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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Interview: Delilah S. Dawson, author

YOU GUYS! Remember how I reviewed Wicked After Midnight by Delilah S. Dawson last week? Well, on Tuesday I got to interview Delilah herself over at Aussie Owned and Read. I’m pretty excited! 🙂

Aussie Writers

Today I’m thrilled to be interviewing one of my favourite authors, geek queen and Lady of the Twitters, Delilah S. Dawson.

After writing some of my favourite sizzling steampunk fantasy in the Blud series, you’re venturing into young adult with Servants of the Storm. You’ve also written middle grade, and erotica. Is making the shift between age brackets/markets difficult?

DelilahSDawsonNot for writing, but the promo is definitely challenging! Just when I learned how to reach steampunk and romance readers, now I have to figure out how to get my Young Adult books to teens. I move pretty smoothly between writing projects thanks to compartmentalisation and playlists. I make a playlist for each book and listen to it while writing, editing, and cogitating, so as long as I’m listening to that music, I’m in that book’s world. Servants of the Storm was written to Saturnalia by The Gutter Twins…

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Review: ‘Wicked After Midnight’ by Delilah S. Dawson

Wicked After Midnight

A contortionist and a rakish brigand navigate the cabarets of Paris to rescue a girl taken by slavers in the third steampunk-tinged romance of the Blud series.

Life as a contortionist in Criminy’s Clockwork Caravan should be the height of exotic adventure, but for Demi Ward, it’s total dullsville. Until her best friend, Cherie, is stolen by slavers outside of Paris, and Demi is determined to find her.

On the run from his own past, Vale Hildebrand, a dashing rogue of a highwayman, hides Demi from the slavers…but why? He pledges to help her explore the glittering cabarets of Paris to find her friend, but much to Vale’s frustration, Demi soon attracts a host of wealthy admirers. The pleasures of music, blood, and absinthe could turn anyone’s head, and it would be all too easy to accept Cherie’s disappearance as inevitable—but with Vale’s ferocious will and Demi’s drive to find her friend, they soon have a lead on a depraved society of Parisian notables with a taste for beautiful lost girls. Can Demi wind her way through the seedy underbelly of Paris and save her best friend before she, too, is lost?

Wicked After Midnight is the third and final book in the Blud series, a set of three steampunk fantasy romance novels set in the same world but with each following a different pair of main characters. You could pick up any of the three and read it without having read the other two, and you’d be fine.

I love this series. Love love love. The world, a sort of medieval parallel to modern day Earth, is rich and dark and has clockworks and magic in equal measure. Plus Dawson’s love interests in each book are smoking hot, strong, dangerous to their enemies and respectful of their leading ladies (which is one of the reasons they are smoking hot, in my book!). Wicked After Midnight brought us more of the same in that sense, while telling a different story.

The bulk of this book is set in the Blud equivalent of Paris, populated mostly by daimons — magical creatures that feeds on emotions — and the humans they need to survive. The main character, Demi, is a bludman (basically a vampire but with a bunch of unique aspects that separate them from your typical Dracula or Edward), and — due to her awesome contortionist abilities — quickly becomes a star in the cabaret. I love the movie Moulin Rouge and there were a lot of elements of that in here. I pretty much had the soundtrack stuck in my head the whole time I was reading.

The only fly in the ointment for me is that Demi is a bit of a diva. At the start of the book she basically harrasses her best friend, Cherie, into running away from the caravan to join the cabaret (despite all the warnings she gets about how this isn’t the glamorous life she thinks it is). When Cherie goes missing, Demi decides the best way to find her is to follow through on her original plan and become a star. She then gets so swept up in her new life that at times she completely forgets about her friend. If it wasn’t for Vale, quietly reminding her every so often that he’s still pursuing her friend, Cherie would probably never be found.

Now, in Demi’s defence, a lot of cabaret girls have gone missing, presumably taken by the same people that took Cherie, and her plan to make herself bait and investigate the clientele for hints of her friend isn’t a bad one in and of itself. And she does regret the self-absorption, when she realises what she’s done.  But I would’ve liked to see more active searching as well, maybe a couple of scenes early on that involved her actually going out into the city looking for clues, just so I didn’t feel like her decision to join the cabaret was her deluding herself into thinking she was “helping”.

The overall theme of this book is quite pertinent despite its fantasy setting: mysogyny, rape culture and women’s fight against it. And any qualms I had about Demi were blown right out of the water by her defiant reaction to that culture and the things that are expected of her as a dancer and a courtesan. There’s no doubt that if anyone actually tried to force themselves on her, she’d gut them. For example, I love this quote:

My only choices were play nice, get raped or die?

Yeah, no.

The Blud series is a great read, and definitely worth your time if you like stories about carnivals and dancers; hot vampires; steampunk technology (and let’s take a moment to acknowledge the awesomeness that is Coco in this book — she’s only in two scenes and she steals them both); respectful men who are apparently fantastic in bed (*fans self*!); and strong women who know what they want and aren’t afraid to take it.

Four-and-a-half stars


A couple of reviews: ‘Stormdancer’ and ‘Archon’

This is just a quick update from me to let you know that in the last week I’ve posted a couple of reviews over at Aussie Owned and Read, if you want to check them out. Even if you don’t, just take a moment to admire the cover art for both of them. Gorgeous!

The first is for Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, an awesome steampunk set in an alternate feudal Japan.

The US and UK covers of Stormdancer

The US and UK covers of Stormdancer

The other is for Archon by Sabrina Benulis, which is about angels and the end of the world, set on a fictional island run by the Vatican.

The cover of Archon

The cover of Archon