Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4/5 stars Series: Yes - book 1 of trilogy
Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Destined to destroy empires, the child raised in shadows made a promise on the day she lost everything: to avenge herself on those that shattered her world.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, and Mia must become a weapon without equal. Before she seeks vengeance, she must seek training among the infamous assassins of the Red Church of Itreya.
Inside the Church’s halls, Mia must prove herself against the deadliest of opponents and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This is another massively-hyped book, and the final installment is published later this year, so I thought it was about time I tried it out.
The blurb looked like something I may not like – training to be an assassin (always for a ‘good’ reason, as a means to an end) is something I’ve seen a lot. I’m a little over it, and I’m really not a fan of graphic books. However, I really enjoyed it – which has conflicted me a little. Thanks, Jay Kristoff.
The book has such a strong voice, with a dry, acerbic humour that made me laugh despite the grim events. It drew me into the story and world with such ease, and made it hard to put down. The fourth-wall breaks took me by surprise initially, but once I settled in to the narration style, I loved it.
The world building is so dense and intricate, wrapped around the story like a thick blanket. It’s such an interesting concept – a world where the sun only sets for one night every two-and-a-bit years. Putting the physics (and impossibility) of this aside, it creates a really fun world to play around with. How do people live and thrive in such circumstances? How does it play into the mythology and daily life?
At times, the world building is so dense it spills over into footnotes. Did it sometimes break up the story’s flow? Yes Did some feel superfluous? Yes. Did some feel like they should have been woven into the story itself? Yes. Did I enjoy them? Yes.
The footnotes are where the humour comes across sharpest, and most of them set me chuckling softly at least. There were just the right number. Not enough to feel overused, and not too few that it seemed like a pointless, weird one off. It could have been a gimmick, and maybe is, but it was fun, and that’s what I want in a book.
The pacing is superb. It starts fast and doesn’t slack off, though there are ‘quieter’ points that let me catch my break without feeling like the story’s suddenly come to a standstill.
The characters are fun, I guess. Mia is your typical assassin in training – lots of self-confidence and a tragic past (which is revealed in well-timed chunks). That is to say, I liked her but she doesn’t stand out among the masses.
I really liked the interactions between the characters. Giving Mia Mister Kindly meant that Mia nearly always has someone to talk to – and the not-cat always has a dose of wit to dole out. Mia and Tric are a cute enough couple, but still uncompromisingly themselves. Ashlinn is probably my favourite secondary character, bouncing around with laughter.
I find that characters aren’t the most important part of a story to me. If I feel a massive disconnect, then I notice character. Otherwise, they’re just tools of the plot.
The first chapter was confusing, and made me wonder if the story was simply told in a style that was not for me. There are two stories told in parallel, with very similar actions and beat. Maybe every half page, the book switched between the two stories (one in italics which isn’t the easiest to read in that font).
The caveat on the previous page had said that there were a lot of myths around Mia and so the narrator wanted to tell the truth. I assumed that one was the myth – the rosy-tinted version – and the grimmer one was the truth. I almost gave up, there and then, but luckily I believe in giving a book 50 pages. Only the first chapter is like this. Some of the later chapters start with a scene in the past, all in italics again, which slowly builds up Mia’s backstory.
As you could guess from the concept, this book is violent, no holds barred on the gore. Might one even consider it glorifying killing? Yes, which is a slightly problematic. It’s something I’m seeing a lot of in a fantasy at the moment, and it’s a trope I don’t think will go away any time soon.Considering it’s stated from the get go that Mia isn’t a nice person (despite several ‘save the cat’ moments to get us to like her), I’ll give that a pass.
There are also two very graphic sex scenes that just felt gratuitous. Sure, their relationship is important, as is the fact they’re not in their own rooms, but did we really need two chapters of exactly what they were doing? I wanted to skip those chapters, but as it was a first scene, I didn’t know if any important information would slip out, or when it would end.
Yes, this is my personal preference and all that sex isn’t something we should be ashamed of la-di-da-di-dah. I simply don’t want to see it in so much detail. Just tell me they spent a night together and liked it. Fine, done, dusted.
Overall, I did really like this book. And that’s the important thing, right? How well a book does its job of entertaining the reader. Maybe, if it weren’t for chapter one and its graphic nature, this book could have been a 5-star read. Still, 4-stars is good and puts the next book on my shopping list.
Read my reviews of other books by Jay Krisoff:
Nevernight (this series):
With Amie Kaufman
The Illuminae Files
The Aurora Cycle:
- AURORA RISING (#1)
- AURORA BURNING (#2)