Written by Jay Kristoff
Published by Thomas Dunne Books, August 9, 2016
My Star rating: 5 brutal stars!!!!!!
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.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
I’ve heard many people wanting to place this book in the YA category due to the age of the main character (16) and the fact that Kristoff’s other book Illuminae is YA. But I assure you ladies and gentleman – this is NOT YA content!!! There is foul language, violence and brutality, sex scenes – and I lived for every minute of it!! This was just the book I needed to pull me out from my fantasy slump!
There were three things I noticed right off the bat. ONE – the writing is beautiful!!!! I don’t know why this surprised me but it did. He has such a gorgeous and unique writing voice! His world building, character development, descriptions, emotions – all of it! Also the way the characters spoke had a very old world feel which instantly drew me into the world even more. TWO – this one was going to require a LOT of focus. Due to the writing style and nature of the story, its not the type of book you can just jump right into. I was a bit worried that the entire book would require this much focus but luckily, it was just the beginning. THREE – this was going to be a dark and twisted read!! And it was going to be glorious!
Mia Corvette is left to fend for herself as her father is executed and her mother is taken. At the age of 10 she’s left the comforts of her upbringing and is on the streets of Godsgrave. She’s quickly found and begins an apprenticeship to become a Blade – the most infamous group of assassins. She trains with the goal to kill those who had a hand in ruining her family. To complete the process she travels to the Red Church and studies, but she’s not alone. There she is met with many other apprentices and only 4 will be chosen. All are determined and strong, looking for vengeance and blood. She quickly forms friendships and gains enemies while finding her own strengths and weaknesses. Mia was strong and oh so broken. Where she had faults she knew to admit defeat and supplement with her strengths. And no matter what happened she always had her endgame to bring her through to meet her goals. All of the other students (Acolytes) had such different personalities which made it easy to love them, hate them, and keep them separate. They all had the same goal – to become a Blade – but there could only be 4. They knew that as friendly as they may be right now, nothing will last as they’re the competition. Mia is such a complex character and we get bits and pieces of her personality through her determination and vengeance. I can’t wait to see what she does in book 2!!
The brighter the light, the deeper the shadow.
On top of being an assassin, there is also a bit of magic. Mia has an ability given to her by the Mother herself. It’s name is Mister Kindly. In the beginning Mister Kindly caused confusion for me but I grew to understand what this ability entailed, and it actually has a personality! A funny and smart one too. In the school we also learn about the different magical abilities within the world. Potions, alchemy, weaving, and more. No this isn’t a magic school – it’s still an assassin school – just with bits of magic and it was everything! The magic and their workings was well written. Not too much, not too little, and never overly confusing.
So many times authors will come to a point where the character is in a difficult and dangerous position but, moments before tragedy strikes, someone steps in to help or they miraculously find a way out of it. Not here. NO SIR! This book was absolutely brutal and unforgiving. While reading my jaw took up permanent residence on the floor. What each and every one of these characters endured was just insanity! And it was all of them, not just the main character. But when attending a school for assassins, you can’t really expect them to go easy on the Acolytes! But sometimes it was just SO brutal! As amazing as Godsgrave sounded, The Red Church was the most interesting to me. All the different “subject’s” they were taught, the teachers, and the teaching methods were so intriguing. I could have had this book be 1,000 pages long with details of all the classes and still been enthralled in every detail. In so many assassin stories we meet the characters “before”, which sets the stage as to why they chose this life in the first place. Then, we are brought a character that is a strong and brutal killing machine. But it’s rare for us as a reader to get the insight of HOW they became an assassin. Where they trained, what they learned, and who taught them. I absolutely loved this aspect!
The pace was fairly steady and even. The beginning was a little slow as we’re learning this new world, meeting the characters, and navigating the plot. But when we get past the histories and Mia make it to the Red Church, the pace takes off like a rocket. I had a NEED to know what was happening! I couldn’t read it fast enough and when I wasn’t reading I was thinking about this book. Once I got about 60% of the way though there was no stopping me!
The other unique thing about this one is that there is italicized text and footnotes. If you’re just starting out then you need to know that the italicized text is Mia’s past. It was a little bit hard for me to balance both past and present in the same chapter, but after a while it gets easier to balance the timeline in your head. But the footnotes – I’m still not sure what to think of those. The information was helpful, yes – It filled in all the holes in the world that would have made writing it into the story very long and info dumpy. But sometimes I wondered if all the information was necessary. I’m sure that it is in the long run but I got a little bored reading the long ones and sometimes I was just plain confused. It was missing some detail and context. I had the information but I didn’t have the strings that tied it all in together. But others made me laugh so hard! The authors humour comes out of nowhere sometimes!
My faults with this story were very minor; almost non existent. Before I even started this book I preordered the second one. That was a bold move since I’ve been in a massive fantasy slump where nothing fantasy is attaching to my likes. But this one – AHHHH! SO GOOD! Now I’m glad I preordered book 2 and can’t wait for it to get here!!
Until next time, happy reading!