Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When the Shogun demands someone bring him an arashitora (griffin), a group of adventurers gos on an airship voyage to capture the beast, long thought to be extinct. The airship goes down and a girl named Yukiko befriends the captured arashitora. Can the two of them be reunited with Yukiko's friends and overthrow the Shogun?
I received this ARC from the fine folks at St. Martin's. It's freeness does not diminish its awesomeness.
Not too long ago, I got an email asking if I wanted to give Stormdancer a try. Once I read the phrases "steampunk feudal Japan" and "free," I was sold.
Stormdancer takes place in a fantasy version of feudal Japan, one with an environment fouled by the blood lotus, a plant that blights the land but has many beneficial properties, like being smoked or turned into a super-fuel. Thus, the island nation of Shima has an impressive empire, ruled by mad and cruel Shogun.
Yukiko, the heroine, is the daughter of an aging hero Masaru, The Black Fox, and a yokai, one of the people touched by the spirits. The Yokai are relentlessly hunted by The Lotus Guild, armored machine-men who keep the Shima technology moving forward.
If I had one gripe about the book, it's that it takes a little while for the main plot to kick off. To be fair, though, there is a ton of worldbuilding that needs to be done before then. Anyway, once Yukiko meets the arashitora, the book grabs on tight and doesn't let go. I found myself getting really attached to the characters and probably would have went into seclusion if Buruu had died. The relationship between Buruu and Yukiko was my favorite part of the book.
You know how most steampunk seems to be Paranormal Romance with some gears and brass added on? Stormdancer is not one of those. This book is jam packed with interesting concepts, like the Iron Samurai, the Lotus Guild, ninja cells with agents hidden everywhere, yokai, the list goes on and on. Still skeptical? Two words: chainsaw katana.
The ending was poignant yet satisfying. If one were so inclined, one could read this book and not read the subsequent volumes and be satisfied. I'll be continuing, though. Stormdancer is the most original science fiction/fantasy novel I've read in a long time. Five easy stars.
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