Aussie Book Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1) Jay Kristoff- Stormdancer (The Lotus War #1)

 Format- Paperback

 Source- Review copy

 Publisher- Pan Macmillan

 Publication date- 1st September 2012

 Synopsis- Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

 Review- Stormdancer is the debut novel by Australian author Jay Kristoff. I had to give myself a couple of days to reflect on this book. I’ve read some very promising reviews about Stormdancer and I must admit I had high expectations about the first book in this soon-to-be series. I’m not a classic fantasy enthusiast, but I was so intrigued by the premise of this novel, described as ‘Japanese Steampunk’ that I had to pick it up.

In the first book of the Lotus War series, we are introduced to sixteen year old Yukiko and her father Masaru who reside in The Shima Imperium Empire, headed by the Shogun (a.k.a Yoritimo). The Shogun has demanded a ‘thunder-tiger,’ a mythical creature who has the potential to form an enmeshed bond with a human, known as a shadowdancer. Despite the belief of it being extinct, Yukiko sets out on an airship with her father and miraculously find and catch him. A storm disrupts the ship and Yukiko finds herself isolated in the wilds with the beast who becomes her newfound friend, Buruu. When Yukiko uncovers the truth behind her mother’s disappearance her father’s service to the Shogun she and Buruu take on the unthinkable- to assassinate the Shogun and free the people.

Kristoff has created a vivid setting; a distinctive empire with its own customs, clothing and belief systems. He had this down packed and I think fantasy fans will marvel at his construction. However, those who follow my reviews may be well aware that I really put a lot of emphasis on the characterisation in any novel- regardless of the genre. I want to connect with the character no matter how amazing or horrible their world is. I want to know what makes them tick and what motivates them. Unfortunately for me, that’s where Stormdancer fell a little flat for me.

Though I was really immersed in the setting and the masterful storyline, I really didn’t feel like I got to know Yukiko. A brief romantic interlude showed a fleeting insight into her psyche but I can see why the author didn’t want the reader to become to invested in him as a love interest for Yukiko. On the other hand I really did love Kin who she rescues in the wilderness- much to the irritation of Buruu. Kin is a Guildsman (a.k.a Artificier) and believes in a life of purity, this makes for a nice contrast to the way Yukiko is reflected in his eyes. I felt he was a really interesting character, though I got the impression he was much younger than Yukiko, but he probably was about her age. I look forward to finding out more of what is in store for Yukiko and Kin in the next book.

Yukiko’s father, Masaru was quite a character- unreliable as a father, but loyal to the empire. My feelings towards him evolved as the story progressed when his motives was made clearer.

Yukiko is a strong-willed and determined young woman and the connection she develops with the thunder tiger is really unique and endearing. There are a lot of things I enjoyed about Stormdancer and the fantasy world he has created is quite captivating, his cast of characters have a lot of potential and I hope to see them grow and open up more in the sequel.

3.5/5 rating

 

Purchase book @

Fishpond/ Amazon/ Book Depository UK

About the author: Jay Kristoff grew up in the most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. He spent most of his formative years locked in his bedroom with piles of books, or gathered around dimly-lit tables rolling polyhedral dice. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.

Jay’s debut novel, STORMDANCER, a Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy, will be published by Thomas Dunne/St Martin’s Press, Tor UK & PanMacMillan in September 2012 as the first installment of THE LOTUS WAR trilogy.

Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 13870 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.

He does not believe in happy endings.

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