Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Those who are dead are not dead
They're just living in my head."
This week, a creative writing classmate of mine presented a story told in the point of view of an awkward young man at the laundromat who picks up a girl, goes home with her, and appears to sleep with her...except he's stabbing her dead, violently, and then he moves on to her sisters as well. Our general consensus - even the professor agreed with it - was that the story was senselessly violent against women, and with no purpose too. (And this was from a guy who takes pride in writing women, the better to understand them, or so he would have us believe.)
This short story came to mind when I read the first few pages of Nevernight only because Kristoff writes his own interplay of sex and violence the opposite way to how my classmate did it - having the woman be the killer, and having it be her job, because she makes her living as an assassin. I wonder how that first chapter, were it presented in this class, would have been received. (For sure, Kristoff writes women better, and he's got the track record to prove it.)
It's definitely an eye-popping introduction to this dark, gripping fantasy, that's for sure. After that first chapter, though, the book slows down a lot, to the point where for about 100 pages or so, I worried that it would be a damaged-by-hype write-off for me. Luckily, Kristoff keeps the reader interested with a storytelling device you wouldn't expect to see in a fantasy book (and certainly not one inevitably comparable to the works of George R.R. Martin or Sarah J. Maas) - hilarious Jasper Fforde-esque footnotes. Even though the footnotes do sometimes distract from the main story (because they're so funny, and often so huge they spill onto the next page), they're the main reason I kept going until the story picked up the pace and made up for the slow-moving first quarter or so. They help so much with the world-building too, adding extra detail to the history of Itreya. It's a well-built world, too, combining sci-fi elements (the triple suns) and sprinklings of recognizably Spanish and Italian influences (a bit of the Inquisition here, a Carnival-celebrating canal city there, and a Renaissance-esque artist famous for his portraiture skills and for being executed for treason for sleeping with a prince.)
My quest to find a Jay Kristoff work that lives up to the extremely high standards of Illuminae continues, but Nevernight is my second-favorite of his books now - though that'll probably change whenever I finally read Gemina.
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