Review: Nevernight

NevernightNevernight by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student.

The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.

This is my first Kristoff book ever so I would like to start this review with the writing style. Nevernight begins on a sex scene/murder scene in tandem – something that would render wonderfully on screen, which is pretty much how you could describe the whole book. It is lush with details, and the language is dripping with words and music. The pages are also filled with random footnotes – some providing backstories, some providing amusing anecdotes, some just for the sake of humor, and despite you having to pause the plot for a moment to read them, not once did I feel that they broke the flow of the story, by which I mean to say they were placed very strategically and not randomly as I previously said. The story is about Mia, who is an Acolyte of a church of Assassins, learning the craft so that she can one day have her revenge on the people who destroyed her family. At the start itself, we are made to know she is a killer, but she is not a psychopath, nor does she take pleasure in it. She doesn’t even truly believe the church, not until she learns the fact of her abilities.

The plot flows from her journey to the Church, her training there and her ascension to an Initiate – all of which is a long arduous trial. Meeting Tric on the way, the two of them become fast friends and join the Church, both with vengeance driving their kind hearts. She is the more cruel one of the two, but still in a place full of assassins, and in the face of her violent past, there is only perhaps a few moments where she is stone-cold. As a character, she is snarky (I loved the whole bit with that horse!), smart, cunning and I think she just toppled Celaena from the top of my list of favorite assassins. She is also quite open about her sexuality, despite a little chiding from her shadow-friend/cat, Mister Kindly; the latter constantly nags her to stay away from Tric. So, I guess this is the part where I should warn that while the book is technically YA (thematically, as well as age of protagonist), there are at least three explicit (tastefully hot) sexual scenes. But, you know, in a book that had a body count (committed by teenagers, mostly, mind you) and countless murders and two major massacres, sex seems pretty tame, ya know?

Onto world-building, I liked the whole dark-versus-light tropes, but in reverse. The dark and the light both have their ‘evilness’, and you are naturally with the Dark protagonist. But remember those footnotes? They also provide a glimpse into the world-building, and with her being Darkin, I am excited for how that will play out in future books (it promises to be a trilogy) and how she will exact her vengeance. For one path is clear – she does destroy the Republic (not a spoiler – it is literally the first page), and with the reveals and betrayals towards the climax, this series is looking very promising.

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Review: Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover

Don't Judge a Girl by Her CoverDon’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Cammie Morgan visits her roommate Macey in Boston, she thinks she’s in for an exciting end to her summer. After all, she’s there to watch Macey’s father accept the nomination for vice president of the United States. But when you go to the world’s best school (for spies), “exciting” and “deadly” are never far apart. The girls suddenly find themselves trapped in a kidnapper’s plot, with only their espionage skills to save them. Soon Cammie is joining Bex and Liz as Macey’s private security team on the campaign trail, where they struggle to answer the questions Who is after Macey? And how can the Gallagher Girls keep her safe? The girls must use their spy training at every turn as the stakes are raised, and Cammie gets closer and closer to the shocking truth. . . .

Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover is definitely the book in the series where it turns darker. While the first was of Cam’s struggles to be a normal girl, then trying to be a spy and a girl at the same time, now in the third installment comes the time when she is firmly dedicated to her path in Covert Operations while also facing real-world dangers out of school. Macey’s family is very much in the public eye now, and after a failed kidnapping attempt, they are all on high alert. This book also marks the entry of the big bad of the series, and sets up a lot of stuff for future books (I can say this because this a reread review). The central theme of the series has always been the various faces the spy in her has to wear, and here it is shown through almost everyone of the foursome, but Cam and Macey in particular.

Wiser now for the danger they are in, the four Gallagher Girls seek to investigate the who and the why of the kidnapping attempt. They live in a world of secrets within secrets, and a need-to-know basis system, so finding such a secret is not an easy job. With Macey having a constant shadow in the form of Cam’s aunt, and the Secret Service not far behind, it is difficult for the girls to sneak around. The book also shows the extent of loyalty that all the Gallagher Girls have for each other, and their intense love for their sisters. Zach pops up now and again, setting Cam’s heart aflutter and my suspicion sirens blaring, but I am delighted to unfold that mystery all over again when I read the future books. This one was definitely a great sequel and a turning point for the series.

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Review: Crooked Kingdom

Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, they’re low on resources, allies and hope. While a war rages on the city’s streets, the team’s fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point. Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they’re on the winning side… no matter what the cost.

If Six of Crows was the awesome heist novel, Crooked Kingdom is the scheme-upon-brilliant scheme addition to it. The Dregs lost round one, but they are coming back with vengeance, to teach Van Eck a lesson in underestimating Barrel rats. Kaz invents plots and missions to lure this powerful person in Ketterdam to his doom. There are points in the story when it feels like all has been lost, how will they get it done, etc, which constantly keeps you on your toes. And even during the lulls, we get to know the characters better. We get Wylan’s backstory, and plenty of interesting developments, some cameo appearances that will make you squeal in joy if you’ve read the Grisha trilogy – basically it was one hell of a finale book.

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Review: Six of Crows

Six of CrowsSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Six of Crows builds on the world of The Grisha Trilogy, but in an entirely different setting. First of all, the Little Science is not really the focus of the book, though it is a big part of the background. Secondly, it is more about this squad of underdogs that carry out an amazing heist. Kaz and his Dregs have taken up the job of liberating important world-threatening cargo from the Ice Court. Now, at the start, they are mostly disorganized in motive – they want the money, sure, but their reasons for joining are different. Kaz wants the money for his revenge, Inej too, Nina wants to help Matthias get out the predicament she put him in, Jesper needs it to pay off his debt. Wylan, is, well, mostly along as a leverage.

Slowly, through the progress of the various stages of the heist, we learn about the characters, their pasts, their relationship to one another. It sets up the friendship and the romance wonderfully. As for the heist, what is a good heist story without something wrong. There is a undercurrent of urgency, of fear for the characters that Bardugo builds splendidly throughout the book, partly by alternating the perspectives such that it heightens the suspense. The Grisha Trilogy was good, but I see why everyone has been raving about Six of Crows. I can’t even imagine how everyone who read this at release could wait for Crooked Kingdom, especially with that ending. Overall, a thrilling well-written adventure of a book, which is certainly what I expected from an author of her caliber.

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Review: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simon has been a human and a vampire, but after the events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, he isn’t sure who he is anymore. When the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. Whomever this Simon might be..

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, while a series of short stories set in the time between City of Heavenly Fire and Lady Midnight, actually is a full story of Simon’s time at the Academy and the journey to his Ascension. While the other similar anthology in the Shadowhunter universe, The Bane Chronicles, is actually an anthology to fill in spaces between the stories, this book felt more like a complete novel with a cohesive storyline; even when going into the past, the stories reflected Simon’s present. I would advise, though, to have read The Mortal Instruments completely, especially City of Heavenly Fire, before this one, to get the entire context.

At the start of the book, Simon is unsure of his place in the Shadowhunter universe, confused by the fragments of memories he seems to gain everyday, and hoping to answer that question about who he was before he lost his memories. A mundane, albeit a popular one, in the Academy, he has a unique position of being in the Shadow world before, as a mundane and an Downworlder and now as a Nephilim-ascendant, so he sees everything in his own way. He is outraged by the Shadowhunter Laws and frequently calls out people when they are acting bigoted or relying on old prejudices. As the story goes on, you get appearances from various characters in the Shadowhunter series, across different eras and the theme of the story emerges – the person you are is determined by the choices you make. There are a lot a emotionally charged scenes, which is not a surprise since the authors manage to make us like even bratty Nephilim kids. This book is definitely a must-read if you are a Shadowhunter fan.

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