Book Review: Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff

Posted October 24, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 12 Comments

Book Review: Kinslayer by Jay KristoffKinslayer by Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War #2
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 17th, 2013
Genres: adult, fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Won
Buy on Amazon


The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The toxic blood lotus flower continues to ravage the land, the deadlands splitting wider by the day. The machine-worshippers of the Lotus Guild conspire 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.


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.


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.

I was one of the bloggers that raved about Stormdancer last year. And while Kinslayer was a mindblowing follow up to that book, it was also different in many ways. Some of which I liked, and some not so much. I like to mix it up a little, so I am going to do this review in sections again.

Characters (4/5 stars): My love for Yukiko and Buruu are off the charts, as usual. Buruu gives the book all its humor with his fantastic one-liners as he tries to understand Yukiko’s feelings and emotions, usually failing but not failing to make me laugh, that’s for sure. Yukiko is fierce and strong and I loved her. There were a couple of new characters that I was introduced to that I loved as well. But I do need to talk about some ugly things. This book was depressing. Like ridiculously so. To the point where I got towards the end of the book and I skipped ahead to be done. I just couldn’t take it anymore. That doesn’t mean it was bad, I was just falling into a funk. I had just gotten out of a period of depression and I certainly didn’t want a book to have me falling back into it. Also, there were some REALLY graphic animal violence scenes that I feel were just added for shock value and I felt were wholly unnecessary. It’s one thing for an author to rip a reader’s heart out, but it’s another when it feels like emotional manipulation. It was too much. Other than that, I was totally with the characters and their motivations. Everyone–from the characters with the largest parts to the characters that only had a few lines–were well-developed, interesting, and full conflict.

World-Building/Setting (5/5 stars): Absolutely excellent. The world of Shima is brilliantly rendered, full of life and detail, and comes to life even more than the last book. You get to learn about some of the other areas of the islands in Kinslayer, and it is not pretty. They are even more destroyed than the city of Kigen. The Iishi mountains are as gorgeous and as scary (Oni) as ever, plus there are some new mountains and SEA DRAGONS to encounter. This is fantasy at its finest. The more we read, the more we learn. The description is detailed but never too detailed. It’s enough to get your senses moving and picturing that you are there.

Plot/Pacing (4/5 stars): The plot of the book is well-paced and engaging, but at times the level of sadness got to me. It’s a VERY dark and depressing book. It’s never not interesting, but I do feel there was absolutely zero happiness occurring in this book, and as a result there was nothing to look forward to. It was a constant downer, and those are not my favorite reads, let me tell you. This is also why I got kind of weepy, tired of it, and scanned the last third of the book just to get to the end. I know it’s a personal preference, but it was too much for me to handle and I had had enough. It’s also incredibly violent, though that part didn’t bother me. I am okay with graphic reads as long as the violence is not senseless. Here it is not, except for the animal violence I mentioned earlier. Kinslayer’s plot picks up where Stormdancer left off. Yukiko is dealing with the strengthening of The Kenning and the health issues that have arose because of that, the Shogun has been killed, and Shima is a mess with no one running the shogunate. The Guild is trying to get another Shogun (Hiro) in the palace, and the Kage is trying to keep this from happening with Yukiko and Buruu’s help. From there it goes deeper and it gets demented. I enjoyed it, for the most part.

Writing/Imagery (4/5 stars): Jay Kristoff’s writing is never NOT impressive. It’s no different here. It’s lush, imaginative, and atmospheric. It’s also very heavy and super high fantasy. If you have an issue with lots of imagery and description, you aren’t going to like it. There were some passages that veered a little too close to purple for me in this one, however. And you know when I CALL you purple, you’ve gone a bit too far off the deep end. Listen. I like to picture my settings more than anything. I am a super visual reader. But here the sentences went on a bit too long, and in my mind the image I was painting dragged. If you are a visual reader like me, you know what I am saying here. If not, then it shouldn’t matter and you can disregard this. 😉 At any rate, I still loved the writing and there is no denying that the author is a master wordsmith. 

Overall (4.25 stars): I know it seems like I complained a lot, but I really did like Kinslayer. I am just at a point in my life when certain books–especially if they are epically dark–are going to bring me down. I need a little bit of levity, even if it’s just a small amount. I ADORE Buruu but he can’t do that all on his own. Perhaps my favorite part of this book was the new characters we were introduced to. And I am looking forward to learning more about them and figuring out the conclusion to this whole mess that Shima is in the middle of right now. Knowing how dark this book got, and how dark, I am sure, the final book will get, I am going to make sure I am in the right frame of mind before I finish this trilogy. 

12 responses to “Book Review: Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff

  1. I definitely went into fast reading mode during parts of this one due to the very long sentences and overall length of the book (and a pressing publication date!). However I’m amused by how many people point out how depressing and dark Kinslayer is. I must have been in a weird mood when reading it, since I felt that way about Stormdancer but not Kinslayer, weird right? There were some unpleasant and gross scenes and some that didn’t seem necessary (creepy monks anyone?), but for some reason I felt that Yukiko was more empowered in this book since we know now that she is pretty damn tough, whereas in Stormdancer I just felt like things would never improve ya know? Also I’m now worrying that I can’t remember which animal violence scenes you are thinking of…. All I can remember was Yukiko making some questionable moves when she was trapped *trying to be vague enough, but on the topic of animals >.>* and the super beat up but tough cat…. Can you give me a hint to which you are referring to? 😉

    • It’s not weird, really . Both books are dark, I think that Kinslayer just messed with my head more because of the animal violence and the peril that Buruu was in for the entire book.

      We talked about this on Twitter, but I loved the creepy monk scene even if it was just a vehicle to get Yukiko from point a to point b.

      Yukiko IS more empowered in this book. But I just feel like nothing good ever happened to ANYONE. And that was hard to read.

  2. I loved Kinslayer, but I have to agree with you. I hadn’t realized there just aren’t any happy moments in this book, are there? It actually took me a long time to read it, I think because the prose and death and blood were just overwhelming, so I had to take breaks. Hopefully Jay will lighten up a bit for the next book!

    • There aren’t! It was so tough to get through due to that. For me anyway. I know some people really love the super dark stuff but I do need a light at the end of the tunnel, I guess. Knowing Jay, the next book will be even MORE depressing, if that were even possible.

  3. Ahh yes, I was pretty much lost for words after reading this and nearly had to split my own review into incohent sections too. I think what Kristoff does best IMO is the characters and plot. I mean, who doesn’t love Buruu?

    Great review, Kara! <33

  4. I really want to read this one because of the idea and the cover is just so epic and different from most nowadays! I didn’t read all of your review just in case of spoilers (and I tend to get a bias) but from your rating, I will totally have to check this out.

    • The covers for this series are super amazing, I agree. For the record, almost ALL of our reviews are spoiler-free and if they aren’t we clearly mark them. So you’re safe in the future. But I do understand the bias thing. I hate that.

  5. Lol, I’m so much a non-visual reader, I don’t even understand your criticism regarding the writing. Haha.

    There was totally at least one happy moment. Remember when Michi started killing everyone? That was pretty damn happy-making. GO MICHI.

    • Isn’t that funny? I can’t even imagine not reading visually. I don’t think I would comprehend the text!

      I do remember that, but I wouldn’t exactly call that happy. But by then anyway, I was so depressed I don’t think anything mattered. I think I was just in the wrong frame of mind to read this.

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