Second novels can be difficult things, particularly the middle novel of a trilogy, which can never provide the resolution the reader is seeking. So, how do you follow up a smash like Nevernight? Jay Kristoff‘s Godsgrave (review copy from Harper Voyager) takes Mia Corvere away from assassin school to pursue her mission of revenge against the people who unseated her father and executed him.
Godsgrave picked up after the cataclysmic event of the first novel – the Red Church is diminished, with many of its top echelons dead and its branch offices destroyed. Now a fully fledged assassin, Mia is plying her trade, killing the great and the good to order, when she spots an opportunity to progress her revenge. But it is one that may mean she must breach some of the most fundamental tenets of the Red Church, and will take her down a path that involves working with former enemies.
Mia Corvere engineers her way into gladiator school to earn a place at the biggest tournament of the year. If she wins, she will have the opportunity to target her father’s killers. But it is a life or death gamble – the survival rates from being a gladiator are low, and Mia rapidly finds out that her Red Church training will only take her so far.
In Godsgrave Mia’s single-minded focus on revenge begins to come under some pressure. Time as a gladiator slave forces her to grow a social conscience about social and economic inequality. But it also forces her to learn about the value of community and companionship, as she grows closer to her fellow gladiators. There is not quite the same competitive culture that she experienced during her assassin training.
This greater social conscience adds depth to the novel, but takes away some of the sparkle of the first book. Add that to some of those difficult middle novel issues, and Godsgrave doesn’t quite reach the peaks of Nevernight, but it’s still a great read.
Goodreads rating: 4*