Sometimes you stumble across a book, and, for whatever reason, your expectations are low. Could be the harlequin mask on the cover, could be a previous series by the same author you were wholly uninterested in, could be a billion different things that individually are insignificant, but cumulatively . . . You turn up you nose.
O, gentlefriends . . . Do not do unto yourselves the same disservice I almost did unto mine.
NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff is . . . exquisite.
I almost didn't read it. Indeed, the release date sneaked up on me, tapped me on the shoulder, and waved hello on Monday afternoon, and I joked to friend that I should at least update my status on Goodreads and pretend to be reading it . . . Six hours later, it was ten pm, and I was 40% in.
The first chapter was baffling. Told from two seemingly different perspectives, it chronicles two very different firsts, but uses almost the exact same words. I was internally shouting, "WTF is this?!" but I was curious enough see where it led, and the further I got, the closer the two scenarios spun toward completion, and then it was over, and I understood . . .
In Jabberwocky , Lewis Carroll turned the English language on its head. He used nonsense words that were dicipherable because of his expert manipulation of sentence structure and other, real words, that made the meanings of his imaginary words obvious.
For the first time since I really understood and appreciated what Carroll had done, I felt the same kind of glee as I read about a girl losing her virginity and a girl taking her first life. One experience held the potential for the creation of new life, the other bringing an irrevocable end to life, and yet . . . He used . . . The same words.
Riddikulus writing skills aside, the story was also fantastic.
What's my #1 complaint about assassins in YA fiction?
You: You may have mentioned something about reluctant assassins a time or three.
Me: Damn right.
You: Not a problem here?
Me: *laughs maniacally*
"People often shit themselves when they die.
Their muscles slack and their souls flutter free and everything else just…slips out. For all their audience’s love of death, the playwrights seldom mention it. When the hero breathes his last in the heroine’s arms, they call no attention to the stain leaking across his tights, or how the stink makes her eyes water as she leans in for her farewell kiss.
I mention this by way of warning, O, my gentlefriends, that your narrator shares no such restraint."
Duly noted, Mr. Narrator, sir.
And lest you be scared off by visions of graphic and violent death . . . I won't lie, that is part of this story. But only part:
"She’s dead herself, now—words both the wicked and the just would give an eyeteeth smile to hear. A republic in ashes behind her. A city of bridges and bones laid at the bottom of the sea by her hand. And yet I’m sure she’d still find a way to kill me if she knew I put these words to paper. Open me up and leave me for the hungry Dark. But I think someone should at least try to separate her from the lies told about her. Through her. By her.
Someone who knew her true.
A girl some called Pale Daughter. Or Kingmaker. Or Crow. But most often, nothing at all. A killer of killers, whose tally of endings only the goddess and I truly know. And was she famous or infamous for it at the end? All this death? I confess I could never see the difference. But then, I’ve never seen things the way you have.
Never truly lived in the world you call your own.
Nor did she, really.
I think that’s why I loved her."
Mia Covere's tale reminded me a bit of Arya Stark's: a girl whose family is destroyed by politics and hands grasping at power, stumbles into a follower of a most murderous god(dess), and becomes his apprentice. But Mia is more than just a girl . . . She's a girl with a shadow dark enough for two.
You: WTF does that mean?
Me: READ THE BOOK.
And how many Guardians of the Galaxy fans do we have? B/c the coolest part of that movie was the black market space station that was the HEAD OF A CELESTIAL BEING, am I right?
Well, Mia grew up in Godsgrave, which just might be where the rest of the body fell . . . Okay, it's probably a different being entirely, but the concept is the same, it's friggin' awesome:
To the north, the Ribs rose hundreds of feet into the ruddy heavens, tiny windows staring out from apartments carved within the ancient bone. Canals ran out from the hollow Spine . . .
My only words of caution are that, if you haven't already cottoned on, there is SEX in this YA novel, which isn't as uncommon as it used to be, but isn't yet unremarkable. And I'm not talking fade-to-black, acknowledgment of sexual congress, I'm talking burn-your-ears, think-interesting thoughts-about-the-hands-that-penned-them sex scenes.
Kristoff calls Mia an assassin who is to death what a maestro is to a symphony. I felt the same way about Kristoff's manipulation of words and language. Whether Mia slipped into a room like a knife between the ribs or we met a man whose face was more scar than face, this reader felt like she was being spun and tossed by a master. Solus might by the Guardian of Songs, but Jay Kristoff made me dance to the music of his story in ways I've rarely been moved. O so ridiculously highly recommended.