Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff is a fabulous foundation to a new steampunk world filled a steampunk artificer guild, arashitora (think hippogriff with lightning connotations), and more flavours of duty/honor than you can shake a chainsaw katana at. The story focuses around Yukiko and Buruu, partners unwittingly and unwillingly thrown together against a failing regime, an insidious cult, and demons straight from the belly of the beast.
I originally picked the first one up as an impulse buy at my local Barnes & Noble as the concept of Japanese steampunk adventures was too good to pass up. The writing was engaging, and I was quickly drawn into the characters of Yukiko and Buruu. I will say that it was hard to accept that certain characters bite the dust. Some for noble reasons. Some just because it was significant and helped move the plot along. There were a couple Hoburn Wash level surprises in this trilogy that I sincerely didn’t appreciate but kept me reading through all three at a surprisingly fast pace for my reading habits.
Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff continues this fabulous Lotus War trilogy. Hot on the heels of Stormdancers bloody end, we continue our journey with Yukiko, Buruu, Kin, and Hiro. Yukiko tackles the ramifications of becoming “the chosen one”, while Hiro is also…chosen…albeit for different purposes. Buruu and Kin focus more on their respective roles in the cultures and societies they’ve been thrust into from those they once knew and were comfortable in.
I enjoy a “chosen one” story along with the rest of them. And Kinslayer had a few chosen for various sides of this all-out war. The political shenanigans involved in getting Hiro to the position he holds is painful to see. Honor and duty are always very fickle friends, and in regards to Hiro, I almost feel bad for the situations he gets put into. Not to mention just what duty does to Kin and Buruu, for the respective sides they support. It was impressive just how many different story lines were weaved throughout this book. And the reveal at the end of just where the Kage rebellion stands was brutal.
Endsinger by Jay Kristoff wraps up The Lotus War with an all or nothing battle royale between Hiro’s crumbling Shima Imperium, the Lotus Guild’s shadowy prophecies, Yukiku’s Kage rebellion, Buruu’s awkward family reunion, and more as the Endsinger awakens all my be lost or won. An incredible ending to an engaging world of blood and gears and family and duty.
I greatly enjoyed the all-out, no holds barred end of the world as we know it war for the survival of humanity. All the various sides, characters, and surviving players come into play in Endsinger, which surprisingly didn’t feel overly packed or rushed. Again, duty and honor take a lot of lives in this book. Some of the deaths before the final showdown made me verbally upset, as my wife could attest to. But such is war with various humans, demi-humans, demons, flying lighting birds, and a very cranky deity. And I’m always up for an unnecessarily large mechanical monstrosity that wreaks devastation.
Overall, this was a great series and I definitely want to check out other works from Jay Kristoff. I’d highly recommend it to readers who enjoy Japanese mythology with a healthy dose of steampunk.
Author: Jay Kristoff
Where to find him: Facebook/Twitter
Publisher: St Martins Press/Thomas Dunne Books/Tor UK
Where to purchase: Stormdancer: Amazon/Barnes&Noble/Indiebound/Powells/Book Depository; Kinslayer: Amazon/Barnes&Noble/Indiebound/Powells/Book Depository; Endsinger: Amazon/Barnes&Noble/Indiebound/Powells/Book Depository
Synopses (Courtesy of their press kit)
A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium is verging on the brink of environmental collapse; decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshippers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, land choked with toxic pollution, wildlife ravaged by mass extinctions.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of the imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary beast, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows thunder tigers 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 hidden gift that 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.
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.
A TREMBLING EARTH
The flames of civil war sweep across the Shima Imperium. With their plans to renew the Kazumitsu dynasty foiled, the Lotus Guild unleash their deadliest creation—a mechanical goliath known as the Earthcrusher, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear. With the Tiger Clan and their puppet Daimyo Hiro in tow, the Guild marches toward a battle for absolute dominion over the Isles.
A BROKEN REBELLION
Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the Kagé rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends in an effort to unite the country against the chi-mongers. But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies. When a new foe joins the war tearing the Imperium apart, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.
A FINAL BATTLE
The traitor Kin walks the halls of Guild power, his destiny only a bloody knife-stroke away. Hana and Yoshi struggle to find their place in a world now looking to them as heroes. Secret cabals within the Lotus Guild claw and struggle; one toward darkness, the other toward light. And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash and the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.
There is nothing a mother won’t do to keep her children by her side.