Audiobook Review: Endsinger by Jay Kristoff
Series: Book 3 of The Lotus War
Publisher: Audible Studios (November 25, 2014)
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
It is worth noting that I listened to the audiobook version of this, whereas I read the print or ebook copy of the previous two books in the trilogy. I mention this because it probably affected my rating. For some books the reading versus listening experience can vary greatly, and this is one of those cases. But more on that later.
First, I want to start off by saying that Endsinger is a great conclusion to the series. After all that buildup in Kinslayer, I was skeptical that author Jay Kristoff could wrap it all up in one more book because there’s so much ground to cover, but he pulls it off magnificently. There’s a lot going on here. Without revealing any spoilers, this is just a taste of what we’re dealing with – 1) the Shima Imperium is in chaos, practically tearing itself apart in a civil war, 2) in the last book it was revealed that the Lotus Guild is poised to take over the empire with a secret weapon at their disposal, namely a colossal steampunk giant machine called Earthcrusher, 3) the Kage rebellion is now in shambles and it’s up to Yukiko and her storm tiger Buruu to rally and unite them, 4) somewhere out there, we know there are more of these storm tigers but getting their help would be difficult as they all seem to hate Buruu due to something awful he did in the past, so there’s that mystery to consider, 5) there’s the whole ongoing “gaijin war” happening outside of Shima, and the captured prisoners who are enslaved and subjected to the most horrific fates, 6) and finally, the biggie – Yukiko will have to deal with a major bombshell that was dropped on us in book two. Not going to say anything more than that, except what she learned about herself is a life changing event which would stay with her both emotionally and physically forever.
Then of course there are all the little side plots involving the secondary characters, like Kin and Hana and Yoshi. Everyone is focused on working towards the goal of toppling Shima’s tyrannical reign as well as the evil, blood-soaked lotus industry that drives it. I won’t lie; there’s so much to wrap up here that I was half expecting the news along the way that this series would end up being a quadrilogy. And yet somehow, impressively, Kristoff manages to tie all of this together without leaving loose threads. That in itself is pretty amazing.
There’s a lot to like in this volume. For one, we have the return of some fantastic characters, and as always the relationship dynamics make this one a great read. The story itself is enhanced by the drama of friendships and animosities between characters, the most obvious example being Yukiko’s bond with Buruu, which is one of the highlights of this series. Seriously, it’s a partnership to rival all the classic tales of interspecies friendships through the ages. And obviously, no epic saga is complete without secrets and devastating betrayals – as well as redemption. Plus, there’s also love. We mustn’t forget romance and passion, even in war. This book has all that and more.
The story, however, has a few hitches. I was poised to write about the awesome twists and turns in this novel, until I stopped to really think about that. Sure, there were several hugely significant events that happened in this novel, but could I honestly say I didn’t expect any of them? Not so much. Unlike the last book, a lot of the “surprises” in this one were actually quite predictable, even when it came to some of the major character sacrifices or deaths. I also found the pacing of the storytelling frustratingly uneven. The beginning held me rapt, to the point not even a looming bedtime could have stopped me from listening, and indeed there were several nights where I stayed up late just to get an hour or two farther in the audiobook to find out what happened. Around the middle of the book though, I lost that enthusiasm. The story here started dragging its feet, and it’s a real shame, because unfortunately I never got the momentum back after that.
Now is probably a good time to talk about why I think listening to this in audiobook format affected my experience. I believe it had nothing to do with the narration (which was brilliant) and everything to do with the writing itself. While I think that in general Jay Kristoff is a good writer and an engaging story teller, he does have a tendency to sometimes go overboard with very flowery and ornate descriptions. This has been my experience with the last two books in this series, and in some ways that has prepared me well for going into Endsinger, knowing to expect some of these rough patches and passages. In spite of this, what I didn’t anticipate was how jarring and distracting it is when this kind of purple prose was read to me through an audiobook. As beautiful and detailed as some of Kristoff’s descriptions are, sometimes they go on for far too long, breaking the flow of the story.
I don’t think the effects were so noticeable when reading the actual print books, because my eye may have naturally skimmed over these big paragraphs and walls of text without me even being aware it was happening. This is not possible to do with an audiobook; instead, the audience has no choice but to be swept up into the entire text.
A talented voice actor or actress can make a book come to life (and narrator Jennifer Ikeda certainly delivered an incredible performance in this case), but hearing the writing read aloud can also sometimes clue a reader in to parts where the author is rambling, focused too much on the irrelevant, or losing his or her grasp on the scene. It happened more times than I would have liked here. It was doubly frustrating to have to constantly skip back a minute or two every time I realized my mind had wandered while listening to a particularly long section devoted to overly embellished descriptions.
Still, this trilogy is excellent as a whole, and I have no qualms recommending it to young adults and adults alike (though make that older young adults, as even though the first book started off as more YA, I felt the series grew progressively darker and more mature with each installment). Was the conclusion absolutely epic and completely worth it, though? Yes and absolutely yes!
It’s great to see that it was a good conclusion to the series. I haven’t read it but we have it in French too and I keep hearing great things about the series. Well maybe one day. In any case, I’m glad you had a good time with it.
The first and second books were great! I liked this one a lot too, despite the slow-ish middle. But it was a worthy conclusion.
I totally agree with your comment about the very over the top descriptive writing, but for me that was overshadowed by the characters and the rest of the story. But Jay definitely knows how to tell an epic story!
Oh he absolutely does! I just didn’t realize how much more obvious the over the top descriptive writing is when it is being read aloud!
What a well-written review! I like the fairness of your critique, Mogsy; how you visited what you liked as well as what you thought could have used improvement. This is probably my favorite review I’ve read so far at BiblioSanctum.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even hear of the Lotus War Trilogy until earlier this year. Seeing so many people raving about Endsinger and the earlier books has convinced me to jump in, so I’m planning to pick up a copy of Stormdancer soon. 🙂
I really enjoyed Stormdancer! I hope I’ll see a review on your blog if you do read it 🙂
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I review every book I read – so yes, it will be there at some point! Speaking of which, I just ordered Stormdancer on Amazon earlier today. 😀
I haven’t caught up with this series yet (only read No.1) which I did enjoy but I can completely see where you’re coming from about the descriptive writing. I imagine that would be difficult to listen to. I don’t really listen to books because my attention would wander or I’d start thinking of other things! It’s a shame it had a negative effect on you for the last in series. I really do wish I could be a bit more focused and listen to audio books – it would be great for all sorts of mundane tasks killing two birds with one stone – like ironing!!! (But I’d either have huge chunks of plot missing or huge chunks of clothing missing due to burns!)
I’m actually not as focused as I can be when I listen to audiobooks – as this review shows! Sometimes if an audiobook isn’t grabbing me, I can and will drift off, so it’s actually quite a good way to tell how effective an author’s writing is. And yes, I do a lot of audiobook listening when I’m doing chores 😀
Nope. Still not motivated to go out and grab book one. maybe if it had a five star ending..
A lot of others gave it a five star ending though, so don’t let little old me discourage you 🙂
Darker and more mature with each installment? Ok I am in
Definitely. I categorized the first book as YA, but I am unsure now after I noticed the darker and more mature themes in books 2 and 3.
I could not handle Kristoff’s writing in audio format…way too wordy. I’m still slowly making my way through this series.
Yeah, I would stay away from the audiobooks then. I know you and I feel the same way about his writing, I think you’d notice the long descriptions jump out at you as well.
Sorry the momentum sputtered out for you in the middle. I don’t think I expected anything specific but yeah the term twists and turns didn’t come to mind either but I was still surprised by things.
There were some surprises, but the major ones I all saw coming – especially with the ending with Buru and stuff. Though the showdown was absolutely epic!