Ah, Darkdawn. This has been one of my most anticipated sequels ever since I read Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight in December 2017 (click for review). I whipped through both that and Godsgrave in a matter of days (once I’d gotten through Nevernight’s incomprehensible start, that is) and I was absolutely dying for Darkdawn to be released. And did it live up to my expectations? Uhhh… mostly, I think? Hard to say, really.
Plot summary: 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?
Star rating for Darkdawn: * * * *
Meeting Mr. Kristoff
My friend and I went went to a talk and a book signing with Jay Kristoff the day Darkdawn was released. He seems like a very pleasant, funny, down-to-earth author who reallys care about the work he’s putting out into the public. I didn’t get any photos because I was too busy muttering under my breath about Waterstones’ shoddy management of the event, but I enjoyed the talk and got my books signed.
During the talk, he was very clear that this book was going to be dark (the clue is in the name, really) and that the ending was going to be brutal, and therefore probably very divisive amongst readers. The inference was definitely that Darkdawn was going to be the darkest of the three books, by far.
For the record, I liked this book a lot. But I actually found it to be annoyingly fluffy; quite the opposite of what we’d been promised.
The plot itself does not disappoint. It fits in perfectly with what has happened to all the characters in the previous two books, complete with twists and turns, and Mia generally being pretty badass. I struggled a bit with the point of the over-arching plot – why they were actually trying to achieve what they were – but I was able to get on board with it for the majority of the time.
Part of the plot involves a sort of breaking of the fourth wall; it goes down a slightly meta path. I LOVED THAT. It was genuinely my favourite thing of the whole book as it was just so clever. Jay Kristoff did reference it during his talk so it’s probably not too spoilery, but I won’t go into too much detail here anyway. Suffice it to say that you find out the reason for the footnotes and the slightly sarcastic tone, and it’s wonderful.
It uses this device to poke fun at the earlier books a bit – ‘what sort of wanker uses footnotes in a novel, anyway?’ and so on. It’s hilarious, and echoes what the author was saying during the event – that he gets tons of complaints from readers who don’t see the point of the footnotes. Other raised points about Nevernight are also included in the plot, and it’s really quite clever and amusing.
However, one of my favourite aspects of the previous books was all-but written out, which I didn’t appreciate. It comes back, but only at the very end and even then in very confusing circumstances. I know that’s vague, but I had to mention it because it was A Big Deal.
And there are a few parts which just don’t really make sense, but I can’t talk about because, hey, spoilers.
I struggled with Mia a bit in this book. It never seemed quite clear exactly who she was supposed to be. On one hand, she was this takes-no-prisoners badass, although at one point she makes a decision that I hated and made no sense, almost going too far with the supposed badassery. But then, on the other, she’s so emotional and fluffy in this one that it just didn’t gel with her character. Singing to people in storms and suchlike.
The romance is a much bigger deal in this one as well, and part of what I appreciated about the other books is that it was a sub-sub-plot, at best. I mean, it was fine, as far as it goes. I didn’t have any issue with the direction in which it went, but it added to the general fluffiness. I will say that it’s a bizarre feeling reading the sex scenes of a man you’ve actually met…
Yeah, alright. Let’s do this. It may be that my expectations were shaped by what Jay Kristoff had said at the event – how brutal it was going to be, please forgive him, etc etc – and so I had anticipated just that. Which is very much not what I found. The ending was absolutely fine, not particularly dark, but it was fitting and it was acceptable, whatever. But the Ending ending (there’s a sort of epilogue) is absolutely terrible. It’s so fluffy and icky that I wanted to throw the book across the room.
I won’t do spoilers, but I will say that it has exactly the same issue as Illuminae. If you’re going to make a stark, brave plot choice, fucking stick to it. You don’t get points for making a badass decision and then pulling it back. No. Commit to what you have written. This is what I said about Illuminae, and I stand by this in relation to Darkdawn:
The twist was great and it completely threw me. It was so brave, and such a surprise. I definitely wouldn’t have seen it coming. BUT THEN THEY REELED IT BACK. Any impressment (shut up, that’s a word) I had was just yanked away. You don’t get to have a plot twist that mind-blowing and have them wake up ‘and it was all a dream.’ That’s not what happened, obviously, but it may as well have. It just cheapens what could have saved this book.
Clearly Jay Kristoff has a theme. So no, I didn’t like the ending. But for the opposite reason that I was told I wouldn’t like it!
Conclusion – a mixed review?
I did like Darkdawn overall, most definitely. I enjoyed reading it and for the most part it was a fitting end to the trilogy. Unfortunately I can’t quite separate it from the flaws I’ve listed above, the most significant of which is the fluffy, de-clawed ending. Everything else I could probably get past, but not that.
That said, I LOVED the breaking of the fourth wall and the meta-ish-ness of the whole thing.
It just seems a bit more YA than both Nevernight and Godsgrave. There’s a love triangle, Mia has some unreasonable temper tantrums and the characters are a bit, well, teenage-ish. Which is fine, but the other has emphatically said that this is most certainly not for younger readers. I agree with that assessment, but the tone is definitely somewhat younger in this one.
There are positives and negatives of Darkdawn, as with any other book, but I’d say, I suppose, that it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the series and, for new readers (not that you would have clicked on to read a review of a third book of an unknown series anyway), I would still definitely recommend going back, reading Nevernight and proceeding onwards.