Monday 23 October 2017

Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicles #2), Jay Kristoff

the storm begs no forgiveness of the drowned 
Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church hierarchy think she’s far from earned it. After a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia suspicions about the Red Church’s true motives begin to grow.

When it’s announced that Scaeva will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end him. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between love and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

* * * *
4 / 5

I finished Nevernight, a thoroughly enjoyable read though by no means perfect, and eagerly went straight on to read Godsgrave. Unfortunately, it was a Kindle copy so the footnotes that I loved in the first book became an annoyance in the second (seriously, get a physical copy, so much more worth it), but mostly what threw me was the plot direction that the synopsis was suggesting: Mia has just trained to become a fully fledged assassin, and all of a sudden we are getting gladiators! Colosseums! A new romance! What the heck! It sounded weird and it was weird, but it actually worked surprisingly well. 

they hung there a moment; two girls, barely touching, all the world around them holding its breath

I loved Mia. She's hilarious but also more complex. The swearing has been cranked up another notch and it was executed perfectly. Mia has picked up another shadow familiar, Eclipse the wolf, to join feline Mister Kindly, and obviously the two get on like a house on fire; they're so cat/dog together and it's done really well. The banter in this book is absolutely flowing. But more seriously, Mia is awe-inspiring and semi-believable in her weaponry skills, her morals her developed, she is more brutal and more honest to who she is. I admire Kristoff for writing an intricate and compelling character who sometimes does genuinely terrible things and puts herself before others. Godsgrave also introduces a new romance, one I sort of saw coming (or at least was hoping for) in Nevernight, and I thought it was done pretty well: reasonably slow burn, a bit of drama, but it definitely didn't overshadow or suffocate the plot. Bravo!

And for a tiny moment, she ceased being Mia Corvere, the orphaned girl, the darkin assassin, the embodiment of vengeance. She held her arms wide, dripping red onto the sand, and listened to the crowd roar in response. And just for a breath, she forgot what she had been
Knowing only what she'd become. Gladiatii 

The plot itself is also amazing. I've loved the idea of gladiators and colosseums ever since watching Gladiator about fifteen times in my GCSE Latin class (obviously the reality of gladiator fighting is horrible and inhumane, but it makes for a great writing setting). Mia, for reasons I will leave for you to discover (which I also thought weren't really great or made a lot of sense, but what ho), leaves the Red Church to trek across deserts to get herself enslaved so she can join a gladiator group. Initially, I was a touch disappointed; we spend a whole book waiting for Mia to become a real assassin and the moment she does and I want to experience some Assassin's Creed style mission, she bails? But I loved the whole plot from the awesome and inventive arena fights to the new loyalties and friendships forged and broken. There are, I think, less new characters to get attached to but this is made up for by the appearance of some old favourites like Ashlin and Mercurio. 

"... What's the map of?"
"It provides detailed directions to the Empire of None of Your Fucking Concern" 

However, no sooner had I cracked the metaphorical spine of Godsgrave did I encounter the thing I hated the most: the time skips are back, and Atlas isn't happy about it. Particularly because the slow and suspenseful reveal isn't necessary in this book as it might have been in Nevernight, since what happens is revealed in the synopsis! Then there's the fact that despite loving the plot, nothing really happens in the grand scheme of things; at the end of Nevernight we are teased with the bit about the Moon, and near the start of Godsgrave we get this cool scene with a graveyard, but then the whole shebang is left hanging whilst Mia galavants about being badass (no complaints). This entire arc is only brought up again in the last few pages to deliver a heller cliffhanger, which only really manages to be surprising because by this point you've entirely forgotten about the whole Moon debacle. Neither is there much advancement on the whole "what it means to be a Darkin" front. 

if Vengeance has a mother, her name is Patience

Overall, Godsgrave was a fantastic sequel. The writing is beautiful and dramatic and dark, the plot is awesome and bloody, and Mia is a marvel. Yes, there's a few things that meant this book didn't quite make the elusive five stars, but it was still a riveting page-turner. 

My thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of Godsgrave

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