Review: ‘Endsinger’ by Jay Kristoff

Endsinger

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.

Nothing.

Endsinger is the third and final book in The Lotus War trilogy by Aussie author Jay Kristoff. All the setup from the first two books—the various factions, wars, betrayals, rivalries and romances—comes to a head in Endsinger. That’s probably why the paperback was 661 pages. Seriously, there were times when, after reading for a couple of hours, I had to stop due to wrist strain. By the end I had to stick the cover together with sticky tape because the book was collapsing under its own weight!

If you’ve read the first two books in the series, you’ve already got an idea of what to expect from Jay’s style. His prose is beautifully, darkly descriptive, so much so that I half expected to get a chest infection from reading about Shima’s polluted air and soil. The Lotus Guild and its toxic chi industry—made from the Lotus Bloom they worship and adore—have driven the land over the edge, killed the animals and created great swathes of deadlands where nothing can survive.

(A note on the prose: if you’re the sort who prefers a straightforward style over lush metaphor, you might want to look at a sample of Jay’s writing before deciding whether it’s for you. It’s definitely a matter of taste: one person’s “descriptive” can be another’s “florid”.)

And, like the first two books, his story is bloody. He isn’t afraid to kill characters, which is only fitting. This is a war, after all. But there are a couple of particularly traumatic deaths in Endsinger. I won’t say who they are, obviously, but although I found them sad, they fall into the category of “noble sacrifice for a greater good”, which I’m okay with as a reader. It would be unrealistic if no one died.

Jay’s style is like a lot of epic fantasy, in that he tends to jump between characters, giving little bursts from different perspectives. During battle scenes, particularly, this can be four or five times in a chapter. But he doesn’t head hop within each scene, which is good; when he’s telling a story from a character’s perspective, he is faithful to that character, and manages to portray them as fully fledged people with their own motivations and desires, even the ones that only appear once or twice. (Even the puppy.)

I love the relationships between characters—especially between Yokiko and Buruu, although that’s been an ongoing thing and my adoration is therefore no surprise to me. I have a new favourite in Endsinger though, which is the street rat Yoshi. He’s learned from his (it must be said) rather stupid, cocky behaviour in the previous book, but he still has a bit of swagger there. I just loved his attitude.

Overall, my favourite part of Endsinger is the way all the loose threads are tied into a neat bow (probably made of flesh or intestines or something). There are a few eye-opening moments as we get to see what’s really been going on this whole time—things that were just part of the world in the first two books turn out to have been significant all along. I really admire the level of craft that went into achieving that.

I’ve seen some people shelve this as young adult on Goodreads, but I’d suggest it’s more for older teenagers and adults. Did I mention bloody?

Five stars

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