27 June 2014

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff

It’s been a while since I read Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer, the first book in his Lotus War series.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it and what a wonderful world he had built.

It truly speaks to the Kristoff’s skill that, as terribly messed up as the world of the Lotus War is, still, in the words of Liz Lemon:

I want to go to there.

It’s a beautifully realized world full of interesting characters.  Kristoff has a real talent for making even his villains relatable, for turning our (or at least my) expectations on their head.  For showing the complexity of people and the choices they face.

And even though I sometimes (or often) disagree with the choices his characters make, I still feel like I know them and relate to them.

With a story set in a fantasy world, Kristoff also has a lot more leeway with language than a more realistic book has.  I see his beautiful turns of phrase and yearn for the day I’ll return to writing something more fantastical.

So, enough background.  On to the book itself.  Spoilers follow, so avoid reading beyond if you wish to be surprised.

Kinslayer picks up where Stormdancer left off, with Shima teetering on the brink of civil war and/or revolution.  Yukiko and her thunder-tiger Buruu are again the focus, but the net is cast wider this time: the story touches on Michi, the maidservant of Aisha, trapped in the capital; Kin, the Guildsman who abandoned the Lotus Guild and helped build Buruu his mechanical wings to escape; and two new characters: Yoshi and Hana, sibling orphans living in squalor in the capital.  Hiro, Yukiko’s former love - who she betrayed and left for dead - also has several chapters devoted to him.

The plot meandered at times, and I found myself not caring about some threads as much as other.  Yukiko’s quest to understand and control her Kenning - the gift that lets her speak in others’ minds, including Buruu’s - seemed to take a whole lot of the book up, deviate madly from what was essential, and just didn’t really work for me on a lot of levels, until they finally reached the payoff, which was great - but not entirely worth it.  I thought that segment could have been reduced by half and still been as effective.

It took me a while to get to like Hana and Yoshi, but they grew on me and I ended up enjoying them quite a bit.  I enjoyed that Kristoff depicted Yoshi in an openly gay relationship with his boyfriend Juruo, and that it wasn’t a big deal to the narration or to most people.  That’s not to say the society depicted in Kinslayer was completely accepting, though - Yoshi and Juruo did face some prejudice, but I thought that was well-handled.

Michi’s chapters in the palace were quite powerful, and really explored a lot of questions of morality and love, as she uses her feminine wiles to get her wya.

Kin’s chapters were very interesting to me - perhaps because I find him such a fascinating character.  In some ways I felt like he got short shrift, but what few chapters he did get were for the most part real game changers.

The different threads all wove together into an excellent climax for the book, impressively so, I thought.  Kristoff really pulled out all the stops.

I won’t say I liked everything that happened in Kinslayer - characters took turns I would rather them not have done, things happened that made me unhappy.  But they were all justified.  They all made sense.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy, Endsinger, which thankfully comes out in September.  Not so long a wait - just an eternity!


Books: Still reading The Good Son by Michael Gruber.  Picked up Red Rising from the library and I'm excited to start it next.

Bottles: I'm picking up some today.  Hooray!

Writing: Still sitting on the manuscript for one more week.  Next week I'm going to do one last check for typos, and then on 9 July I start querying.  Which is super exciting!

Guitar: Looking at the live version of "Mother" and also "Monster" by Imagine Dragons.