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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kinslayer (The Lotus War #2) by Jay Kristoff

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.

Released: September 17th 2013      Pages: 432
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books    Source: Library

When the first book came out, you could only make two words out in all the noisy hype: Japanese steampunk.  Many people, myself included, forgave Stormdancer some of its flaws because the setting was just too cool.  

I'm not prepared to do the same thing for Kinslayer.  The setting alone can't carry this sequel.  Either that, or it suffers from some major middle-of-the-trilogy sagging.  One way or the other, I'm disappointed.

My biggest problem with this book was that I got bored after about fifty pages, and stayed that way until it ended.  There was a lot of talk of revolution, but it took forever for the revolution to actually happen.  Yukiko hardly did anything; she rode around on Buruu, got captured, and little else.  So much of the book read like filler, and I just wanted something to happen.  And even when things started happening, they still didn't grab my interest.

There are so many POVs in this book, and some of them felt unnecessary.  I thought Yukiko was the main character here, but it seemed like she gets the least attention of anybody, in terms of number of chapters.  Was it really necessary to show us Michi's affair with what's-his-name?  To give us a look at whatever Hiro is up to (not much)?  So much of this could have been cut out of the book, and it would have been more streamlined and plot-focused.  Instead, it meandered all over the place.  

Another problem is all the unfamiliar words thrown into the narration.  Things like foods, clothing items, weapons, etc. were given Japanese names.  That's fine, except that many of these were never explained in English terms, apart from the glossary.  I'm okay with books like this having a glossary, but not if the author relies on it to explain himself.  Let's face it--if I come across an unfamiliar term in a book I'm already annoyed with, am I going to look it up in the glossary?  Nope.  I don't mind glossaries in themselves, as long as the foreign term is explained at least once, or the author gives me some clue as to what this is.  But don't expect me to rely on a glossary in order to keep up with the terminology.

Don't get me wrong--this book's setting is incredibly awesome.  I love it.  It's unique, interesting, and gritty.  The steampunk elements are woven seamlessly with Japanese mythology.  On top of all this, it has a strong dystopian feeling, making it unlike anything I've read before.  If nothing else, there are fantastical creatures like Buruu.  I love his sass, and his constant love for Yukiko.    
The setting might be enough to save it from a two-star rating, but it's not enough to carry the entire book.  Overall, I was bored and annoyed by this.  Yes, I loved the Japanese steampunk aspect, but there were still too many POVs to keep track of, and there was still too much reliance on the glossary to explain the worldbuilding.  I'm not impressed by this, and I don't think I'll bother with the sequel.  

Similar Books: It combines steampunk and fantasy elements like The Girl in the Steel Corset and The Iron Thorn.  It combines steampunk and dystopian aspects like Incarceron.  It is heavily inspired by Asian mythology like Eon: Dragoneye Reborn.

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