Too dark

Well, I promised to come back once I had read Darkdawn, the third book in the Nevernight Chronicle by Jay Kristoff, with a final verdict. Sadly, my reaction was mostly one of disappointment.

The action is still tense, the main characters are still developing and doing unexpected things to move the story along, but for me, this was a much less successful book than the first two, for several reasons.

The main one was the love triangle. Having been a teen librarian (and runner of three teen book clubs for 10 years), I can’t tell you how many love triangles I have had to endure in the course of my YA reading. For a period of time they seemed to be an absolute requirement as one element of any book written for teens, and almost none of them improved a story line in any way. This book is not written for teens (I think I mentioned the brutality, language, and raw sexuality of the first two, and that continues here), but for some reason Kristoff just couldn’t resist putting one in, and it’s not pretty. A large part of the book was ruined for me by the callous mean-spiritedness of two of the three participants.

I also didn’t care for what happened to the story line. The first book dealt with origin stories for its characters; the second advanced the revenge plot with a truly horrifying and compelling twist; but in this third book it seemed like everyone involved was just flailing around trying to triumph over one another in a really disorganized way. There were a few saving graces in the early part of the book, such as the interval spent on board ship with the delightful pirate Cloud and his crew, and Mia’s attempt to put things right with her little brother, but by the end the whole thing felt like it had disintegrated into a mash-up of sarcasm and sex, alternating with interventions by various gods and monsters.

Part of what didn’t work for me (and I think this is probably the central issue) is how exactly Mia would manage to counteract her enemies’ moves and at the same time achieve the gods’ ends as she was apparently destined to do. Motives and objectives kept wandering randomly, and at some point it felt to me like Kristoff lost the plot.

You will find, if you look at ratings on Goodreads, that many people disagree with my analysis of this book. It seems like everyone gave it either five stars or one, with no one in between. For the sake of all those (admittedly in the majority) who went with the five and loved this book as unreservedly as the first two, I will say, If you like a sizzling fantasy story with nonstop action, fascinating characters, and big intentions, give the Nevernight trilogy a try. But don’t say I didn’t warn you if you end up on the same page with me by the end of #3.

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