September 12th, 2013

call of mordicai

The Spice Must Flow.

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff.

Twelve stars in her lap,
The tsarina scatters them,
off, to catch lightning.

So, for me, the best thing about this series is that I, by happenstance, am running my Oubliette campaign in a similar genre. Mine is lower-tech, with guns & steamships on the rise at the forefront of an empire, & mine has the Toxic Jungle of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, but we both cribbed the idea of clans from Legend of the Five Rings & have corporate dytopian elements. Mine is more "cyberpunk zaibatsu" & less "Dune Guild" but like, I also have used the Guild as a major element in other Oubliette stories, & will again. I like that we are part of a shared context. & I like that the "punk" element of "steampunk" is here; cyberpunk is about rebelling against corrupt corporations & puppet governments; steampunk should be about tearing down the oppressive colonial Europeans, if you are doing it right, but mostly people leave out the "punk" part. I covered all this when I read the first book, Stormdancer, but it is even more prevalent here. My problem with Kinslayer is that it goes two far in the other direction. Sure, this is the Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy, but I think it goes a little too dark. Yes, he has female characters, & yes, oppression & war lead to...bad things happening to women. I just think Kristoff over-uses it; if you rattled off a list of "bad things that happen to women," you've got your prostitution, your rape, your domestic abuse, your unknown pregnancy, your being used as a brood mare, constrained freedom...yep. We get all that, almost like there is a checklist. There is a middle ground between "don't just have cosmetically female characters" & "don't just define your characters by gender." I don't think this veers all the way off the scale but it was tilted a little too much. Hard to balance, I know, I'm not condemning, just observing & noting that as a reader, I would have liked to have it mixed up. Even when Han gets tossed in the carbonite chamber, you get the "I love you" exchange, you know? Mostly I'm excited for the third book in the Lotus War to sweep up the pieces.