08 December 2014

Endsinger by Jay Kristoff

I've been waiting for this for a long time. ENDSINGER is the final chapter of The Lotus War Trilogy, Jay Kristoff's amazing feudal-Japanese-dystopian-steampunk trilogy. I picked up the first book, STORMDANCER, back in 2013 when I saw it on a table at Barnes and Noble. The amazing cover and the spot-on blurb sold it to me right away.

I read the sequel, KINSLAYER, back in June - it had somehow gotten released without my realizing it. Probably because I wasn't on The Twitter at the time. At the time, KINSLAYER was a bit of an enigma to me: I was still in love with the world and the characters, but it seemed at times to meander and I didn't get how things were going to pay off.

Well, I shouldn't have doubted, because everything came back together in the explosive orgy of ass-kicking that is ENDSINGER.

ENDSINGER picks up where KINSLAYER left off: the Kagé rebellion in serious trouble after being betrayed by Kin, the Lotus Guild about to launch their Earthcrusher, the gaijin of Morcheba about to push back against the Shimans who have been pillaging their country for twenty years, Hiro a puppet of the Guild, Yukiko pregnant...you get it.

In my experience, the final book of a trilogy tends to be either the worst or the best. ENDSINGER was definitely the best: it hit the ground running and never let up. There were surprises left and right, reversals that I never saw coming. Kristoff is a master of misdirection, and he kept me guessing all along.

Kristoff occupies a space that seems, to me, halfway between Tolkien and Martin. There's a lot of Tolkien's optimism, care for the environment, and belief that even the most unlikely of us can become heroes. But on the other hand, there's plenty of Martin's pessimism, acknowledging that often humans become their own monsters, that people can be destructively selfish on a global scale, that gods and monsters are nothing compared to the horrors we perpetrate on each other. And when it comes to killing people off, there's no doubt that Kristoff belongs in George R. R. Martin's camp.

For all that, though, the novel left off on a note of hope. There was loss, yes, but there was love at the end, and hope for a better future. Kristoff's own author bio says he doesn't believe in happy endings, but ENDSINGER wasn't a sad ending, either. It was haunting and bittersweet, and it was honest and real and earned.

Absolutely worth the wait.