June 18, 2013

Review: Stormdancer

Stormdancer (The Lotus War, book 1) Jay Kristoff


Genre: YA Steampunk
Edition Reviewed: eBook
Amazon: Paperback | Kindle
Goodreads: Stormdancer

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.


Japanese steampunk. Those are the two magic words that have put Stormdancer on many a readers TBR pile/bookshelves. Jay Kristoff has created a world to rival the best Epic Fantasy ones, and writing so beautiful that I had the urge to highlight almost every sentence. Unlike most EF titles the war and conflict of the nation is actually developed, the war isn’t for the sake good action scenes. It’s road to revolution and hopefully freedom. How a single person, a group, and an idea can better the world.

They will win. Though it take a hundred years, they will topple your Shōgun. Burn his fields and cities. Fade away into shadow. Into places his armies cannot reach. More than flesh, they are an idea.

The steampunk mixed into the Japanese (Japan called Shima here) culture is well done. The technology didn't feel over the top and it's pollution of the world is authentic. For those not used to Japanese culture and terms there's a handy-dandy glossary in the back. The gryphon's or Arashitora (trans. Thunder Tiger) is really wonderful and I love the connection that a Stormdancer can have with one. Very Valdemar-ish. The myths and living legends are beautiful and haunting.

The city's broad cypress-bark roofs were desiccated and gray, stripped of paint by the merciless sun and polluted black rains that fell in Shima's winter months.

The goggles that are standard issue for pretty much every steampunk have a use besides eye protection while flying in the sky. Everyone needs them to protect there eyes from the sun. Pollution and the death of the world is a big issue here. It's amazing seeing the portrayal of people simply accepting that it. There's no food, animal or plant kind, as the technology’s advancement kills nature. Every field of lotus used to make the fuel powering the technology sterilizes the land, and the cure to prolong the use of the land is a shocking revelation. There's prisoners of war used as slaves, child labor, disease caused by the pollution.

"One day you will understand, Yukiko. One day you will see that we must sometimes sacrifice for the sake of something greater."

Stormdancer isn't simply about the story of a kingdom gaining it's freedom from a mad tyrant. The people realizing that they are the power of the nation. It's about Yukiko's journey from the innocence of youth to adulthood. To being able to see the truth and confront and deal with it. Growing up out of the self righteousness of youth. There is a love triangle here, with a point behind it. The romance shows the ramifications of being in love with an idea of someone and the reality of love.

Yukiko is a wonderful leading lady for the youths to look up to. She's responsible and can take care of herself. While still accepting that she is a child. Her interactions with the gryphon and the people around her felt so real. Her kindness to a beggar girl in the streets, to the hardness she shows her farther develops and evolves.

As always, there were a few things I have to knit pick. The red lotus is never explained. Ever thing is called lotus: lotus flies, lotus rats . . . Is it because they are some how created by the lotus? Or because lotus is so influential they just need to add it into everything because it's shaped it? Plus, how is this lotus different from other lotuses and how was it developed? The immediate love interest over a pair of green eyes was beyond annoying. Kristoff created an interesting coming of age story around it, but it was still naive. Maybe. That was the point. (I'll go with that.)

"Each of you must decide where you stand," she called. "All we ask is that you refuse to kneel. You are the people. You have the power. Open your eyes. Open your minds. Then close the fingers on your hand."

Stormdancer isn't just a story of a woman growing up. Or the revolution of a nation. It's both, and much more. Showing the horrors of tyranny, the price of rebellion and taking a stand, the toll of simply ignoring the world around you, death and loss, and the gift of choice. Kristoff blends aspects of many genres to create a complex tale. This is for readers who have interest in steampunk, epic fantasy, Japanese culture, action, political intrigue, and those craving a unique and different world. Ah, perfection.

Sexual Content: There are geisha in this tale. There is some sex, but very mild no full on bedroom scenes. Sexual humor and some peeping toms.

5/5- Fabulous, a beautiful obsession!

Previous book(s) in series:
Reviewed on BW: Amazon: Goodreads:
Stormdancer (1) 
Kinslayer (2)
Untitled (3)

Stormdancer (1)
Kinslayer (2)
Untitled (3)

Stormdancer (1)
Kinslayer (2)
Untitled (3)

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