{Review/Giveaway} The Lotus War Trilogy by Jay Kristoff

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Stop back all week long for fun author interviews, exciting giveaways, reviews,
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with author Jay Kristoff!

***This Review was first created for A Backwards Story on November 6, 2014 for the ENDSINGER Blog Tour. It was too good to fade into oblivion, and since it fits in so well with Magic, Myth, and Mischief and I want a little more mythology featured because we've been so fairy tale heavy, I'm digging it out for all my new readers to find!!!***

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

   AS THE IRON WAR CLUB scythed toward her head, Yukiko couldn't help wishing she'd listened to her father. 

   She rolled aside as her cover was smashed to kindling, azalea petals drifting over the oni's shoulders like perfumed snowflakes.  The demon loomed above her, twelve feet high, all iron-tipped tusks and long,  jagged fingernails.  Stinking of open graves and burning hair, skin of polished midnight blue, eyes like funeral candles bathing the forest with guttering light.  The club in its hands was twice as long as Yukiko was tall.  One direct hit, and she would never see the samurai with the sea-green eyes again.
(Page 3, US E-ARC edition)

On September 14, 2012, I was lucky enough to be included on the blog tour stop for Jay Kristoff's highly-anticipated debut novel STORMDANCER. Today, I am honored to help celebrate the upcoming release of the trilogy's finale ENDSINGER on another fantastic tour!

Today, I'm going to be talking about the trilogy as a whole--SPOILER FREE!

(It's just too hard to review final books on their own without crazy amounts of spoilers!)
The world of  The Lotus War Trilogy is vast and complex. Set in Japan and surrounded with steampunk technology, author Jay Kristoff portrays a pollution-clogged, dying world. The Lotus Guild has grown corrupt, and the people are suffering. An unassuming girl named Yukiko is called upon by her Shōgun alongside her father to go on a fool's errand and bring him a pet arashitora, or "thunder tiger" (what Westerns might call a griffin). The only problem with hunting mythical, imaginary creatures? They don't exist. Until the day they do. Yukiko is in awe to stumble upon an arashitora in a storm and realize that its existence is genuine. Thanks to the Kenning, she's able to meld minds and speak with the arashitora, whom she names Buruu. She realizes that she can never give the Shōgun his "prize." By defying him, Yukiko will turn her entire world upside down, and the fallout will be catastrophic.

Yukiko is the catalyst that begins a civil war. Japan is burning, and the Lotus Guild seize the chance to take control. Yukiko is the face of the rebellion, the Stormdancer, the girl who rides in on an arashitora. She is the source of revenge, and the Lotus Guild seeks to destroy her. While Yukiko knows that bringing down the Lotus Guild will destroy the foundation of civilization around her, she also knows that they can rebuild a safer world. If the Lotus Guild isn't destroyed, humanity will soon be wiped out completely.

When I heard there was a fantasy novel on the horizon with a Japanese flair, I immediately wanted to read it.  Having lived in Japan for two years, I still have fond memories of the country and its rich history.  I'm new to the steampunk genre, but always willing to try something new, so when I heard that not only was Jay Kristoff's STORMDANCER going to be Japanese, but Japanese steampunk, I was even more intrigued. 

The Lotus War Trilogy blends mythology and Japanese lore into existence, creating a full world that feels real. It is a dark, grim reality, and no character is safe. None is a shining example of perfection, either. Everyone is flawed, even Yukiko. By the third book, I was even emphasizing with villainous characters in some ways, just because I could see into their heads and understand. Kristoff uses third person and switches seamlessly between characters and scenarios to take a look at all aspects of the world and fleshing out characters that would otherwise read as flat villains/heroes/etc. if seen through one POV. Instead of believing what one character believes about another, readers are introduced to many, and able to form their own opinions. While, at times, it can be overwhelming to recall who a character is or how s/he will later play into the story, its' also highly appreciated. Some perspectives captured my attention more than others, and I was always so glad to see their return, such as Hana, whom we first meet in the middle novel KINSLAYER.

And, on a sidenote, it's a little easier to remember who's who due to the fact that this beauty is at the forefront of both KINSLAYER and ENDSINGER:


Both novels open with a few pages reminding readers of who's who. It's great as both a refresher for those not reading the books back-to-back as well as a reminder as you're actively reading each book if you forgot about a character and want to remember more about them after encountering him/her on the page!

One thing I like best about this series is the fact that it features a strong female heroine. There aren't nearly enough female role models in strong fantasy series such as this one. Most of the dark, gritty, war-torn, sprawling fantasies put the weight of the world on a male's shoulders. The choice to center the series around Yukiko is even more of a stark contrast when taking the setting Japan into consideration. Last week, the World Economic Forum's gender equality rankings for 2014 were announced. Japan came in 104th. Japanese society is still dominated by men and women aren't encouraged to be at the forefront of a rebellion. To center everything around Yukiko is brave, and shows that this is one female made of steel, able to stand against anyone who would bring her down and show that females are just as capable as males.

If you're the type of person who won't read a series until it's complete, you're in luck, because the final book in The Lotus War Trilogy, ENDSINGER, releases at the end of November. If you're a fan of all things Japanese, or of steampunk, or of sprawling fantasy, this is one series worth looking into. While the intense attention to detail won't be for everyone, for those willing to invest the time, it makes for a fuller, more fleshed out journey unlike anything else I've read before.


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: R ( sexual situations )

Language: R ( explicit language )
Violence: ( War, death, violence )
Other: ( rape, lotus drugs, female oppression, racism against other cultures )

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Originally, I had a really hard time choosing between the US and UK covers:

The UK/Australian cover is very traditionally Japanese, while the US cover showcases Yukiko's fabulous tattoo (an integral element of the novel) and showcases the arashitora.  Plus, it's by Jason Chan, who is one of my favorite cover designers.  So there's that. 

But after seeing all of the covers, while I still love the UK design:

I prefer all the intricacy and nuances in the more complex US covers. The UK covers are very pretty, very Japanese. But the US covers whisper about the darkness lying within the book's pages and feel more "true."

I don't know about the UK/Australian interior, but the US version is gorgeous.  Each chapter features an image of a lotus or one of the four clans, which I really enjoyed seeing.  Paired with a very Japanese-looking font, the chapter headings alone were a constant reminder that this book takes place in a very Japanese world.

I'm also a fan of the way the three segments of the novel are broken up.  With each title, there is kanji (the Japanese spelling of the same word) behind it.  Gorgeous!

Plus, you get to see the logos for each clan at the beginning of each US book, which is also part of the cover design for the UK:

I love when there's a lot of great interior to look at and it's not just a cover!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Jay Kristoff
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2012
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Author: Jay Kristoff
Release Date: Sept. 17, 2013
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press

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.

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. 

Author: Jay Kristoff
Release Date: Nov. 25, 2014
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press

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.

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.

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.


 (credit: Christopher Tovo)
Jay Kristoff is a very tall author of SciFi/Fantasy from Melbourne, Australia. His first trilogy, the award winning THE LOTUS WAR is set to be published in over a dozen countries. The third book in the series, ENDSINGER, is due for publication in November 2014. Jay’s new series, the SciFi thriller ILLUMINAE, which he co-authored with Amie Kaufman, is due for publication by Random House in 2015. He is as surprised about it as you are.

Jay is 6’7, has approximately 13520 days to live and does not believe in happy endings.

Author Links: 
 Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook



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