September 17, 2012

Review: Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff

Author: Jay Kristoff
Title: Stormdancer
Series: The Lotus War (#1)
ISBN: 9781250001405
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Disclaimer: Copy received for review

Buy your copy: Hardcover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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."
GoodReads’ blurb

Japanese Steampunk, indeed. I’m pretty new to the steampunk genre, but it’s one of those things I love to dabble on whenever I have the chance. And if you’ve been reading me or talking to me on the media, you know I’m a somewhat fanatic of Japanese culture. The latter is a double-edged weapon, because I’m extra picky: any guy/girl swinging a katana won’t just cut it for me.

So, what did I find when I went into Stormdancer?
Ladies and gentlemen, it is nothing if not beautiful.

The first thing that struck me when I opened the novel was recognition. I could understand terms, culture references, social paradigmas... And then, these real things were woven with the ever-blooming Lotus and everything changed. It didn’t become less solid, less real. The world was just as believable as the one we stand in, and that’s what made it all the more anguishing. The dying wildlife, the polluted skies, the sick and the poor feeding a hungry war machine that chewed them up and spit them again like so much poison to an empire careening towards destruction and utterly unaware of it. It was chilling. At times, I had to stop reading and to take a deep death to remind myself that I didn’t need inhalators, that my sky was still blue.

There is a price to pay for that level of investment. The beginning of the story gripped me tight, but then we went back a way and worked our way forward, until we reached the opening scene and moved well past it. That first part was slow in going, because the foundations had to be laid. For me, it was worth every single word and I’d ask that you push through as well, because then you’ll be rewarded with the birth of a Stormdancer.

Those scenes were amazing. There weren’t that many tactical details, nor that much gore; there was feeling more than anything and they remain among the best battle scenes I’ve ever read.

Of course, I liked Yukiko and Buruu, and I loved the Stormdancer they become. Specially because I could understand why it happened. I might or might not agree with their plans, and with the way they choose to implement them, but I respect them because I can see where they are coming from. And while I might have acted differently, I might have done the same thing and that’s what made me root for Yukiko every step of the way.

The secondary cast is huge, and to be honest, there’s detail and personality behind every single name in the page. Me, I was most touched by Kin—the strange pale boy with no tattoos who wanted to feel the storm hitting his bare face, the young man who’d risk it all for a girl he loved, even after his heart has been stabbed to death. But the emperor’s sister, beautiful and smarter than anyone gave her credit for; the Black Fox and his addiction to Lotus to hide a forbidden love; Hiro, the honor-bound samurai with green eyes; the emperor himself: they all will stay with me for a long, long while and I can safely bet that they’ll reach you too.

Recommended reading? Well, what do you think? Go and get it. You’re already late.


  1. Recognize! I skimmed because I am reading his right now, just taking a break to see what you guys have been up to. But I have to agree, the novel is beautiful, we need more books like this, I'm tired of the Euro myths.

    1. It's not just that it's not an euro myth... it's that it's a well-thought out, developed myth--but I do confess to a healthy japanese obsession, so... Yeah. Beautiful.

  2. Wow 5 stars? OMG! I heard nothing but good things about this book. Im a bit scared to read this book because most of the reviews Ive read were slow-paced and confusing start, but I think its all worth it after that and im so glad that you loved it and that you recommended it Ron, i am definitely going to read this book! Great great review Ron. x


    1. The slow comments are well deserved. When it began, it was fast and poignant so I thought, "what the heck, boring, this?!?!". But then it slowed down to a "cruise" until things started to pick up again, towards the middle.

      That said, yes: even taking that into account, or precisely because of that, this book was amazing, incredible. I think you'll love it!