A Perfect Finale: “Darkdawn” by Jay Kristoff Review

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Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

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“I am the daughter of the light between the stars. I am the thought that wakes the bastards of this world sweating in the nevernight. I am the vengeance of every orphaned daughter, every murdered mother, every bastard son. I am the war you cannot win.”


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The greatest games in Godsgrave’s history have ended with the most audacious murders in the history of the Itreyan Republic.

Mia Corvere, gladiatii, escaped slave and infamous assassin, is on the run. Pursued by Blades of the Red Church and soldiers of the Luminatii legion, she may never escape the City of Bridges and Bones alive. Her mentor Mercurio is now in the clutches of her enemies. Her own family wishes her dead. And her nemesis, Consul Julius Scaeva, stands but a breath from total dominance over the Republic.

But beneath the city, a dark secret awaits. Together with her lover Ashlinn, brother Jonnen and a mysterious benefactor returned from beyond the veil of death, she must undertake a perilous journey across the Republic, seeking the final answer to the riddle of her life. Truedark approaches. Night is falling on the Republic for perhaps the final time.

Can Mia survive in a world where even daylight must die?


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My Goodreads review upon finishing this book reads simply, “SHE. THEY. HE. I JUST. I CAN’T. AAAAAAAHHHHHH.” So you know I have a lot of feelings and they’re all positive.

Look, I never expected to love a single Jay Kristoff book, let alone three. But the Nevernight Chronicle has cemented itself as one of my all-time favorite series. And each book is better than the last. I’d been wondering how I was going to list these books on my year-end best list, but with Darkdawn I have my answer. It is the five star-iest book in this five-star series.

I’ll admit that my title is a touch dishonest. Darkdawn is not a perfect book. I have a few issues with it, namely a couple scenes where Mia is half or fully naked for no real reason. I also have mixed feelings on the meta aspect of this book, but they tend more towards positive. But the good vastly outweighs the questionable.

Because the character development? Fantastic. The plot? Thrilling. The world-building? Majestic. I really wish I could tell you about it all, but this is a finale. No spoilers allowed.

Mia Corvere is a fantastic protagonist. Over the course of this series, she has been able to balance being ruthless and revenge-driven with being lion-hearted and caring. Mia insists she isn’t a hero, and she’s not. But she’s also not a villain and does right when she can. She is, in essence, the morally gray antihero I’ve been looking for.

One way Kristoff keeps you invested in these characters is by exploring the relationships between them. It’s heart-warming watching Mia and Jonnen’s relationship grow and change. I love the loyalty the former gladiatii have gifted Mia. And Mia’s romantic relationship? It’s with a woman. I won’t tell you who because of spoilers, but know that it makes me very happy.

Kristoff is not only a master of characters, but of plot twists and emotional anguish. I felt so much while reading this book and even teared up a couple times. Throughout this whole book, I was either on the edge of my seat or in a puddle on the floor. That’s a sign of a writer who has truly mastered their craft.

I love this world so much. I love all the thought and detail put into it. I appreciate how much work Kristoff put into creating and writing this series. I especially appreciate Kristoff pushing back this book’s release so he could get it right. That decision definitely paid off.

And the imagery. Kristoff pulls off a lyricism here that few can compete with. Everything is just so vivid. He even made me like ships and I usually dislike traveling by sea in books.

Thematically, this story is all about fear and forgiveness. It also draws painful parallels between Mia and Julius Scaeva. What is it that makes them different, if anything? Is it truly necessary to become a monster in order to get revenge? The answers are as complicated as some people find the footnotes.

If I’m being honest, I don’t know that I’ll ever go back and read Kristoff’s backlist. This series is clearly his pinnacle and I don’t want to experience the inevitable drop in quality. But his future works? I may just have to check them out.

The only disappointing thing about Darkdawn is that it’s the end of Mia’s story. Well, that and the lack of Mister Kindly in the second half. I want more of these characters and this world. Maybe someday we’ll get to follow Jonnen’s story. This conclusion was satisfying, but I still need more. Alas, I’m left with a vast eternity with no more Nevernight. But I will face it without flinching and without fear. And I will never, ever forget this beautiful story.


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Extreme violence & rape mention


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2 thoughts on “A Perfect Finale: “Darkdawn” by Jay Kristoff Review

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