"Japanese steampunk" was basically all that was needed to interest me in the Lotus War series -- steam and katanas, kitsunes and steel.
And anyone who enjoyed (or didn't enjoy) Jay Kristoff's debut novel "Stormdancer" can easily figure out if they will like the sequel, "Kinslayer" -- because it's more of the same, really. Lots of political maneuverings, Japanese-styled steampunk trappings and explosive action, wrapped up in detailed prose that sometimes borders on royal purple.
Yukiko is now known as Stormdancer, and is powerful enough to take down airships as revenge for her dad's death. But then her former lover Hiro suddenly decides to marry Aisha, allowing him to claim the Daimyo's position, Yukiko is devastated. Not only is the rebellion against the Guilds threatened, but suddenly her powers are spiraling out of her control.
Her allies -- including the loving Kin -- are concerned about what her powers are doing. And in the meantime, assassin-maid Kage Michi infiltrates the bed of a powerful magistrate, and a False Lifer joins the rebel ranks. When Yukiko is sent on a mission across the sea, she finds herself alone in a hostile land, with Buruu mysteriously missing -- and she learns that her old friend has a nasty past that has caught up to him.
"Kinslayer" is pretty much a natural extension of "Stormdancer" -- Jay Kristoff writes in much the same style, with a feudal-era Japan filled with toxic "blood lotus" and steampunk technology, including steel "skins" and metal wings. It's an intriguing world, and Kristoff expands it in this story to a fantasy version of Russia (and some more "thunder-tigers").
Unfortunately, Kristoff's prose is both his weakness and his strength. It's rich and detailed, with vast swathes of glassy color and rich, raw energy, as well as some bone-chilling horror (those skinless monks). And while the story sprawls across a large cast of characters, most of it focuses on the relationship between Yukiko and her griffin Buruu ("I WILL REMAIN MAGNIFICENTLY SILENT").
But it also tends towards purple -- a few scenes are so drenched in metaphor and lush descriptions that I literally didn't know what was going on. And Kristoff tosses in some clunky sociopolitical commentary ("More land. More fuel") that just feels awkward.
Yukiko seems to have lost a lot of her equilibrium in this story as well -- her emotions can cause mass slaughter and earthquakes, and she seems to freak out a lot. Hiro becomes even more despicable than before, while Kin continues seeping into the readers' affections -- and you're left wondering what kind of romance MIGHT bloom up between him and Yukiko, assuming that his nebulous future doesn't come to pass.
"Kinslayer" is a decent sequel to "Stormdancer," with a wider scope and more details about the magical animal sidekick. However, the prose is still a bit too over-the-top for its own good.