I didn’t start out on friendly terms with Stormdancer, I’m sad to say. For some reason, I just could not get into the beginning of this book, which was somewhat upsetting because I knew that what I was reading was top-notch stuff. So the first eighty pages or so were a little tough to get through, and I actually had to go back and reread the first forty.
But then the arashitora shows up, and I was completely hooked. Because dang it, guys, I want an arashitora. So awesome.
Okay, so. Basically, this book is brilliant, and I can’t really express how much I was impressed by Jay Kristoff here. Why are there not more books like this?
Yukiko is sixteen, growing up in a polluted steampunk world where the ways of the old gods are being slowly suffocated. Which is bad for her because she possess the unique ability to feel/think/relate to animals. Then the greedy Sh?gun decides he wants an arashitora (griffin), and Yukiko and her friends are sent off to get it.
And then all hell breaks loose.
The relationship between Yukiko and the arashitora, Buruu, was the sweetest, toughest, most amazing book relationship I’ve ever had the privilege to read. Calling each other “brother”/”sister” doesn’t even begin to cover the closeness the two of them shared. They really became one, and that’s the type of bond I love to read about.
Also: worldbuilding. It’s not something that ever makes or breaks a novel for me, but Kristoff’s worldbuilding was absolutely fabulous in Stormdancer. The steampunk elements, the dystopian setting, the nod to traditional Japanese culture, the intricate mythology. All fantastic and completely praiseworthy. Amazing, amazing stuff.
Stormdancer’s plot is the sort where every possible thing that can go wrong does. I can’t tell you how many times Yukiko and Buruu snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I think that normally, I would have been annoyed by Kristoff’s carrot-dangling methods, except I was so lost in the fabulousness of this book that I didn’t care. It’s a great plot no matter how you slice it.
One thing that sets Stormdancer apart from other reads is the romance. Or lack thereof. There was sex but no swooning vows of eternal devotion. I loved that, actually, because let’s be honest here: not every sixteen year old girl is interested in finding a husband, contrary to what most authors portray.
I expected that I would like Stormdancer. I didn’t expect that I would fall head over heels in love with it like this. This book is pure fantastic awesomeness, and when my preorder ships, I’m going to sleep with it under my pillow because of the awesome.
A Shuddering (to the VERY last page) debut! Japanese Steampunk + Talking Thunder Tiger = Awesome!
I can't wait to read what happens next. What an amazing debut. I was literally shaking all the way to the very last page of the epilogue. WOW.
I'm still struggling to come back down off the high that was a riveting, gripping ending, like the sweat beading beneath the fist clenched around the hilt of a sword. I am in awe. Wow. I must go to bed, but I will come back to update this review completely as it deserves all the words. Wow.
Yukiko doesn't see herself the way her father does. Instead she carries the shadow of her mother and brother and the stink of lotus. For her, life must be filtered like the air she breathes through a cloth. She's aged by the harsh world she lives in, pressed between the thumb and finger of the emporer, Shogun Yoritomo and the futile task to hunt the extinct thunder tiger, an arashitora, for his vainglorious plan to conquer the world of Shima.
And, then there's the Kenning, the ability to speak to animals, a power the guild finds blasphemous and impure. All who have revealed such power have been summarily executed in the public square. While Yukiko struggles to be all that her father wasn't, she doesn't realize how much she's like her old man. She can't get away from his shadow, even if it reeks of sake and failure.
The journey north in a skyship not only reveals more of Yukiko's struggle with her father and his mistress, but a strange boy of mystery who only later reveals where he comes from. Meanwhile, Yukiko's dreams are troubled by another boy with sea-green eyes. Below, the lotus crops corrupt the land and all who live there, a cancer, oppressing everyone and everything.
Yukiko also faces her past in the dark and lonely hours aboard the skyship as they travel toward the mountains where the ronin dwell.
When Buruu is found and captured, it comes with a great cost, and Yukiko and her father are separated. Alone again, Yukiko is forced to make a difficult choice and bargain with the arishitora who could kill her as soon as look at her. An uneasy alliance is formed and a bond is kindled.
After the battle with a horde of blue oni demons, Yukiko must make a choice if she is ever to return to her father and find her own place in a dying world.
This was an incredible read, visceral, and true to the Asian culture I lived in for more than a year after college. I loved all of the plot twists and surprises along the way and tried to savor every word of Kristoff's densely imagined world. It is richly appointed and fully realized.
You will not only root for Yukiko, but for Buruu as well.
I highly recommend this book, and look forward to book 2 and 3. This is among my top 5 reads for 2012. If you haven't read it yet, get this book and read it. You'll be glad you did.
Wow, I really don't know what to say. The language in Stormdancer is utterly stunning. The writing is so beautiful and breath-taking that I sometimes stop and read a sentence over and over again. The words were fluid and flows into each other perfectly, they paint the picture so vividly that I have no trouble imagining every character, environment or movement in the story. It has been so long since I have read a YA novel with such an excellent quality of language. The vocabulary is also amazing. Thank you, Jay Kristoff.
Now that I'm done ranting about how beautiful the writing is, I'm going to move on to the story itself. The plot is well-planned and draws the reader right in. When I started the book, read about ten or twenty pages, I wasn't sure whether I'd liked it and whether it would be something worth reading. This is because the background of the book involves Japanese culture and is set in "Japan". No offense to any writers, but I just find that generally Western authors don't have enough understanding of an Asian coutry to write well on stories involving Asian characters or culture. But Jay Kristoff, you really topped this. It's not about whether you have a perfect understanding or use of the Japanese language or whether everything in the book was perfectly correct; but it's about how hard you've tried create and portray this story, how much research you've done and how much understanding you have on what you want to write. Even though it is written in English, I've never once forgotten that I'm reading a story with a brave Japanese girl as the central character or I'm in a created world of Japan. The author skillfully weaves the colourful Japanese culture such as the language, clothing, weapons and symbols etc. into the writing. As soon as I decided that this book was worth my time, I read on and I never wanted to put it down until I finished. The plot was tight and set at a good pace, with suprises jumping out at turns. I wanted to know what happens next desperately. Thank you Jay Kristoff, for such an amazing story.
Honour is something discussed quite a lot in this book. I really liked the take Jay Kristoff took on the idea of honour. Japanese Samuris have a great capacity for honour and they hold it highly. However, in this book, it presents the question "what really is honour"? What kind of people really has honour and how much is honour really worth? Sometimes, there seems to be not much difference between honourable and stupid. The way Kristoff brings out this theme in relation to the setting/characters is thoughtful and interesting. I also really liked the use of Lotus in this book. Lotus is usually something pure and beautiful in Asian culture, but Kristoff twisted it so that the red Lotus (I don't think there's even red Lotus in real life?) becomes the root of all evil. It's contrasting yet interesting.
Now about the characters. I find all the characters in this book were unique. They are not your typical YA characters, especially the central character Yukiko. She is determined and brave. She is willing to stand up to things/people she believes are wrong and she is open to new information/ideas. At the same time, she is very realistic. She makes mistakes, find it hard to find forgiveness and has wild emotions. Even though she makes mistakes, she trys hard to right them and fight for what she believes in, for those she loves. She is full of strength yet shows her weakness.
I loved the thunder tiger! He is absolutely, hands down my favourite character in the book. He changes a great deal through the book. The affection/connection and trust he develops with Yukiko is something extremely valuable and sweet. His sarcasm and unexpected replies also makes me laugh a lot. He is willing to sacrifice himself for people he loves.
I didn't like Masaru at first. He struck me as a man who did not fit his tiltle of the great "Black Fox" of Shima. He gambles and drugs his life away. However, I then see the reason for his actions and his fierce protectiveness and love for his daughter. My attitude and opinion towards him changes dramatically through the course of this book.
Lastly, though it is almost perfect, there are somethings here and there that can be improved. The only thing I found a bit lacking was the use of Japanese. Some uses of the language are incorrect, e.g. "Hai" is not put at the end. And also there just seemed to be a little too much Japanese words in between the English. It sometimes makes it hard to read and understand. I think this is something Jay Kristoff can perhaps improve on for the next book.
The ending was sad yet satisfying. I like the way it ended, but wish I didn't have to say goodbye to a certain character. I'm vastly hooked into this story and am very very looking forward to the next book. To top it off, Stormdancer is a book I really would like to own. :)
Background: Yukiko is a girl of sixteen who has been on missios nwith her father since she was young, her father is the Master Hunter to the Shogun of Japan. Set in a steampunk version of Feudal Japan, the Master Hunter is given the mission to return with the legendary Storm Tiger, a beast that has not been seen in centuries. The story follows Yukiko as she sets off with her father on their mission, which they deem as ridiculous and impossible. All the while there is a war brewing, the government has been aiding in the harvest of lotus, which has polluted the world to the point of no return, and some of the citizens are not happy about it. Can Yukiko and her father find a Storm Tiger, and if they do what will that mean for society and the war?
Review: love love loved it! I was surprised when I received this book at the length, not that is was bad, just a little daunting at about 400 pages. It started out very slow, there was a lot of flipping to the glossary (yea I know, a glossary? how cool and helpful) for me since the Japanese terminology was unfamiliar, but after about 150 pages I was hooked.
Yukiko is one of the best female lead characters I have encountered in a long time, she is independent, clever, and uses her brain...quite a bit. I found myself wanting to be more like her, strong and resistant towards nay-sayers.
The setting was beautifully done and very convincing in the adaptation of the steampunk aspect. I could picture the landscapes and pollution without trying, but that was mostly due to the slower set up in the beginning of the book...which obviously was worth the wait.
I don't want to spoil this book too much for anyone, but the interaction between Yukiko and Buruu was by far the best element. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE I beg you, GO GET THIS BOOK! and then tell Jay how he is the most awesome of awesome!
Just as Amazing as Everyone Says. Actually, No. MORE AMAZING.
(Updated: October 09, 2012)
Holy epicness Batman. Stormdancer is, perhaps, the most talked about book of this summer, and, having now finished, I can tell you that all of that anticipation and expectation is well-deserved. However, Stormdancer is also not what I was expecting. Not at ALL. Partly, this was my fault, but partly this was because of the way books are marketed.
What I didn't find in Stormdancer was the sort of Joss Whedon-esque humor that I was anticipating from communicating with Jay on Twitter and Goodreads. There is humor of a sort, but that's not a driving force by any means. That was my incorrect expectation. I was also expecting, from the way this book was marketed, a young adult dystopia about Yukiko. Well, sorry, guys, but that's not what this book is.
Jay Kristoff actually wrote an incredibly insightful post that got me thinking about the distinctions between young adult fiction and adult fiction, and how, much of the time, the lines are entirely arbitrary. In fact, there have been several books recently that I never would have guessed were 'young adult, and this most definitely falls into that category. I wonder whether some readers will be disappointed and dislike this book because it's so unlike most of the other novels published under that unclear heading.
Although Yukiko is undoubtedly the heroine of our piece, Stormdancer is definitively not just about her. Told in third person, the narrative does not even follow her alone. Many important characters left their teens behind years before. This book does not tackle issues that face a teenage girl. The scope of Stormdancer is broad, and I think that, were this not a dystopia and were YA not so popular, this book would be marketed as epic fantasy, where I personally feel it belongs (if we feel the need to push labels onto our books).
Moving on from that rant, let's actually talk about Stormdancer. You may have noticed that this book (or at least the ARC version) is but 313 pages. Don't let this fool you. Stormdancer is not a short book. The ARC is larger than a traditional trade paperback, the font is not large, and the margins are small. Published in an ordinary fashion, Stormdancer would probably be somewhere from 500-700 pages. If published the same way Divergent was, it would be IMMENSE.
All of those words to read are not a struggle, though, or were not for me. Jay Kristoff can write. His language is ornate and complex, with some of the best diction I've seen from a modern writer, yet all quite natural. Seriously, this man is a genius.
The best part of the book, most definitely, is the world building. Jay Kristoff has built a truly epic world, a steampunk Japan full of demons and fantastic creatures. A young, merciless shogun, Yoritomo, rules as tyrant over Shima, allowing the country to fall to ruin. In this steampunk world, machines run on lotus (think opium...only with the ability to power machinery and to pollute the environment). The mass of the populace is dying from the lotus, breathing the smoke of the polluted air into their lungs. Shima's soldiers (Iron Samurai) and priests (The Guild) are encased in metalwork, safe from the environment.
Set within this dying world, addicted, one way or another, to lotus, Masaru, Yoritomo's master hunter, receives orders to capture and deliver to the shogun an arashitora, a thunder tiger (half eagle, half tiger, as seen on the cover). Though they are believed to be extinct, Masaru and his crew, including Yukiko, set out on the fruitless search. What could, in a lesser book, be the whole of the first volume, this quest takes only the first third or so of the novel. Once they find the arashitora, Buruu, that is when the book really (pardon the pun...or, actually, don't) took off.
At first, I was appreciating the language and the mastery of the world building, but I wasn't particularly involved yet. This is a big part of why I would call this epic fantasy: good epic fantasy takes some time, because there's so much that has to be set up since the world is so different. Once Yukiko and Buruu began to bond, I really became attached to their characters and caught up in their fates. Yukiko is, as the cover promises, a BADASS, with the all-caps completely necessary to convey the degree of her ability to be awesome. However, Buruu totally stole the show from her, I thought. He is definitely my favorite character, because he's funny and loyal and A FRACKING THUNDER TIGER! It does not get more hardcore than that.
The other characters are also fascinating, interesting in how unclear they are. I really don't know how to feel about most of them, unable to figure out whether they're trustworthy or not. Pretty much by the time you figure that out, it's too late. This is not a world where good and evil are always bathed in black and white, and both are generally bathed in red, either from blood or from lotus.
So yeah, Stormdancer is just as crazy cool and full of action and steampunkery (like chainkatanas...think chainsaw + katana and accept the fact that Kay Kristoff is better than you) as you could possibly want. I advise you not to get to hung up on what Stormdancer is, and just to sit back and enjoy the ride through the storms.
An adrenaline rush from the beginning till the end!
(Updated: October 09, 2012)
Thank you Netgalley and Cassandra Galante for providing me an eARC of this book for review purposes.
Ladies and gentlemen,I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that this book will most probably be international bestseller.I mean,just look at it.It's got an average rating of 4.41 stars,and that's before it's even out in stores!!And to think that I have held it off for so long.Even though I've finished reading this,the book's still on my wishlist.And it will still be until I have every single edition of this book,whether it be paperback,hardcover,U.S or U.K. And to my fellow reviewers,those who have this book neglected in your kindle or shelf,I am asking you not to repeat my mistake and start reading this today.If you don't heed my advice,I can assure you that you will regret this later on.
A pure shot of adrenaline,right from the start to the finish,and absolutely unpredictable,Stormdancer is a YA dystopian novel which is a fusion of Japanese myths and steampunk.Yes people,I know what you're thinking,is that even possible?Well let me tell you that it is.I didn't think of the possibility of it either,until I read Stormdancer that is.But then again,if you think of it in that aspect,maybe it is the perfect choice,considering the fact that right now,Japan is the most technically advanced country in the world,so why not?I bet that writing this book took a lot of brainstorming,so obviously if mister Kristoff did not have such an awesome imagination,this book would not have come to existence.And let's not forget the about-to-be love triangles.Dang!Somehow I was expecting those.Another extravagant work of the author.The way he wrote the entire story,it was as if you knew what was going to happen,smirking at yourself for being able to predict the book so well,and then bam!!The last thing you ever expected happens.You stare in shock,and curse mister Kristoff for defying your predictability,which is like your sixth sense when it comes to reading books.Believe me,I am not exaggerating about a thing.I'll even pinky swear!!!It's been such a long time since I've read something so....awesome!Good,maybe but awesome,um,not so much.In fact,I bet I forgot what it was like to read books like these,you know,the ones which makes your adrenaline rush right from the starting to the end.It's like a really long roller coaster ride.
I'd recommend this to every single person on this planet,that is as long you're into thrillers and stuff.If you're not and only read chick-lits and contemporary stuff,I'd ask you to stay away please.But then again,you can always try something new.If not,then your loss. :P