There is something refreshing about Nevernight. In a time where fantasy is more mainstream than ever before, there is a tendency among many writers to play it safe. The story beats are familiar, the politics derivative, and the action gentrified, as if now that it’s popular, high fantasy needs to be more ‘dignified’ in some way. Thankfully, Jay Kristoff doesn’t take himself that seriously.
Nevernight is a tale of lost families, brutal overlords, magical assassins and three suns that rarely set at the same time, which is good when you factor in the shadow creatures.
At the centre is Mia Corvere, a teenage girl on a mission of vengeance for her killed father. She’s a bit of an emo kid who discovers her magical skills and tries to become an assassin – or a ‘Blade’ – all to get her payback on whoever killed her father.
She’s Arya Stark meets Inigo Montoya with occult sorcery, conspiracies and lots of Roman influence. And it works – mostly.
While her stint at the Red Church (think Hogwarts for teens with a penchant for bloody murder) does drag on quite a bit, and the excessively long footnotes stunt the narrative flow, they do serve an eventual purpose in the form of a deep-seated, somewhat unnerving empathy for who Mia grows into.
Mix that with Kristoff’s bold writing style, which joins lyrical high fantasy with f-bombs aplenty, Pratchett-like humour and unflinching descriptions of violence, and you’ve got something special.