Spoiler-Free Book Review: “Nevernight” by Jay Kristoff

I picked this up while looking for a steampunk book, a genre that I’m trying to get more into recently. I bought a steampunk novel, got a chapter in, and I hated it. Upon returning it, I picked up Nevernight.

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“Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Destined to destroy empires, the child raised in shadows made a promise on the day she lost everything: to avenge herself on those that shattered her world.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, and Mia must become a weapon without equal. Before she seeks vengeance, she must seek training among the infamous assassins of the Red Church of Itreya.

Inside the Church’s halls, Mia must prove herself against the deadliest of opponents and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Church is no ordinary school. But Mia is no ordinary student.

The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.

We see Mia Corvere’s life from ten years old to sixteen, seeing the contrast between her life as a noble and her working hard to join a deadly cult of assassins. There are flashbacks in the first few chapters, easily distinguishable as the past is written in italics. It was useful and more interesting than if it was written in chronological order, and set the scene for a very well-developed character.

The prose was great; rich and sophisticated without going too much into detail. Quite often, especially in the first half of the book, there were a lot of footnotes explaining in detail certain buildings, bridges, weapons, etc. I wasn’t sure if I liked this or not. Having it as a footnote meant it didn’t disturb the action too much and made the world deeper. However, I felt like I had to look at them to read the full thing, and some notes, such as a tavern mentioned in passing, weren’t so interesting to me and interrupted the action in some parts. It was a bold move, though, because as far as I’m aware this isn’t done very often in books, and for that I respect it.

I felt the book got much more interesting in the second half. There were many twists, suspicious and enthralling characters, and exciting action in every scene where that I was hooked! An invisible killer, merciless teachers, the sense of not being able to trust anyone, danger lurking around every corner… Kristoff did an excellent job of keeping me constantly on edge, not knowing who was going to die or get hurt next.

One thing I wasn’t keen on was the sex scenes. Mia is sixteen years old, referred to by various characters as “child” and “little girl,” yet love scenes involving her were way too detailed. I felt borderline uncomfortable imagining a sixteen-year-old doing those things. This is probably personal preference, though; I don’t have much patience for sex scenes at the best of times. And this book was the best of times, in terms of reading material.

I loved how things mentioned at the beginning became relevant again in the end. Things you’d forgotten about suddenly became important, without seeming too convenient to be plausible. I couldn’t wait to get on my usual train to and from work so I could get lost in Mia’s trials at the church, her complicated relationship with Tric, the hackle-raising twists that made me gasp and giggle aloud.

Speaking of giggling, there were some great quotes in this story. I’ll share a few with you.

“A traitor’s just a patriot on the wrong side of winning.”

“Yes, cats speak… if you own more than one and can’t see them at this particular moment, chances are they’re off in a corner somewhere lamenting the fact that their owner seems to spend all their time reading silly books rather than paying them the attention they so richly deserve.”

“Too many books. Too few centuries.”

“‘Apologies,’ Mia frowned, searching the floor as if looking for something. ‘I appear to have misplaced the f***s I give for what you think…’”

“It’s best to be polite when dealing with lunatics.”

Nevernight is easily one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a while. It has all the ingredients for an awesome tale: a dangerous and vivid world, a solid, likeable main character, and a ton of twists and turns that keep you constantly on your toes. If I had a dollar for the amount of times I gasped or even jiggled my knees in shock and enjoyment at this book on the train, I’d be able to buy a ticket to Australia to shake the writer, Jay Kristoff’s, hand.

4.5 stars for Nevernight!

4halfstars

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Spoiler-Free Book Review: “We Rule the Night” by Claire Eliza Bartlett

I was drawn to We Rule the Night for its gorgeous cover. I recently went through a spree of buying paper books and this hardback had been sitting on my shelf for a couple of weeks. This novel got me through some long train journeys.

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“Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she’s caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linné defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army.

They’re both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women’s military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness.

Revna and Linné can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can’t fly together, and if they can’t find a way to fly well, the enemy’s superior firepower will destroy them–if they don’t destroy each other first.”

Inspired by Soviet women who bombed the Nazis in World War II, We Rule the Night focuses on a group of women, namely, two characters called Revna and Linné. Revna is in the army to get her family back to regular-class citizens; her father was sent to prison for stealing factory scrap to make her prosthetic legs. Linné is the opposite – she’s desperate to fight for the Union, so much so that three years prior, she disguised herself as a boy to join the men’s regiment.

Linné is a tough girl, but she doesn’t have the Mary-Sue stereotypes that many ‘tough girl’ characters do. She comes off as brash and harsh but it’s because she can never think of the right things to say. Flying terrifies her. Revna, who just wants to protect her family, hates how everyone seems to think she’s fragile and needs help because of her disability. Her use of Weave magic enables her to fly, and she loves being in the plane.

I enjoyed this book very much. The prose was smooth, the action scenes explosive and exciting. Revna and Linné fought hard for the Union, their own goals the same but their motivations very different.

We didn’t see much of the Union apart from the army base and Tammen, Revna’s home city, and didn’t find out much about their enemy in the war, the Elda. Perhaps there are more books coming, or maybe it was left to the reader’s imagination. A reason for the war itself was never explained (or if it was, it wasn’t memorable) and I was left curious to know more about the Skarov, the intelligence officers everyone seemed to be afraid of.

That being said, too much of an info dump would have given the story unnecessary fluff. Though I was left wanting to know more, I was very satisfied with Revna and Linné’s story and how they fought to survive against impossible odds.

We Rule the Night is a dystopian fantasy, containing magic and technology, though the general vibe has you feeling like it’s set in the ’40s – rations, factories, and wooden planes for war. I loved this; it was an original world packed with living metal that responded to emotion, unique kinds of magic, and a country fighting for its freedom.

This exciting page-turner gets four stars!

4stars

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