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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer, The Lotus War Book #1
by Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Published: September 2012
Length: 313 pages
Edtions: print and ebook
Source: Purchased

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

A_TiffyFit's Review: I had been meaning to pick this book up and read it for several months now. When I received an ARC in the mail of KINSLAYER, Book 2 in The Lotus Wars series, I started to try and carve out time for Stormdancer. *kicks myself in my ass* I seriously needed to read this earlier. Months and months earlier. MONTHS AND MONTHS EARLIER. As I write this, it's currently 6:34AM. My eyes are bleary. My body is protesting. But my mind and my heart are wide awake. And all because of this book. I started reading a few hours ago intending to put it down and get some sleep. Yeah, okay. 

You could sum up this book in one word before you start to geek out: WOW! And then you have to geek and rave. From the very first few pages, you're immediately thrown into this...steampunk feudal Japan. It is a horrifying dystopia where the air and land are ruined, driven by the Lotus Guild to make their machines, killing the land and its people. The poor cover their mouths with cloth and squint their way through the harsh sun; the rich have mechanical breathers and fancy goggles to ensure they don't get black lung. The skies are burnt red. There is nothing alive or organic in Kigen. 

I love when authors don't explain every little thing you may not be versed in and just immerse you into their world. That's what a glossary is for. Instead, jump into this world, experience it with my character, and let me hold you under my spell for a few hours. Oh, boy did I! 

The world may as well be in front of me, I think I may have coughed a couple times as we were given the description of the black choking rain, the poor mother obviously dying and her little girl standing next to her. The characters are so real they could spring from my kindle and I wouldn't be surprised. Their emotional interactions are palpable. My eyes teared up at Yukiko's memories, and then again when she's fighting with her father, Masaru.  So, you have this marvelous setting and these incredible characters that leap from the page, and so much action and intrigue! 

Yukiko is a wonderful heroine. She is strong, resourceful, sympathetic, smart-mouthed, feminine, and petulant. Yes, petulant at times as you would expect a 16 year old to be. But her petulance is justified as she doesn't have all the information. She isn't whiny and doesn't do that "why me!!!!????" crap. She's a thinker, a reasoner, she listens, she processes, she acts. 

The fight and action sequences are intense, detailed, and kept me glued to my kindle. There were only two things that made my face scrunch up briefly in a question. The mad shogun/emperor is fighting a war against the gaijin or foreigners, right? So, the samurai with the jade green eyes? I'm half-asian. That side of the family doesn't come with green eyes (yeah okay I'm semi quoting the movie Big Trouble in Little China. Shush!). So is he part-gaijin? Or is he Impure? Diachi and Kaori also have grey eyes. Same question. But really, WHO CARES? This was an amazing, five star read for me. I loved the action, the characters, the setting, the plot, the mythology, the story telling, the steampunk dystopian fantasy flavor, all of it. Go. Run. Get it. 

P.S. Jay Kristoff says on his website that he doesn't believe in happy endings. Life & death are part of this crazy thing we call life. I was well-satisfied with that ending. WELL SATISFIED. And while it may not qualify as a happy ending, it was an amazing one. I don't know if I want to sleep or launch into Kinslayer right now. 

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