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A Reader of Fictions: Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review # 31: Kinslayer

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review # 31: Kinslayer

The Lotus War, Book 2

Author: Jay Kristoff
Pages: 464
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Read: August 19-23, 2013
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review
Recommended by: Lynn

Description from Goodreads:
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

Previous Books in Series:
1: Stormdancer

First Sentence: "Now witness the end of the beginning."

Last year, I was really blown away by Jay Kristoff's debut, Stormdancer. Though this often isn't the case, I'm actually more impressed with the sequel. This does seem to have been a trend lately, and I do hope it continues, especially if the book world is going to continue to be overrun with series. But I digress. Kinslayer is darker, creepier, and more intense than its predecessor. If you're one of those people who thinks characters meeting gruesome ends is a necessity in epic works, get excited, because Jay Kristoff has a real flair for murdering his characters in nasty ways.

The one weakness Stormdancer had, if it can be counted as one, for me was that it had that typical fantasy slowness at the beginning. Building a world takes time, and characterization took a back seat while that happened. In Kinslayer, the world's already built, so the action kicks off right from the start. Of course, Kristoff does lull you into a nice little unsuspecting place by not doing anything particularly cruel in the first half, and then he pounces on your hear and tears it to shreds. But we'll come back to that.

In the opening, we spend some time with Yukiko and Buruu, who remains magnificent. Yukiko on the other hand, well, girl's not doing so hot. The Kenning has really amped up, and is inducing serious headaches and bleeds out of facial orifices. To silence the voices, she's got a drinking problem. Also, Yukiko's fiercely angry and desirous of vengeance, because, well, she was scorned and apparently that guy still has ways to mess with her. Basically, Yukiko's not heroic. She's not a role model. She's not particularly likable. While this will no doubt be tough for a lot of readers to fathom, I thought it was a nice change of pace from more saintly heroines. Kristoff's world is one where even the good guys have a lot of the dark side in them.

Introducing new characters can be tricky, and often backfires. In such large casts, it's hard enough to keep everyone straight, though, thankfully, there's a handy dandy guide at the opening of the novel that lists the pertinent cast members, which totally saved me. Actually, in this case, I love the new additions to the cast. Hana is probably my second favorite human character. She's on the lowest rung of society, fit, literally, only to carry shit, which she does in the palace. One-eyed and spat upon, she still dreams and dares, having joined the rebellion. I also love her brother Yoshi and his boyfriend Jurou. The healthiest relationship (which may not be that healthy, but let's remember how Jay Kristoff hates happiness) is a gay one, which gives me joy. Momentarily. Until Kristoff stomps on that joy.

Kristoff is also doing some interesting things evolving the characters we knew from the first book. The character arcs are really impressive. Kin shows signs of doing something intense in book three, which could be for good or for ill and the fact that I have to wait forever to find out is frustrating. Aisha has a part to play, and it is intense. My new favorite (human) character, though, is Michi, who we didn't really get to see in action, and, oh man, is it a thing of beauty. She's way more lethal than Yukiko, who, let's face it, mostly has animals do the work for her. Again, I like that, though Yukiko's the figurehead, she's really not any sort of savior; other people are doing the bulk of the work. Of course, one of my favorite animal characters bit the dust. THANKS FOR THAT SCARRING PAIN, JAY.

The plot of Kinslayer moves a bit slowly, but if you wait for it there's some crazy stuff going down. Some things caught me entirely off guard, and now I just have to wait and find out what happens. There's a bit of a second book element in that most of the happenings here are clearly moving the players into place for the epic, bloody showdown to come. Still, I don't feel like Kristoff was just biding his time and I was never bored, so I really don't mind that. Some of Yukiko's journey does seem a bit out of place, but I suspect that something that happened there will become absolutely crucial, so, again, really not an issue for me.

Kinslayer is intense and heart-punching. Are you ready? Probably not. Will you venture into the storm anyway? I think you should.

Rating: 5/5

Favorite Quote:
"Look, I know that might make me a bitch, but at least I'm not a stupid bitch."

Up Next:
The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. This actually wasn't going to be next book, but it's jumping to the top of the list, so I could gift the ARC to another blogger, but then I learned Michelle doesn't sign on Saturdays because of the sabbath. So I bought her a copy but I'd already started it. Whatever, it's all made up and the order doesn't matter.

Want to tell me what to read? Fill out the following form with a suggestion! For more details, check this post.

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Blogger GillyB said...

ARRRRRRRGH! Okay, I'm starting Kinslayer tonight. I can't wait a second longer. ASDFGHJGFDFGHJ.

Also, George R.R. Martin gifs. Wonderfully apt. I LOVE (and fear) that Jay is so brutal, just like I want my high fantasy writers to be. BUT. OMG. ANIMAL. DEATH. I... I... will need liquor to get through this.

September 1, 2013 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Lynn K. said...

Yikes, the release date is fast approaching and I'm still on the second chapter of Stormdancer re-read. Distractions!

"Animal character bit the dust." WHAAAAAAT? Please don't tell me it's...I don't want to know. D: I *think* I saw you mention on twitter a few days ago, something you wished didn't happen but it didn't deter the overall enjoyment of the book. Was it to do with the female arashitora?

September 2, 2013 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

YAY. You have yet to tweet me your feels, so you better get on this. Also, yeah, alcohol might help with that scene. *weeps*

September 2, 2013 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, you can do it!

I will not tell you who it is! WAIT IN FEAR.

Also, no, it wasn't. That was the animal death. The thing with the "arashitora rape" was not a thing. Buruu's an animal and they mate like many animals do, but the accounting of what happened was seriously exaggerated. There was no rape and Yukiko didn't encourage rape.

September 2, 2013 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Charlotte @ Gypsy Reviews said...

The use of GRRM is so appropriate in this review. I was filled with so much rage when the animal death was about to happen, human deaths are one thing you expect in epic fantasy but animal deaths? UNFORGIVABLE.

Michi just kicked so much ass in this book, she basically made up for all the stuff Yukiko couldn't do.

I cannot wait for the 3rd book, no doubt Jay is going to destroy us even more with it. I'm pretty mad at Kin >:( Though I'm really curious as to how Yukiko is going to deal with what is amplifying her abilities, I was shocked by it and until now I'm not too sure how I feel about it.

September 3, 2013 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Isn't it? I don't think Jay's quite that brutal, but, then again, I think he might be saving up for the last book. *eyes Jay* I know. I almost rated down for that, but it's not like he didn't kill people too. It's not like it was out of place or just to be sensational, but STILL I DO NOT APPROVE.

Michi is amazing. Yukiko needs to step up and stop moping.

Seriously, I did not see Kin coming. What the heck, boy?

September 3, 2013 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger meg said...

Confession, I still haven't read Stormdancer. I want to, but I'm scared. Your use of George R. R. Martin isn't helping. Fortunately, I am also a touch masochistic b/c I'm now having uncontrollable urges to go and order both books.

September 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I wouldn't say he's QUITE as sadistic as George R. R., but book three isn't out yet. However, the gifs made me laugh. :-p

September 3, 2013 at 3:31 PM  

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