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 dragons): 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 dragons): 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 dragons): 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 dragons): 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 dragons): 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.