Endsinger (The Lotus War #3) by Jay Kristoff Review

endsingerSummary:

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. (Via Goodreads)

I finally finished the series and I am still processing everything that happened in Endsinger. Finishing Endsinger was a bittersweet experience tinged with equal parts frustration and heartache. While the two previous installments had moments of levity, there were precious few to be found here.  I can see Jay Kristoff’s evil laugh at his readers’ despair as the characters that they have come to know and love are lost one after another.

To call Endsinger brutal would be an understatement, it was that and then some. The stakes were even higher (if that were possible). What struck me was that no one was safe in this world. Every character had close shaves and not all of them made it. Like Kinslayer, the pace of the narrative here was just as frenetic. The narrative is also chaotic (and not always in a good way) because of the sheer number of character POVs, there were far too many that made, sometimes, for a disjointed narrative. It really hampered the pace, breaking the flow as the chapters flowed from one POV to another and they were often unrelated. This was especially frustrating when the chapter ended on a cliffhanger.

Where Endsinger really shines though, is its characters. They are all so well realised and so flawed. Every single one made mistakes (some more horrible than others) and yet they were always relatable. There were some characters who were more interesting and some who, while not as interesting as the others, still had their moments to shine.

Remember the heartache bit I mentioned (and this is where the things get a tad spoilery) well, it was because of the characters we lost in this journey. Notably among them Michi, Akihito and Buruu. Michi was easily one of my favourite characters, ferocious and capable and yet never cruel. She fought even when the odds were stacked against her. I loved her. Then there was Akihito, the big bear of a man but one who was kind and gentle. The last remnant of Yukiko’s past and then even he was gone. It was so sudden that I had to read the paragraph twice to make sure what I had read was correct. And the most heartbreaking of all, Buruu. The heart of the series and another favourite. The bond between him and Yukiko was the real love story here. Their love for each other and the fact they each protected the other from both physical injury as well as emotional. I hated these three deaths above the rest of them simply because of how much I loved these characters.

Now, onto the ones who lived. Yukiko, the principle character, one of the better YA Fantasy heroines I’ve read in a while. I loved her spirit. That she kept going even when it would have been easier to just fly away and leave the war behind her. She was unselfish but also cautious on the battlefield. And she was fierce. She didn’t lose her humanity and compassion when it would have been so easy to do so, to lose herself in anger and hatred. And yet, she was flawed and made mistakes like the rest of them and she always learnt from them. She was a warrior and a hero.

I always had a feeling that there was more to Kin’s betrayal than met the eye and I was happy that he hadn’t simply switched sides. That he was willing to let everyone think that he was a traitor if it meant that he could help win the war and also protect Yukiko in his own way. His was a selfless love, one where he willing to do anything for her even when he wasn’t certain that she loved him. I didn’t always like him and I was wary of the romance sub-plot but it was well done and at the end I didn’t mind it at all.

Hana and Yoshi were the other Yokai-kin and they both had important parts to play in this final showdown. Hana was the other stormdancer and had another power not yet discovered. However, she lost that other power when she slept with Akihito. I was more than a little irritated by this. Why she had to be a virgin to be a Priestess I don’t understand. I expected better than that. As for Yoshi, he was as irreverent as ever but also tempered by what he had done and almost become in Kigen City. He never fully recovered from losing Jurou the way he did and that pain didn’t dull. In the end, his actions made sense and while it was sad, it was also a release for him.

I actually liked the chapters that were from Hiro’s perspective. It gave an insight into how torn he was and that he actually did see that was happening was wrong. And while he had gone too far in his pursuit of vengeance against Yukiko, I was happy that he had a chance to redeem himself to a degree. I actually liked him.

Kaori was another character who got a second chance. After her terrible decision that almost got the Guild rebels killed, it was a pleasant change to see her realise that she made a horrible mistake and make a conscious effort to repair what she had almost destroyed.

If I had to pick a favourite from among these 3 books, I would have a very hard time because they are all quite different, each installment getting darker as the series progressed. The trilogy actually warrants a reread simply because there was so much packed into these books. The Lotus War Trilogy was a great mix of fantasy and steampunk with a ingenious plot and characters you can’t help but fall in love with. Honestly, it’s almost as if I am in withdrawal, thoroughly enjoyed the series.

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