Where do I even begin with Godsgrave? To say that Jay Kristoff revels in the misery of his readers would be an understatement (and I mean that in the best sense possible). If Nevernight took me time to get used to the writing style and the world, I jumped right into Godsgrave and didn’t come up for air till I finished it. I tried pacing myself but it was virtually impossible.
I literally just finished the book and I’m reeling from it. The world is as rich as ever and the cast of characters keeps growing and most are people that you can’t help but root for and it’s a pity because, it’s a given that most will not survive the end. The pace in Godsgrave felt faster than the previous book’s and the scope of the book is also broader. While in Nevernight, the world was largely limited to the Ashkahi wastelands and the Red Church, Godsgrave goes beyond to the world outside, the rich cities of the Itreyan empire.
The world of The Nevernight Chronicles is heavily influenced by the Roman empire, towards the beginning of its downfall. There are riches to be found, both in terms of wealth as well as the beauty of the grand structures that are highlighted in the book. But there is also a deep rot in the system. A corruption that has gone long unnoticed and even thrived under the rulers. When Kristoff describes a beautiful structure, he undercuts its beauty by revealing who actually built it, the countless slaves with no alternative but to do as they’re told. It is one of the aspects I really enjoyed while reading Godsgrave.
In the previous book, Mia had to compete with other people her age to be accepted as an assassin for the Red Church. Godsgrave picks up a little after the events of Nevernight. Mia is an assassin and is being sent out to kill people and she’s really good at it. But as it happens, her life is headed in another direction. Just when she thinks that she has what she wants and can soon set her sights on those who wronged her and her family, she receives a setback. She learns that the Red Church isn’t what she thought it was leaving her disillusioned and with no idea of what to do or who to trust. Her quest to handle things her own way with two surprising allies leads her to the gladiator matches. During much of Godsgrave, Mia spends her time training with the other gladiators and planning how to take down Duomo and Scaeva.
Like The Lotus Wars Trilogy, The Nevernight Chronicles also has a large number of characters and the list just keeps on growing. The gladiators were a fun bunch and I liked most of them so I knew immediately that things would not end well (I have learnt my lesson from the previous Kristoff books) Of the lot, I really liked Maggot, Bryn, Byern, Sidonius and Bladesinger. They were such an eclectic bunch and so much fun to read about. And yet, even the other gladiators weren’t just mindless fighters. They had hopes and dreams of winning their freedom. Even here, the rot of the empire was plainly evident. Many of the gladiators had been bought because their families had been unable to pay their debtors and the rest had been kidnapped by slavers, while a small percentage had been criminals who were good fighters. The person I liked least in Godsgrave was Furian, the undefeated gladiator from the same collegium. An idiot with a head full of superstition and false notions of honour. He was by far the most annoying character in the book, way more than the actual bad guys, Scaeva and Duomo. I even liked Leona, trying so hard to make her father pay for what he did to her and her mother, wanting to succeed in a field where women didn’t have a place and the odds were rigged against them.
One of the best moments of the book was when Ashlinn came back. She had been my favourite character in the previous book and it was the same in Godsgrave. I love her relationship with Mia and the fact that they came close enough to be their true selves with each other. Ashlinn was brave and single-minded in her quest to help Mia achieve her objective. And Ashlinn didn’t try to hide her feelings for Mia and never lied about them, always facing them head-on knowing that Mia might never forgive her for what happened to Tric. Her personality was sunny as always and it was fun to see her brand of lightness in an otherwise bleak and dark world. She always spoke her mind and didn’t let anyone brow-beat her. I love Ashlinn.
Mia, what can I say about her? She’s a strange mix of bloodthirsty and a fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves. We see these two sides of her warring with each other more and more as the series progresses. She wants to kill those who took her family from her but she also wants to help protect the weak and defenseless and the people who are important to her. I loved that she finally trusted Ash enough to open up to her.
I loved the way their relationship grew in Godsgrave. It was clear to anyone who had eyes that Ash liked Mia as more than a friend, even tried to protect her, seemingly at the cost of her own revenge against the Red Church. But at the time Mia was with Tric and didn’t pay much attention to Ash’s deeper feelings. But here, they wouldn’t be dismissed. And it was pleasant to see that it was a slow awakening for Mia, discovering her own sexuality. It was done well and Kristoff didn’t cut any corners here. Their relationship was one of the high-points of the book. A note for book 3: there is a trope in media called bury your gays because more often than not, the gay/lesbian character dies and only serves to drive the protagonist back into the arms of the heterosexual love interest and I hope that doesn’t happen to Mia and Ash. They’ve both had such crappy lives that I want them to be happy in the end, happy together.
Now, for some theories. In the end, Ash sees Tric but I don’t think it’s Tric. It’s just a Shadow that’s taken his appearance. We know from that chapter about Mister Kindly and Eclipse, that the shapes they carry now are not what they had always carried and also that Mister Kindly had considered taking Mia’s father’s shape but decided against it because the shape of the kitten had been simpler to assume. I think this is the same Shadow that helped Mia when she was trying to escape after killing Gaius Aurelius. I think it’s the same thing but at the time it didn’t have a shape that would be familiar to Mia. Also, I think it heard Mia when she killed Furian and their shadows merged together, making her stronger. If this ShadowTric wants Mia to indeed “seek the crown of the moon” then killing Ash doesn’t help forward that plan. If however it saves Ash from the Red Church, well then, that’s a different story.
Godsgrave was every bit as thrilling as Nevernight and worse, it ends on a cliffhanger and I have no idea how to survive knowing that the third book is not even close to being finished? The wait will be agonising!
P.S. – the artwork in the B&N copies were beautiful and I was fortunate to get a copy with Jay Kristoff’s autograph on it! 😁