The Book Itself: Uggghhhh these covers are so cooool! The dark, masked moodiness, the gray-toned background, even the font of the title….gimme!
Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.
When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.
I don’t know if you remember how ga-ga I was over Kristoff’s first book in the Nevernight series. If you don’t remember, I’ll post a link to it here. I’ll wait.
Okay, so I really liked it, right?! In a nutshell, I called it “Hogwarts for assassins” but full of twisty nuances and a really atmospheric plot peppered with endearing yet deadly characters. I’m a sucker for a good magical school story. And while Godsgrave all but kisses its magical school goodbye, it still had me zooming through pages to see what would happen next to my favorite characters.
If you haven’t yet read Nevernight, a.) go do so, RIGHT NOW, or b.) put your fingers in your ears and start humming a tune to yourself while I spoil the hell out of it here (not sure how humming and plugging your ears will inhibit your reading ability, but there you go). Godsgrave plops you straight into the action, much like Nevernight did, in the thick of a plot Mia has been planning for months. For the first third of the book or so, Kristoff switches off between the present day and a few months prior, when Mia is working for the Red Church, eventually planning the current murder job. This does get a bit distracting, as just as the tension in one plotline builds to a peak, we fade into the other plotline. But soon the two sync up and we’re all hands on deck with Mia for a different kind of murder education.
GLADIATOR GAMES. At first I was a little hurt that Mia wouldn’t just stay in magical murder school forever, but I eventually caught on. Posing as a slave in order to compete as a gladiatii (aka a straight up Roman-style gladiator) to achieve her goals, Mia gets more embroiled in the politics of her fellow man. There are new revelations about her past (we FINALLY get to hear more about her mysterious, god-like parents), about her abilities as a darkin, and the structure of the world around her. You get to know her fellow slaves/gladiators, and, just like Mia, you don’t want to like them because getting close to people who will most likely die turns out badly for everyone.
The gladiator games are a roulette wheel of ways to die. In this book, Kristoff covers the gamut: fighter against fighter, fighter against multiple other fighters, fighter(s) against giant, seemingly unbeatable beast(s), murderous chariot races, and teams of fighters in massive spectacles of architecture and historical battle recreation.
It’s all awesome.
Mia makes a lot of questionable decisions in this book. Which in hindsight, is good – she’s a devious little assassin we all want to win, but she’s still ruled by her heart, her hormones, and/or her stubbornness sometimes. This puts a lot of people in danger. This leads to some really stupid decisions. I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the merits of some of her decisions. But maybe all will be revealed in the next book. WHICH IS COMING OUT SOON, RIGHT? RIGHT?!?!
And that ending. Come. On. If you want the mother of all cliffhangers, if you want to hate and at the same time love an author with a tiny, vicious sliver of your humanity, look no further, my friends. There are a couple of big, enormous whammies in those last few pages. From the start of the last round of the gladiator games (heartbreaking. I think I kept letting out tiny little whimpers of “No…NO!” every few sentences), to Mia’s fade to black, it is EXACTLY how I would expect an installment of Nevernight to end, and yet I didn’t see it coming at all.
Just read this series. Please.
My Rating: 4.5 gladiatii helmets out of 5