Wednesday, 31 August 2016

'Nevernight', by Jay Kristoff

Title: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
Author(s): Jay Kristoff
Release Date: 11th August 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: YA, Epic Fantasy
Source: Publisher (ARC)

Synopsis:
Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.

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

The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.

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I am now finally able to see properly after all the tears this book pulled out of me, so let's review this masterpiece!

'Nevernight' tells the story of Mia Covere, a sixteen year old girl who has sought revenge for the death of her father and imprisonment of her mother and young brother since the tender age of ten. After being saved from a life of homelessness and trained to become a powerful weapon, Mia is sent away to the only place that will allow her to get close enough to her targets: the Red Church.

As the blurb says, the Red Church is no Hogwarts, and Mia will have to overcome a lot of obstacles... Most of which she will not see coming.

For a book coming from the brilliant mind of Jay Kristoff, I was expecting a good mix of humor and fantastic storytelling, so I was therefore not surprised in the slightest when I got exactly that. Starting with what is probably the best first line I have ever read ('People often shit themselves when they die, did you know that?'), and a mindbogglingly poignant first chapter -which offer us a chilling parallel between two huge firsts in Mia's life-, I immediately settled in for what promised to be my favorite epic fantasy of 2016.

Even though this is Mia's story, it is not told by her. We are presented with an unnamed narrator (I have my suspicions about who it is but, being Kristoff, I'm probably wrong) who wants to relate Mia's story a posteriori, and so we begin the book already knowing how her story ends. This happens often in this genre, and it does not diminish the interest in the reading at all: we all know we will eventually die. Does that take away all curiosity in seeing what life will throw at us?

The narration of the story was unusual, to say the least. You can tell from the tone that the narrator cares quite a lot about Mia, but is at the same time detached from certain things that a 'normal' human being would probably include in such a 'biography' (which is what is fueling my theory about who is narrating, along with some mannerisms, but that's going on a tangent now). The narrator has a great sense of humor, and a lot of it comes through the footnotes that are scattered along the book. I am not used to seeing footnotes in fiction, and reading them here more often than not broke into the moment of the story (and I would also forget where I was in the page when I wanted to get back to it) but they offer quite a lot of information and backstory that frame the world building without it being so 'out of place', so I made an effort to not skip them.

Speaking of world building, there are a few historical influences that surprised me in 'Nevernight'. Epic fantasy resorts often to Roman mythology, and that is present here as well, mostly through names and method of government. However, I found myself making connections often to Egyptian mythos: the dichotomy between the worship of the dark and the light, the religion, the different gods... As a fan of everything Egypt I absolutely loved this parallel (even if it was just all in my head and not intentional).

As for the characters... I want to be Mia, please and thank you. She is joining the amazing group of female protagonists who are strong, independent, fierce... And completely badass. She walks a good line of not being utterly 'feminine' but not a complete tomboy either (which a lot of female protagonists seem to fall on). She is just Mia. She has her insecurities, her doubts, but she never takes her eyes out of her goal, regardless of what she has to go through or inflict upon others. Throughout the book you get to see flashbacks to when Mia was only ten years old, and witnessing how much she grew up and changed in those six years was almost up to the level of pride as seeing a baby take its first steps: I might have fist bumped the air quite a few times throughout my reading.

Mia's counterpart, Tric, slowly grew on me. It wasn't until they were both in the Red Church that I absolutely fell in love with him, and how much he goes against the stereotype of male protagonists. Tric has his face covered in tattoos, and is repeatedly described as not being that attractive, which I don't think I have ever seen when it comes to a male romantic interest. Ever. Tric's relationship with Mia is also one that defies the norm: for quite a long time they are nothing more that friends, comrades, classmates. There is nothing of the 'sexual tension' or the 'they secretly want to sleep together' vibe that permeates most YA novels, and it was such a blessing. This is also a very sex positive book, where women are free to pursue physical relationships with no strings attached without being shamed for it. There is a female character (implied bisexual, btw) who repeatedly goes on and on about her encounters and no one ever treats her negatively because of it, and that's not all that she is about.

Again, all the air fist bumps.

At last, I feel like I would like to actually fist bump Jay for his amazing rendition of a 'bookworm'. A lot of readers are completely against this term, and I would like to say to them: after you read 'Nevernight', you will never think of a bookworm as something defenseless and lame ever again!

'Nevernight' is an action packed page turner from which you will find it impossible to step away. You will find yourself deeply invested in this original world, its relatable characters, and Mia's quest to tear down the people that took her family away from her.

But, be careful.

The night is dark and full of plot twists.

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