Thursday, February 19, 2015

Endsinger - Jay Kristoff

Endsinger is the conclusion to Jay Kristoff’s ‘Lotus War’ trilogy; this takes place in an ersatz feudal Japan, mixed with a steampunk aesthetic and fantasy elements – Samurai in giant armoured suits, with chainsaw-bladed swords, struggle against griffins (or ‘thunder tigers’) which can shatter bones with a cry, and speak in the minds of their riders. It’s not just an adventure series though – it looks at family relationships, the necessity of violence, the cost and means of progress and the price of revenge – all through the lens of a cast of plausible characters, ranging from the sympathetic to the downright diabolical. 

Given the promise of the narrative, which was very skilfully drawn in the first two books of Kristoff’s trilogy, the question is – does the conclusion deliver? Thankfully the answer is yes – absolutely. 
The narrative picks up from where the previous book left off – but where that one seemed to extend the narrative of the first, the first few chapters of this instalment throw several different curve balls, leaving the reader shaken and unsure of exactly what’s going to happen next. That this unsteadiness is matched entirely by the reactions of the characters is fantastic, and both the characters and the reader march uncertainly into the narrative together thereafter, the rug swept out from under them.

And what a narrative it is. There’s political scheming. Betrayals. Counter betrayals. Love. Stabbing. Friendship. Swordfights. Deaths. Giant war machines. And demons! All of the various narrative threads interweave with each other, and fit together seamlessly as a whole; the pacing is pitch perfect. Each page found something that made me want to read the next one – once picked up, impossible to put down.

Given it’s the conclusive part of the trilogy, some farewells are almost to be expected; but really, all of the reveals, the conflicts and resolutions here are incredibly well done. Kristoff managed to pull joy, sorrow, laughter and tears out of me; the absolute rawness of the emotions given out by the characters ripped me open along with them. That portrayal of emotion, and the character relationships that map to it, has always been Kristoff’s greatest strength in this series, and he’s done it again here.

So, is it worth reading? Well, if you’ve not read the preceding books, I’d go and do that; the first, Stormdancer, is narrower scoped than this one, but perfectly formed. If you’re up to date on the series though, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up – it will emotionally sucker punch you, and reward you with a heart-wringing narrative, and a marvellous conclusion to an excellent trilogy.

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