natural narrative, which is kind of evidenced by the fact that the first chapter doesn’t read like anything else you’ll encounter in the book. I’m just so bitter that I didn’t like the first half of this book when I enjoyed the ending so much. It makes my feelings complicated in a way that I don’t enjoy, which is why I am giving this book 3.5 stars and sticking with my unpopular opinion. Am I going to continue on with the series? Yes, I’ll definitely read at least the next book and see if I continue on from there…
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