Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
by Jay Kristoff.
Girl’s family is killed. Girl narrowly escapes with her life. Girl ends up on the streets. Girl wants revenge, and is taken in by an old assassin and trained as his new protege in preparation for going to assassin school. Naturally. Then she has to find the school/temple of assassins, be admitted, learn all the things, and compete with her fellow trainees for a limited number of spots in the ranks of assassin proper. What could go wrong when you have a bunch of hormonal teenage assassins-in-training cooped up and pitted against one another?
All glibness at the setup aside, this was an interesting read. For starters, the world this takes place in has 3 suns, the result of which is that they only get true night once every few years. (Hence the title Nevernight because it’s never night, see?). This is important because the girl, Mia, has certain magical powers that thrive on darkness. Whether you want to take that literally or metaphorically, it still applies. I have a feeling this will have a bigger role in subsequent books.
The pace of the action throughout is good. The plot keeps the reader engaged without being all that predictable. I mean, of course, there are some of the usual teenage girl things, and boarding school tropes, but there are a nice number of surprises throughout as well, especially as it builds towards the end of this first book. It’s YA level, but doesn’t gloss over all of the things that training to be an assassin entails. In short: there is a lot of blood and death and ugliness, some of it in ways that might turn your stomach. I enjoyed Mia as a protagonist. She is cunning and good at the trade, but hasn’t lost her gooey human center. Her sidekick is an interesting (and amusing) twist. The tinge of the mystical that hangs over the whole school adds a nuance to the world and the story for a welcome bit of depth.
As for supporting characters, it’s a mixed bag. Some are complex and fully realized, some are more one-note and unoriginal. Though to be fair a lot of the latter get killed off, so maybe I shouldn’t hold that against the author.
This first book in the series ends in a good place. Some major things have wrapped up or been achieved, but there are still threads hanging loose to be picked up in the next book. Which I fully plan on reading when it comes out in September.
If you like darker fantasy full of intrigue, and aren’t too squeamish, give this a try.