Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

25 July, 2012 Reviews 29 comments

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.

Review: Stormdancer by Jay KristoffStormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War #1
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 18th 2012
Pages: 313
Genres: High Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Author
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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.

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…

It’s revolution.

Happy Reading




Reviewer at Cuddlebuggery
Archer is a scouser currently residing in Australia, yes he does realise that he is about as far from home as it is possible to get. He enjoys reading anything that can hold his attention for more than the first chapter and he doesn't really care what genre it is either. Reading has been something he has done since he was a child and it is still, in his mind, one of the best ways to kill time. Outside of reading and writing book reviews, Archer is a serious gamer and he reviews the games he plays when he gets a chance. He is also a very keen amateur photographer, an enthusiastic cook and enjoys spending time watching films and essentially trying not to stress. Find him on GoodReads.

29 Responses to “Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff”

  1. Desiree

    I couldn’t agree with you more Archer. I just finished Stormdancer a few nights ago and I am salivating for a release date of the second book (yes, I do know that the first book has not even come out yet). This was a disturbing and beautiful book. Awesome review.
    PS. I’ll help you with the beard shaving if not provided a sequel ASAP!

    • Archer

      @Desiree: Good to know I have a partner in crime… You hold off his wicked awesome ninja wife and I’ll get the straight razor!

      On a more serious note…. ZOMG HOW GOOD WAS THIS BOOK?

  2. Meg K.

    I’m currently reading STORMDANCER and am LOVING IT. And, gosh, now the sadist in me can’t wait to read the ending, since you say it’s not “… and Shima was cleared of all lotus fields! *birds start chirping those cheesy tunes*”

    I will help you with the beard shaving as well. *prepares the razor* >:D
    Meg K. recently posted…Cover Reveal: ShiftMy Profile

  3. AnimeJune

    That is one HELL of a recommendation, Archer. I’ve always been a fan of Asian culture but find they don’t do it often or well enough. Japanese culture + steampunk = grabby hands!

    On that note, however, I heartily recommend Liz Williams’ mystery-sci-fi-fantasy-horror Detective Inspector Chen series, set in the futuristic Chinese city of Singapore 3. You will not regret it.
    AnimeJune recently posted…"Wake," by Amanda HockingMy Profile

  4. erinf1

    PEOPLE!!! Stop flaunting this book! For us mere mortals who have to wait for release day, this is torture! Do you guys delight in taking candy away from children too? Mean, mean bloggers…

    I have this preordered and I wait anxiously for it… I have a feeling (especially from this review) that I won’t be disappointed 🙂

  5. Renae @ Respiring Thoughts

    I’m so glad to hear that you like this one, Archer! I have an ARC but haven’t taken the time to read it yet, and you’ve just made me really excited to open it up! I love how unique it sounds with Japanese culture and steampunk.

    Thanks again!

  6. Kate C.

    *sigh* Oh to be a book blogger. I’m dying to read this. MUST READ. From every review I’ve read, his writing style seems right up my alley.

    Nice Review.

  7. Rachel Hartman

    So what you’re saying is… I should have Jay’s baby, and then that baby will grow up and write another book which will be so good it brings about the end of the world? Or are you saying I SHOULDN’T do that? I is confused!
    Rachel Hartman recently posted…Thinking about listeningMy Profile

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