Darkdawn by Jay Kirstoff review

‘I am the vengeance of every orphaned daughter, every murdered mother, every bastard son. I am the war you cannot win.’

***Spoliers for both Nevernight and Darkdawn**

Earlier this year before I started this blog I read two little books you may have heard of, Nevernight and Godsgrave. Now that trilogy has come to a conclusion with Darkdawn and I have many feelings. How dare you Jay Kristoff.

Darkdawn is the epic conclusion to the Nevernight Chronicle. Mia Corvere, assassin of the Red Church, gladiatti of the Remus Collegium and outlaw. Mia is on the run from both the Red Church and the Lumiatti after comitting the most epic murder in all of Itreyan history. Mia will have to rely on her wits and trust the power within her is she is to defeat her true nemesis, Julius Scaeva and master the power she has been holding within her all these years to do it.

Spoilers galore for this one since I cannot review this book without discussing the epic plot of previous books or the finale of this so consider this your final warning.

Well now, that was a fucking rollercoaster. Not since I read Morning Star by Pierce Brown have I felt this shook by an ending to a trilogy. Jay Kirstoff really wove in every thread of story that he has been developing since the first book. There is not a single piece of plot that has not been addressed and we finally get to see Mia at her most powerful. We also see the end of Mia Corvere.

The world of Itreya gets bigger and better again. We get to see parts of Godsgrave that should not even exist, for example when Tric brings Mia and Jonnen (yes, both men are alive. While, Tric is debatable) to safety under the city. He brings them to this darkened chamber that has a basin at the centre of it filled with a black liquid. Yeah its a pool of God’s blood. How fucking metal. We take a journey back to the Quiet Mountain in what feels like revisiting the focal points of Mia’s journey from the first and second book. The backwards Hero’s journey really helps to bring the story to a conclusion that feels sad yet satisfactory. We also finally get to see the location at the centre of this famous map that Ashlinn has tattooed on her back and it is worth the payoff.

Mia finally gets to learn about what it is to be Darkin and what the Moon is. Her interactions with her brother felt a bit inconsistent but Jonnen’s reactions were very realistic. I always enjoy Mia’s POV in the books but I was thrilled we got to see some more things from Mercurio’s perspective. Aside from Mia I adore Mercurio and reading him was one of my favourite things about the book. We also get some wonderful new characters like Cloud Corleone, the pirate of too tight pants and fantastic choices of wine. I would happily read a spin off about him alone. Side note, I did not need to see that scene with Adonai (you know what one). Nope. No thanks.

Jay Kirstoff is the master of plot. He is the master of a vicious and entrancing story that will not hold your hand but won’t let you go either. The overall ending to the book and the revelations are nothing short of breathtaking. There comes a point in the plot where we discover the narrator and suddenly the story becomes slightly meta. And being the weirdo I was I loved it. I’m also shook at the narrator. I spoiled that when looking at the ARC at World Con and yeah. I kept it quiet, don’t ask me how.

The ending was wonderful. It was fitting, it wasn’t pretty but it was fitting for the tone of this series. Too many times I have read a book that just won’t go THERE. This is the only way you could have ended this and what Kristoff manages it to add to it without ruining it. That’s a hard thing to do. I cried not gonna lie but I felt like it was the conclusion we deserved.

One of my favourite things we get from Darkdawn is more details about the Gods. Gods and mythology that are unique to a book are my favourite thing and I never get to see enough of it. We get to see more of the Itreyan pantheon and whats really great is they are real Gods. They are selfish, they are violent and do not give a single fuck. Niah, the Lady of Night, is not exactly the motherly patron I imagined her to be. She is a Goddess and more importantly a death Goddess. Mia’s interactions with them is even better. She doesn’t care about their thoughts, their vengeance or anything. She is going to do her and do what she has to do to win her war with Scaeva. It’s a big change up on the whole honoring the Gods and their great plan trope we so often see.

I have never trusted Jay Kristoff from day one. He hurt too many of the people I loved. He is too sneaky with his characters intentions. He looks too much like Dave Grohl. But after reading the entire trilogy within a matter of months I have to admit that I am blown away with his ability to write such a wonderful series and still make me happy it’s ended how it has while also wanting more. Goodnight, gentlefriends. And remember to be the war that noone can win.

★★★★★/5

Audiobook Recommendations for Newbies

I only got into audio books last year when I worked a hectic job and found no other time to read. My history with audio books wasn’t great prior to then. I distinctly remember being bored to total tears in primary school when our teacher put on a tape (yes. tape) audio book of The Hobbit. It was AWFUL.

So to counteract that terrible start to audio books in my life I’ve made a list of the absolute best I have read so far.

  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin: This was the book that started it all, for both Le Guin and audio books overall. This book was so good this has gone on to be one of my favourite books of all time. This books details the mission of human male Genly Ai. Ai is an agent for the Ekumen, an intergalactic counsel and has been tasked of convincing the planet Gethen (or Winter) to join the council. Gethenians have no gender, choosing to be male or female once a month during a period known as ‘kemmer’ and we follow Ai on his mission to both learn and navigate his way on Gethen. This is quite obviously a sci fi book and it stole my heart. It is full cast which suits such a broad spectrum of characters. The cast also are wonderful at handling the voicing of chracters that don’t display obvious gender attributes. Overall it really sets a cold, winter vibe that this book really benefits from.
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman: Out of all Neil Gaiman’s books this was my least favourite. Then I listened to the BBC radio 4 production. The book follows Fat Charlie Nancy as her learns of the death of his father Anansi, the spider god, and of the existence of his brother, Spider. Charlies life takes a sudden turn after both of these things happen and he suddenly has to make a decision that incurs the wrath of the Gods themselves. This book is so funny it actually makes me smile to think about it but it paints such an amazing set of characters due in part to the casting. Lenny Henry is perfect as Anansi. This is also a full cast production (you will see a trend). One thing I really loved while reading this was you felt like you were in the places of the book. London sounded like London, the Caribbean sounded like a sunny place, anywhere else just felt and sounded so real it felt like I was actually there. If you struggled reading the book physically, definitely try the audio.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff: Mia Corvere wants to avenge her father, who she witnessed being executed as a child. Mia wants to be an assassin to achieve her vengeance. She must journey to the Red Church and become an acolyte of the goddess Niah in order to complete her training. That is of course if she survives. If you somehow haven’t heard of this series, fair play now read it. Honestly I read this on audio for the simple reason being I was busy and wanted to read it at last. The audio is perfect for both those reasons, the narrator Holter Graham does a fantastic job for all the voices particularly Mia and Mercurio. His voice for Mia took a while to get used to but by the time I listened to the sequel, ‘Godsgrave’, it had either improved or I embraced it. Either way I highly recommend it on audio especially if you don’t have time to sit down and read the actual book. You also get to avoid the footnotes.
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King: The Creed family move from Chicago to the town of Ludlow in order for Louis Creed to get a job at the University of Maine. The house sits beside a road that is used heavily by large trucks. After the death of a pet in the family Louis learns of a piece of land that can reanimate the dead and begins to wonder what else it can do. This is my favourite Stephen King book for many years and listening to it on audio hasn’t changed that. The book is narrated by Michael C.Hall from the TV show Dexter and oh my god is his voice chilling. I knew what was coming but still dreaded every second as the story went on. Also, bonus if you are a Dexter fan!
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman: Yes this is also on the list. I’m sorry. Shadow Moon has just gotten out of jail. Shadow Moon has also just found out his wife is dead. Then he meets Mr Wednesday who offers him a job as a body guard. Shadow has no idea what he has let himself in for. This is my favourite book of all time and yet I had never read it on audio before this June. There are 2 versions, the full cast production and a single narrated version. Definitely check out the full cast (surprise) version, simply for Neil Gaiman’s narration of the Coming to America stories.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K Rowling: Based on the Harry Potter in verse text book of the same name details the discoveries of Newt Scamander and his discoveries about different beasts and advice on how to handle them. Obviously the movie is loosely based on this book but the audio is narrated by Eddie Redmayne who plays Scamander and its so lovely. He puts every bit of the soft loveliness he has on screen into the book. There are even background effects for each creature, the dragons being my favourite. I did hear from a friend of mine that he thought this one was pointless if you’re not into Harry Potter so maybe heed his advice if you’re not a fan. Or ignore him and listen to the lovely man talk about pretty creatures.

I hope this list is helpful to anyone sitting on the audio book fence. I honestly think audio books are very subjective, based totally on the readers taste and experience but narrators and cast vs no cast does make a huge difference I feel. Spotify, Borrowbox (for Irish readers) and Scribd are other options to Audible as well if you want to try audio books while still being cautious. Until next time guys, take care!