Published: September 12th 2013 by Pan Macmillan AU
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
Goodreads ● The Book Depository ● Booktopia ● Bookworld
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.
The land of Shima burns after the death of its emperor, the traitor Kin is pursued by the Lotus Guild; the very people he was brought up amongst, and Yukiko, the Stormdancer, is nowhere to be seen. So begins Kinslayer, an exciting, emotionally charged novel that is sure to set your heart racing.
One of the strengths of the novel is the small gap in time between it and its predecessor, because all the emotions and fall-out from the dramatic conclusions of Stormdancer are still raw. The characters haven’t had the time to really process what happened, which means we, as readers, get to work through it with them. This, coupled with the extremely helpful “Lotus War Character Refresher” where the author reminds us who the key players are and where we saw them last, means that readers are gradually re-immersed into the Japanese inspired steampunk world that Kristoff has created.
Kinslayer is told from many points of view, including favourites like Yukiko and Kin, and new characters like Hana and Michi. Michi is, without a doubt, one of my favourite characters (and Jay’s too!). She’s complex and well written, and although I didn’t always agree with the choices she made, they were absolutely in keeping with the Michi that the author had painted throughout the book. Similarly, I wouldn’t have made the same decisions as Hana, but they reflected her character well. It’s one of the things I love about Kristoff’s writing: in creating characters who have lived their whole lives following a certain code, he doesn’t make them betray those creeds for people or causes they are barely familiar with. This happened with Yukiko in the last book and is carried through with characters like Kin, Hana and Michi in this one.
The advantage of a large cast of characters is that the rebellion, its effects and aftermath can be considered from every angle – from the nobility to their servants, from the rebels to the poor folk living in the slums. And it becomes quite clear that although the Empire of Shima was like a brutal, deadly machine, inexorable in the destruction it caused, it was a well-oiled machine. Now without its head, the Empire is falling apart, and the characters, especially Yukiko, have to ask themselves whether they actually benefited the country they are trying to save.
I hadn’t expected this novel to be as emotionally centred as it is: Yukiko is dealing with the murder of her father and her anger clouds her judgement. It’s actually really hard to read – on one hand I was so sad for Yukiko, on the other hand, the further she travelled on the road to self-destruction, the more I wanted to shake her! I love Buruu: he makes me laugh and has a fabulous outlook on life, and he keeps Yukiko from going crazy (while simultaneously driving her a different kind of crazy). I had spent the greater part of the last book wondering about Buruu, and specifically worrying about his personal life, his past life. Why was he so far south when he and Yuki met? Did he leave his loved ones behind, does he have a special griffin in his life? We don’t actually find out the answers to all these questions in Kinslayer, but we get a lot closer and the clues that are dangled in front of us are pretty tantalising.
I’m in the extremely lucky position of being able to read an annotated (by Jay Kristoff) copy of Kinslayer, which I won in the Uber Kinslayer Giveaway he held earlier in the year. It’s been an amazing experience, because Jay has left comments all over the place. About his writing process, when he wrote scenes and how they evolved over time, about the first reactions people had when they read certain scenes, and countless other gems that impacted my reading experience. In particular, it’s been eye-opening for me to learn how authors have to work and rework scenes to get their characters to come across in certain ways to readers. It’s not that I assumed scenes fall fully formed from author’s minds onto the pages, but I’d never given much thought how certain words or phrases completely change a readers’ perspective. I’ve included my favourite comments below!
Kinslayer is amazing, better than Stormdancer (and I thought that would be impossible to surpass), and I encourage everyone who liked Stormdancer to give it a go. I also strongly urge those new to Kristoff’s work to run to their nearest store or library and grab them, and then devour them! I’m looking forward to the third instalment of this great tale 😀