Nevernight by Jay Kristoff was as different from The Lotus Wars trilogy as possible with some key similarities; the characters and their fates, but more on that later. My reading of this book was regularly interrupted so this review will be shorter than usual.
The writing took some getting used to. It is still funny and sharp but it definitely takes time for the reader to acclimatise. In the beginning, I almost gave up reading it because the writing felt jarring but thankfully, after a point, I got used to it and then could focus on other important things like the plot and the characters.
Jay Kristoff painted a rich and vibrant world, one that is perpetually bathed in light, courtesy of the three suns that orbit this strange planet. The residents enjoy a short period of absolute darkness known as Treudark when all three of the suns set for a limited time. The various locations like the city of Godsgrave, the Ashkahi wastelands and the Red Church were so incredibly detailed that they felt real.
It was the same with the characters. Jay Kristoff has a gift for creating amazing and complex characters. Even his protagonists are problematic and far from perfect. The antagonists leave you feeling torn between liking and hating them. Of course, that’s not true for the main bad guy. Those guys are just plain evil but unfortunately, also very resilient and hard to kill.
But if you’ve read The Lotus War trilogy then you’re familiar with Kristoff’s love for causing immense pain to his readers by making sure that they fall in love with the characters and then pulling the rug from under their feet. So, to cut a long story short, I knew that Kristoff was going to tear my heart out and I still fell for it. Before I knew it, I was incredibly invested in these characters and their stories. Everyone from the students to the teachers were so nuanced. And Kristoff was not shy about killing off characters. No character is safe in his world.
Among the students, I loved Tric, Ashlinn and Carlotta and among the teachers there was Aalea, Spiderkiller, Naev and strangely enough, Cassius. But my favourite (excluding Mia) would have to be Ashlinn. She was funny, irreverent and completely bonkers and I loved her. Also, she was pretty explicitly gay so more points to Kristoff for that. Her scenes with Mia were among the most entertaining and I loved their friendship. Even though they were competitors, they were always supportive of each other.
Then there’s Mia, our protagonist. She has a lot of rage and darkness in her. Some of that has to do with the very nature of her powers, I guess, but the rest has everything to do with what happened to her family. She nurses that pain till it’s sharp enough to kill. She’s not your usual tortured soul, she has no compunction about doing what needs to be done to obtain her objective and she is dogged in her pursuit. She’s not exactly likeable but that works for her because she’s not meant to be, she’s not rainbows and sunshine, the exact opposite actually. But that’s not to say that she has no standards, she has few rules but she sticks to those no matter what and I admire her for that. I am looking forward to Mia discovering more about herself and making the full use of her powers.
Also, I have a feeling that Mia is bisexual. Of course, it isn’t spelled out but if you read carefully, there are definitely signs. Also, this is only the first book, Mia is still learning about herself and her powers, why not also learn more about her sexuality? I’d be happy if she is canonically bisexual and has a female love interest in the next book (and hopefully make it to the end of the series in one piece)
Now, for some reason, there are places where Nevernight is marked YA Fiction/Fantasy and it isn’t. The violence is very graphic and bloody and the sex scenes, those were pretty explicit as well, so definitely not for young readers. But the tone of the writing definitely fits with the contents of the book.
Nevernight is dark in both its plot as well as its main characters. But it is not without its moments of levity and dark humour. Its conclusion is also oddly satisfying despite all the bloodshed. This review isn’t exactly short but it isn’t nearly as coherent as I wanted it to be. At some point in the future, probably before I start reading book 2, I will reread it and hopefully, this time without all the interruptions.
P.S. – If possible, read a paperback or the hardbound copy of the book, trust me, it reads way better than the ebook version.