I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: The Lotus War #1
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 18th 2012
Genres: High Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult
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A DYING LAND
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.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
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.
A HIDDEN GIFT
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.
Hi there fellow bookworms.
I’m at a loss for words. Honestly I am. I’m utterly flabbergasted. How can we live in a world when pulled to publish fan fiction and middle-aged mum wet dreams can be on international best seller lists and books like… this. This gem. This pure and perfect example of exactly what steampunk could and fucking should be, are only just being picked up. It does not compute. I literally cannot comprehend it.
I just want to say one thing before I get into the meat of this review. This is YA. And it is the single very best example of that market that I have had the privilege, nay; the pleasure, to read. Jay, you’ve not only made a friend of me through our interactions. You have also made a fan out of me in your work. Thank you for this. This treasure.
The first thing that I noticed when I picked up this book was that it was evident that Mr Kristoff had spent an inordinate amount of time in researching Japanese feudal society and the body of a presupposed shogunate, and how they would work. This makes the world building all the more believable because the caste system is right. The references to bushido are right. This is a plethora of wealth that proves the argument of so many readers out there, that audience age is not anathema to quality.
Now Stormdancer starts off being a fairly methodical fantasy yarn, you get your characters, you get your world, you get your quest… on a fucking air-ship. Cue my first man reaction and roar of “FUCKING YES, YOU FUCKING AUSSIE BEAUTY” when I come across an homage that had my inner lit nerd doing naughty things to himself. And then the pop-culture flavours and inspirations came flowing, thick and fast. We have 40k, we have Dune, we have War of the Worlds, we have V for Vendetta, I even got a hint of Watchmen… The list goes on.
And I know some of you will be scratching your head muttering “But Archer… you hate when an author draws inspiration from works like that.” And normally, my dearly demented reader, you would be right. Normally I would be headdesking hard because the author didn’t make those flavours believable in their world. They normally feel tacky and cheap. But woven into the narrative and the growth of the characters here is a message that all revolutionaries hold dear to their hearts. A person can die, but an idea: an idea is immortal.
The MC is a teenaged girl by the name of Kitsune Yukiko. Let me be frank, we see Yuki grow in this book. We are introduced to her as a fledgling tough girl and 300 and some pages later we see her emerge transformed, butterfly-like, into fully-fledged badass. Her… brother-in-arms, for lack of a better term, comes in the fur, feather and blood spilling awesomeness of a wild arashitora, a griffin, known as Buruu. I fell in love with this sky bound feline instantly. His descriptions are enough to make you long for the days of legend when these creatures were born unto the world amid tales of wonder.
Yet as the cast of characters grew I found that I loved each of them equally, in their own ways. Masaru, Yuki’s father, for his perseverance in the shadow of betrayal, Akihito for his blind faith and loyalty to his brethren, Kasumi for her endeavours to be a mother figure to Yuki and Kin for his hero worship of Yuki and his realisation that his order aren’t at all what they seem.
But be warned. Mr Kristoff doesn’t do “and they all lived happily ever after. The End.” What he does is use this book as a springboard to something bigger, something better. The promise of revolution, betrayal, rebirth, revelation and death are all in the air at the end of his tome. And I am waiting with bated breath for the sequel that I know he hasn’t finished yet. And for that…
I hate you Jay, with the fury of a thousand Oni marching, in the dark, for your hide. And failing that, because to be perfectly honest I don’t have a thousand Oni… With the manic rage of a desperate fan with a razor waiting by the sink to shave your beard off until you provide me a sequel!…
Ahem… Sorry about that… That was weird.
Look, I’m not gonna lie. I loved this book. I want to do naughty things with it. It is that perfect an example of what this genre could be if authors pulled their thumbs out of their arses. It’s beautiful, brutal, bloody, all sharp corners with a blood red canvas. It’s soft curves and scents of the orient. It’s love. It’s hate. It’s rage. It’s growth. It’s life. It’s death…