My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Shogun is dead and the Shima Imperium is at risk of civil war. Regrouping from their victory, the Kage are under threat of a new Shogun heir, backed by the Lotus Guild, who wants nothing more than to kill Yukiko and destroy all the Kage.
Meanwhile, Yukiko is suffering from the Kenning, the ability that lets her bond with Buruu the thunder tiger, and is beginning to lose control of it, with catastrophic consequences for all around her. Heading North in search of knowledge on the Kenning, Yukiko and Buruu find themselves trapped by the bloody past, while conflict between the Shogun heir and Kage looms.
I struggled to finish this book.
It wasn’t the writing – Kristoff has an evocative and descriptive style which works well for the genre.
It wasn’t the world building either – the Shima Imperium seems a well built steampunk Japan, internally consistent with the terrifying images of robot samurai with chainsaw katanas.
I think it was partly due to this being a sequel, where there’s an awful lot of history from the first book which made getting into the world a struggle. Likewise, some of the back-story of the characters wasn’t there, and the time spent dwelling on them and their predicaments seemed boring and distracting from what I saw as the main story. There’s also apparently this long history between Kin and Yukiko which didn’t seem to mean much in this book, and Buruu didn’t seem to have a huge amount of character itself.
Then there’s also the pace – the first half to two thirds of the book seemed very slow, before the last half / one third picked up. Some of this may well be related to a lack of background from the first novel, but some of it just felt like Kristoff needed to fill in how the characters got from point A to point B.
This was also a very dark and bloody book, in the style of George R.R. Martin, where you dare not get attached to any character as there’s no guarantee they’re going to survive to reach the final battle, never mind make it through the battle alive. I think you have to be in the mood for that kind of grimmdark reading, and I really wasn’t.
All up, this just wasn’t a book to my taste, and it definitely didn’t help for me to read it without having read the first one.
If the idea of a grimmdark, steampunk, feudal Japan does it for you, then grab the first book and give it a try. But I wouldn’t recommend picking this one up unless you’ve read and enjoyed the first one.
Disclaimer: Whilst I read this as a judge for the 2013 Aurealis Awards, this review is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging co-ordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
Mirrored from P.R. Kaye's Presence.