Book Review: Kinslayer (The Lotus War #2) by Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Kinslayer (The Lotus War #2) by Jay KristoffKinslayer by Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War #2
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 17, 2013
Genres: Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy, Mythology, Steampunk
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
A SHATTERED EMPIRE
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.

A DARK LEGACY
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.

A GATHERING STORM
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.

Book Review:

THIS IS MY HELL, I SWEAR IT. WHEN I PASS INTO THE AFTERLIFE AND AM PUNISHED FOR MY SINS, THIS WILL BE MY TORMENT. SURROUNDED BY A SEA OF MOONING, ADOLESCENT MONKEY-BOYS. MUDDLING ABOUT IN PUDDLES OF THEIR OWN DRIBBLE. –Buruu (ARC, p. 34)

Here’s all I really need to say about KINSLAYER: This Book Is GAHHH! SO GOOD.

It will rip your heart into a million pieces, tramp all over your soul, and make you think. Author Jay Kristoff has NO boundaries, and I mean that in the best possible way. He doesn’t shy away from anything, and really, really likes to torture his characters just as much as he enjoys torturing the reader. KINSLAYER is dark, but rightfully so, as it takes place in a world almost destroyed by greed. A world where the blood of foreigners is the fertilizer for fields, and the main crop of the country destroys the land as it grows.

KINSLAYER is a super creative combination of steampunk, dystopia, and fantasy, with a strong Japanese influence. There’s a little something for everyone: betrayal, romance, revolution, war, mythical creatures, awesome weapons … I could go on and on. I’ve never read anything like The Lotus War trilogy, and I think KINSLAYER is even better than the first book, STORMDANCER. (My book review of STORMDANCER)

Right off the bat, KINSLAYER has a great start: there’s a recap of the important characters, what they did, and what happened to them in book one. I love that there was a recap instead of chapters of reminding the reader what went on before. Also, I thought there was less information overload than in STORMDANCER, probably because you should already have a good idea of the world and its customs. I’ll admit, I had forgotten pretty much everything that happened in STORMDANCER, but within pages, I slid right back into Jay’s world and characters without any trouble.

Another great thing: I had no idea what was going to happen during the book. Usually the middle book of a trilogy is just a bridge between one and three, but I don’t think that’s the case here. There’s SO much going on in KINSLAYER. Yukiko and Buruu aren’t the only important characters anymore, something I was a bit sad about at first, because I really do love Buruu, as well as the bond the two have. Many characters have their say, from Michi, the handmaiden to princess Aisha; Kin, a Lotusman who betrayed his people; and even Hiro, the new Shogun, and Yukiko’s former lover. All of their parts weave together to tell as many sides of the story as possible, and I have to say, I’m kind of scared for the rebellion. I don’t see how the rebels can win, even with arashitora on their side.

As I’ve said, KINSLAYER is a dark, dark book. Personally, I adore that sort of thing, and I don’t think any of the violence or torture or other bad things are just thrown in there for shock value. There are some parts where you’ll be wincing, I guarantee it. But it’s well worth it.

Socialize with the author:

Jay Kristoff:
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

cityofathousanddolls-rInfo:
Title: City of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? Not sure
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mystery
Page Count: 361
Rating:

Summary:

An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
Ever since I stumbled over the summary for CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS, I wanted to read it. So I was literally jumping up and down when I saw it in my Amazon Vine picks.

Lately, books that I’ve been excited about haven’t lived up to the hype for me, so I was a bit nervous to start CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS. Happily for me, once I started, I couldn’t stop reading. I had to keep myself from reading ahead — every time I turned the page, my eyes would be looking at the right page before I’d started the left.

I think the worldbuilding was my favorite part of CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS. The basic concept is that the city houses unwanted daughters and gives them value. The girls are trained in various arts, such as dance or music, or intended to be wives or concubines. In a world that only allows families to have two children, it’s a much better solution than those girls being killed after birth.

Nisha is the only girl not part of a house. Instead, she’s the Matron’s messenger and informant. When girls start dying within the city, Nisha investigates at the Matron’s request, and also to save herself from being sold as a slave. CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS is a combination of mystery and fantasy, and I really liked that most of the book focused on Nisha solving the mysterious deaths rather than moping about a boy. Not that there isn’t romance within the book, but it’s not the entire story.

The romance with Devan was actually one of the weak points for me. Although I appreciated that the relationship wasn’t of the instant, love at first sight variety, it still didn’t click for me. That said, the relationship did give Nisha a chance to grow at the end of the book, as well as to show just how strict the caste system and world Forster has created is. CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS has a mix of Asian and Indian influences.

Another plus for me was the talking cats who live in the city. Nisha is the only person that can talk to them, and they are her guardians and friends. Each cat has their own personality, and I have to say, I’d love a Jerrit in my own life, even though I’m not a cat person.

CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS has some flaws, but overall, I was enchanted with it. I didn’t want to put it down until I’d read the entire book. I would love to read another book set in the same world, perhaps picking up where CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS ends. I hope that Nisha’s story isn’t over.

Give CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS a look if you like Asian or Indian inspired stories, fantasy and/or mystery.

Socialize with the author:
Miriam Forster:
Website
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– leeanna

Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

stormdancerInfo:
Title: Stormdancer
Author: Jay Kristoff
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? The Lotus War #1
Genre: YA, Steampunk, Fantasy, Dystopian, Asian Lit, Mythology
Page Count: 336

Summary:

A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
In trying to write this review, I’ve been stumped on how to express the awesomeness and badassery that is Stormdancer. Not since I read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo earlier this year have I been so blown away by a book. I literally felt empty when I finished Stormdancer — I didn’t want to leave the world that Jay Kristoff created.

Stormdancer is a book that will have wide appeal to teens and adults. While Yukiko, the main character, is a teenager, she is usually quite mature. She deals with many of the issues teens face: a difficult parent, falling in love for the first time, and finding one’s self, in ways that I could believe. A lot of the time with young adult novels, the protagonists annoy me because I can’t remember acting like them when I was a teenager. Not so here.

A lot of Yukiko’s maturity comes from the world she lives in. Shima is a country destroyed by greed. The main crop, blood lotus, kills the land. There are barely any animals left alive, and the skies are blood red from pollution. And Shima’s leader, the Shogun, is a few liters of chi short of a full tank.

The worldbuilding is amazing. I loved that Stormdancer is set in Japan, as most fantasy and steampunk novels are set in Europe, especially England. I also loved that Jay’s writing is so detailed — he describes everything, down to the type of clothing, weapons, and tattoos that people have. That level of detail isn’t for everyone, so you may want to read an excerpt first, but it’s something I enjoy. I always want to know as much as possible about a new world, so I can really immerse myself in it.

At first, I did get bogged down with the details, and on trying to remember everything. After a few pages of focusing, I just let the narrative wash over me, and everything clicked into place. Very rarely did I have to flip back to find out what something was. There’s also a handy glossary included, in case you do need to look up what a term means.

The creativity in Stormdancer is astounding, as are the character relationships. I have to mention Buruu, the griffin (thunder tiger). He makes my list for favorite animal companions in fantasy books. I’m not going to say a lot about why I like him so much, because the explanation would have too many spoilers, but he’s great. I want my own Buruu.

The plot is complex. Unlike a lot of young adult books, the story is told in third person point-of-view, which lets the reader get a clearer picture of everything going on. Happily, Stormdancer doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but there are plenty of open storylines left for the next book in the series.

Rating: 5 owls

Socialize with the author:
Jay Kristoff:
Website
Facebook
Twitter @misterkristoff

– leeanna