Author: Jay Kristoff (author website)
Release Date: 1st September 2012 by Tor UK
Age Group: Young Adult/Adult
Two words: Chainsaw Katana. Add mechanical samurai, flying warships, and ask yourself: what else could a book possibly need? Yet Jay Kristoff’s debut isn’t content with its clockwork wonders and mythical beasts alone. Stormdancer straddles genres, steampunk and Shinto fantasy combining with a passionate message for one of the most thematically rich releases of the year.
Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.
But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.
Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she's determined to do something about it.
Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?
The Story:Brave, angry and wild, we meet Yukiko in the suffocating, toxic streets of Kigen City. Polluted by the poisonous exhaust of the Shima Empire’s mechanical advancement, the country is dying. Famine, poverty and Black Lung grip the nation’s working poor. Yukiko is somewhat privileged, the daughter of the Shogun’s Master Hunter, the Black Fox, Masaru, though with most animal and plant life near extinct beneath the blanket of choking smog, why the Shogun needs a master hunter is questionable. Until the impossible happens.
An Arashitora—part eagle, part tiger, thought extinct—is spotted, and Shogun Yoritomo will have it as his prize at any cost. Journeying with her father to hunt the legendary thunder tiger, Yukiko knows their lives are forfeit if they return to Yoritomo without the beast.
They find the thunder tiger, alright. But when things go terribly wrong, Yukiko is left stranded is the empire’s last surviving wilderness with the furious, crippled beast. A beast who thinks and reasons like her. A beast with a soul and a mind that may just change hers forever, and change the destiny of the entire country.
The 101:With constantly shifting point of view and a vast cast of characters, Stormdancer is a tale of many things, and many people, but of none more than Yukiko and Buruu. Yukiko is angry and orphaned for all but her father, who wastes his days and coin in gambling dens, lost in an opium haze. But in a world dying and oppressed by corrupt government and religious zealots, Yukiko has a weapon: empathy—in more ways than one. She’s a splendid character, able to see and care for the suffering around her.
Her weakness is perhaps a lack of resolve, or, if not the will to take action, the way. Enter Buruu. Pure animalistic instinct, resolve, action and fury, Buruu completes Yukiko. His fire combines with Yukiko’s compassion, and the two both grow, Buruu learning reason and restraint, Yukiko learning freedom, and to fight for it.
"Our troubles are but mayflies, rising and falling between the turn of dawn and dusk. And then they are gone to the houses of memory, you and I will remain, Yukiko."
Dancing around behind the pair is a vast, rich world, filled with powerful players and pawns, corruption and beauty, and rebellion. Shima is a world poisoned, choking on the refuse of its own mechanical revolution, and with Stormdancer, Kristoff makes a bold statement on the cost of industry and advancement, examining the true price of power, leading to gruesome, grizzly, and deeply disturbing discoveries.
"Your kind are blind. You see only the now. Never the will be."
But it is worth noting that—perhaps like all worthy, great, things in life—Stormdancer is not always easy to read. Kristoff loves words—and with a demonstrated mastery, so he rightly should—but lengthy, detailed descriptions and wordy imagery do make for a slow start. Do not be discouraged. Persevere, and you shall be richly rewarded.
"Each of you must decide where you stand. All we ask is that you refuse to kneel. You are the people. You have the power. Open your eyes. Open your minds. Then close the fingers on your hand."
The Verdict:A sweeping, thrilling epic, Stormdancer is magnificent. Kristoff’s Japanese-steampunk-fantasy masterpiece is both a splendid celebration of family and friendship and a scathing allegory for corruption, and the grey-area ethics of technological advancement and its environment impact. Call it grown-up, call it YA, Stormdancer is category crossover with a profound tale of friendship, love, and truth that will appeal to fantasy fans of all ages.
Books in This Series:
- Stormdancer (September 2012)
- As Yet Untitled (release date unknown)
- As Yet Untitled (release date unknown)