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First Published: August 9th 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books
Published in UK: August 11th 2016 by Harper Voyager
*This review is based on an ARC I was sent by the publisher, this however hasn't effected my review of the book in any way, and all thoughts are my own. Quotes used in this review may however be subject to change.*
Synopsis From Goodreads (UK Edition)
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.
Review - 5 Stars
(For 5 quick thoughts on this books click here)
In short this was exactly what I was looking for.
If you know my reading tastes, you will know that I have a love for female assassin books and I have read my share of them (although I am always up for more recommendations). However, these book's always start after the assassin has become...well an assassin, they already are kick-ass and have people cowering at their name, and I have always wanted to know the training processes that they have to go through. (Have you never wondered how Arobynn Hamel made Celaena Sardothien into such an effective killer? We got that glimpse in Assassin's Blade but I wanted more.) So when I read "In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family." from the US blurb I was excited to read how this book was going to portray a assassin's school. (You can see some of my other pre-reading thoughts on my Waiting on Wednesday post.) I have to say this book gave me what I had been missing for the other assassin books I have read (i.e Grave Mercy and Throne of Glass).
Before I get into what I liked about this book I have to praise the writing style and specifically the use of footnotes. I can imagine your confused faces as you read that last sentence, but yes the footnotes added greatly to this book. This is because they allowed the characters in this fantasy world to use 'local' slag and cultural references and also enables the reader know what they are talking about, (by reading the explanation in the footnote at the bottom of the page) with out the -unnatural- explanation often done by character. Also some of them were great side comments which were hilarious and will quite possibly make you laugh out loud.
The main character of this book, Mia, doesn't start this book as a member of this assassin school (I don't know why I was expecting her to already be part of the school, but I was for some reason) and this is something I am -now- glad of, as it allows the reader to get to know her as a character. within this first section of the book before she gets to the Red Church we get to read these frequent 'historical scenes' from Mia's past, which really helped me to understand her motivation behind her quest and circumstances that made her who she is. Although these where really enjoyable and useful sections to the book I am also thankful that the number of these 'historical scenes' reduced as the book progressed and I got more and more engrossed in the current event in Mia's life.
Another reason I am glad that Mia wasn't already part of the school before the book is we get to read the fascinating first interactions between this group (class?) of killers. Mia defiantly has a skill for getting herself noticed not always a good thing when you are surrounded by murders. That first week of school really show Mia (and of course us readers) how brutal and dangerous this school is going to be a, with all the usual high school rivalries and competition but with a slightly more dangerous edge, and that is only her fellow students. The teachers... well they are in a league of their own, after all they are training teenagers to be heartless assassins.
"You were not maimed, Apprentice. You still have your arm, unless I'm mistaken. This is not a finishing school for young dons and donas. The Shahiid here are artisans of death, charged with making you worthy of service to the goddess. Some of you may never leave these walls."
- Page 199
My personal favourite place in this book has to be the library (any one surprised?!?). To have a library of 'dead' books is an enticing prospect, all the knowledge you could gain that no-one else would have. Although I have to say the dangerous and difficulties of this particular library would probably make me steer clear.
I liked the way that the supernatural (magic??) side of this story is done, it wasn't one of the familiar tropes of 'the main character discovering they have powers' or set in a world where the use of magic is outlawed (although in the world created in Nevernight it does seem to be rare) but her abilities just seem to exist. Where the book joins in Mia's life she has this ability, she doesn't understand it (although I look forward to her finding out more about it in the future) and she just uses it.
The last section of this book flew by, especially those last 100 pages! I couldn't put the book down, there was some much bloodshed and action. We did loose some characters in this last section that I had been looking forward to Mia spending more time with, and getting to know more but there isn't always a 'happily ever after'. Although we aren't left with a suspenseful cliff hanger for this book I am still bursting with questions and can't wait for the sequels.
Overall, book was a great action packed start to a series. It was slightly more brutal and blood-filled than I was expecting, although I should have been prepare for it after all it is a school for assassins, and it is make quite clear in the prologue that this story isn't going to be romanticized - because of this I would probably class It as 'mature' young adult (don't really want to give you too many reasons why I suggest this because ... spoilers).
However, I loved: the tension between the different assassins-in-training; Mia dark history that made her who she is; the friendships; the trials of an assassin school; that library; her mysterious supernatural magic; her wonderful devious mind and those surprise plot twists that I did not see coming. This is a wonderful book which I would highly recommend.