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Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One) by Jay…

Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One) (edition 2012)

by Jay Kristoff

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4787021,584 (3.83)29
Title:Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One)
Authors:Jay Kristoff
Info:Thomas Dunne Books (2012), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff


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The world is polluted and it is only getting worse. The Shogun Yoritomo rules with an iron fist, taking whatever pleases him. The Lotus Guild holds sway via their knowledge of mechanics and running the empire’s many machines. The black lotus pollutes land and people alike, choking out the wild places, tainting air and water, and providing a temporary, poisoned escape from reality to those who smoke it. Yukiko, a 16 year old young woman, is of the Fox clan and has a special gift, one that she must keep secret. Her father was once a mighty hunter and the Shogun has not forgotten his past feats. He is sent on a hunt to bring the Shogun a live thunder tiger. However, one hasn’t been seen in so long some now believe they were only ever myths.

Honestly, it took me about 4 hours to get into this book. I’m really not sure why. This book has so many things that I love about fantasy in general and steampunk/dieselpunk in particular. It did take me a while to get attached to Yukiko, our main character. Nevertheless, once I became caught up in the story, I did not want to put it down. In fact, there were some moments towards the end where a few tears (just a few!) might have been jerked out of me. If you’ve been waffling about whether or not to give this book a try, then I definitely recommend it. Just be prepared to let the story gain momentum.

First, this world is not quite like anything else I have come across. I know the description says it is steampunk but the Lotus Guild’s tech relies much more on petroleum products than on steam power. But many of the literary elements of a good steampunk are there – we have an airship (highly flammable!), a guild that is pretty darn secretive about their tech, and goggles. Can’t have a good steampunk-like tale without goggles. On top of the tech, we have a feudal Japan-like setting. There’s plenty of Japanese vocabulary and cultural references throughout the book. There’s a series of islands too, though this book focuses on Shima. No matter what sub-genre you stick this fantastical world in, make sure to also label it ‘Awesome!’.

We don’t meet the thunder tiger, Buruu, until perhaps 3 hours in. He and Yukiko do not start off as friends. Indeed, far from it. In fact, their meeting and subsequent need to survive together is rather harrowing. Yukiko has a secret power that only her father knows about which is the ability to Ken with animals – basically mindspeak with them. The point where Yukiko and Buruu start working together was when the story really started for me and I became fully engaged. I really enjoyed the sometimes banter between the two. Also, Buruu has a rather distinct personality and pretty much only 1 way to solve problems – kill it! He’s not one for thinking about consequences. Yukiko has to be the one to do that for the both of them and that forces her to grow as a character.

Yukiko started off as a pretty self-sufficient yet angry teenager. Her father is often drunk on lotus smoke and Yukiko has to fend for herself most of the time. This is a pretty standard character set up and perhaps that is one of the reasons I was slow to come to enjoy this book. Once she and Buruu end up lost together in the last remaining Shima wilderness, things change. Yukiko is no longer raging (internally or externally) at her neglectful father. She now has a purpose, albeit a small one of mere survival. That blossoms into a larger purpose once she meets some unexpected folks. One revelation after another leaves Yukiko hardened into a focused individual who has one goal in mind. The Shogun should be worried.

Yukiko also has another unexpected ally – Shin. He’s a young guildsman who was badly injured. Through his eyes we learn some awful secrets about the Guild and their purposes. Shin, like so many others, didn’t have a choice about whether or not to be in the Lotus Guild. However, once fully indoctrinated, it is nearly impossible to leave. The Guild is responsible for much of the environmental pollution, the slavery and continued attempt to conquer new lands, and the lotus smoke that both intoxicates and poisons the users. In short, they have much to answer for.

Once the story picked up for me, I quite enjoyed the plot. There’s plenty of well-written fight scenes that had me holding my breath. Also, there is deception, intrigue, and a touch of romance. Yukiko’s and Buruu’s friendship continues to grow. In fact, there was this intense scene where we learn just how fond Buruu has become of his young mistress. Ah! I was worried for our main characters at that moment. The plot has a few twists, most of which revolve around revelations of the past. As Yukiko learns more about the Shogun’s past ill deeds, the more she focuses on him as the evil-doer and the easier it is to forgive her father.

I’m very glad that I stuck with this book. I came to love the main characters and to care about the land and what will become of its people. While the ending (which was most excellent) closed the story arc for this book, it also left us nicely set up for book 2. I’m definitely looking forward to more tales of Yukiko and Buruu!

I received this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Jennifer Ikeda was most excellent in her performance of this book! She had a great voice for Yukiko and her fluid Japanese accent for many of the Japanese words and names really added to the flavor of the book. I totally loved her voice for Buruu. She really managed to capture the tone of an angry thunder tiger! There were plenty of emotions in this book and Ikeda did a great job of imparting those to the character voices. ( )
  DabOfDarkness | Aug 22, 2015 |
I think the best way to sum this up is Japanese-inspired steampunk YA crossed with the Hunger Games. The latter tells you that the plot is fairly predictable, but what really shines here is the world-building. This is a fresh secondary fantasy world heavily based on Japan. Industrialization has turned the skies red, the land barren, and the air unbreathable. It's fantastic. It could translate to an anime so well. I could see a reader who was unfamiliar with Japanese terms and mythology becoming lost early on, but I had no such problems. It was a little slow to start but once Yukiki met Buruu, it was very fast.

Buruu. I LOVE Buruu. I also enjoyed Kristoff's take on kitsune and their powers. The Emperor makes for the perfect villain. Sadly, the end was so predictable I'm not sure if I want to continue with the next book. But there is Buruu... and a lot of other unresolved plot issues, too. So I don't say I am completely averse. ( )
  ladycato | Jun 15, 2015 |
It looks like I found another great Australian writer. Jay cleverly blends some of my favourite genres, Samurais and the Bushido code along with the Shogunate culture and its corrupt Zaibatsu with a retro steampunk genre, while wrapping it into a moralistic environmental tale with elements of mythology. How could you not love this? He is my new favourite writer and I can't wait to continue with this series. More than something to pass the time with while waiting for the next Song of Ice and Fire book to come out. These are characters I can engage with and a universe I can lose myself in.[bc:Stormdancer|10852343|Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)|Jay Kristoff|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1337359560s/10852343.jpg|15767096] ( )
  Clifford.Terry | Apr 30, 2015 |
Damn this seductively beautiful book cover. *sigh*

Confused and worried about the yo-yo ratings given this by my friends, I was hoping my experience would fall closer to the positive end of the scale and since I decided to participate in a read-along with THT I gave it my best effort. And a challenging read it was. I dragged myself, kicking and screaming to page 80 whereupon I began the process of DNFing when I realised the griffin, much-loved by many reviewers, had entered the picture. One last chance was given for Stormdancer to win me over. Unnecessary animal cruelty sealed its fate.

The insurmountable problems I experienced while reading Stormdancer:

• Ignorance. I don't enjoy feeling stupid. Too many foreign words were introduced without explanation (some of which were repetitive). Later, I learned there was a GLOSSARY IN THE BACK. Reading the e-ARC, this was a bit of a problem. Rather than wasting time trying to figure out how to find it and refer to it in a timely manner or use Google I continued reading, hoping it wouldn't matter. IT DOES MATTER. DON'T READ THE EBOOK, read a hardcopy. To my dismay I found myself calculating how much Japanese culture, media and language I have consumed (I've watched Pokémon TV series and Studio Ghibli movies. Owned a Tamagotchi. Read and enjoyed Battle Royale and watched the movie. I'm aware of things like manga, animé, shibari and hentai.) because I understood just one word: katana. A sword. The rest...who knows what it said or meant because it went right over my head.

Authenticity was always going to be an issue being that the author is neither Japanese, and as far as I know, didn't spend considerable time in Japan. Artistic license is allowed and I definitely noticed non-Japanese references like the mention of pandas. I can't speak to how authentic Stormdancer is, but having recently read Across the Nightingale Floor, also by a Western author, I'm wary now of authors writing books set within histories and cultures they haven't immersed themselves in and admittedly know little about.

• World-building. Wading through the info-dump, compounded by my ignorance of the language, consisting of detailed stories and myths I couldn't fathom or hope to remember, was nearly impossible to read. Real myths or part of Kristoff's fiction? Important to his story or not? I didn't know. The author certainly succeeded in convincing me I was an alien introduced to an entirely different world.

• Slow pace. Very little happens in the 90 pages I read. I liked three of the scenes: the drunken gambling, the playful puppy and the childhood memory about the heroine's unusual ability to communicate with animals via telepathy. Golden nuggets of awesome in the writing of those scenes lured me into continuing. That, and the Guildsmen reminded me of Hellboy's Karl Ruprecht Kroenen. I'm not sure if that was intended or even an accurate interpretation, its just what I imagined from the description. Anyway, not much else happens between receiving orders from the Shogun to find and retrieve a griffin and actually stumbling upon one.

Unnecessary animal cruelty. If communicating with the creature was possible, why not give it an ultimatum -i.e. stop thrashing about which will cause us to crash our airship or we'll have to clip your wings, which is it? Such a simple step and one which would've preserved this mythical specimen, perhaps the only one of its kind left, to present to the Shogun in perfect condition. I hardly see the Shogun being able to ride the griffin into battle, as he wished to, now the poor creature's wings have been clipped.

I desperately wanted to like this book for its uniqueness amongst other young adult novels, even adult ones, in not only setting a tale in a non-traditional (i.e. non-Western) place but going back to feudal times, adding steampunk and griffins -a tall order. With such lofty aspirations Stormdancer was either going to be award-winningly brilliant where we'd all be toasting Kristoff's genius, or quietly hoping to forget this overly ambitious experiment. Sadly, I'm in the latter camp. Sorry.

***My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for the e-Arc in return for an honest review.***

Tor's Cover Reveal for New Steampunk Novel Stormdancer. I'm in love with this cover. ( )
1 vote Cynical_Ames | Sep 23, 2014 |
My brain is suffering from an overload of holy crap this book was awesome right now.

I very nearly gave up on this book quite early on. The first hundred pages or so were extremely boring. Almost nothing was happening. It was pretty much introducing characters and setting the scene. Granted though, the Steam Punk and dysptopian themes wound with Japanese fantasy were interesting...but not attention grabbing. The world described was pretty grim and bleak. The Shogun was an asshole right from the start. The female lead was likeable enough. The writing was detailed, the picture clear, the style of the prose a little too flowery and purple prosey.

And the plot was so so slow. And I came very close to DNFing several times. But once I got past the first 100 pages, the plot picked up rapidly and became brilliant. The characters leapt off the page. The story telling grabbed my attention and pretty much did not let go. The story became utterly fascinating. I became completely engrossed and loved Yukiko and her thunder tiger. There were quite a few scenes in the beginning with the griffin that were quite painful and hard to read. As the plot advanced the relationship between Yukiko and the thunder tiger was just amazing. There were more than a few points where the story was so good the writing and the connection between the two brought a tear to my eye. And it wasn't even for sad scenes.

The intricacy of the story telling and the plot developed even more, some characters turned out to be surprising. The sheer imagination in the novel is unbelievable. I don't care in the slightest how accurate the Japanese terminology is, its a fantasy, I look for good characters, believable world building and good story telling, all of which this novel had in abundance. (Once I got past the first 100 pages).

Completely unpredictable as well. More than a few times in the plot, you think you know where its going, then it twists and turns and completely surprises you. Fantastic book. Bring on the next!

This book covers several squares for my Summer Bingo reading challenge. I'm crossing off the square - Features an Animal Companion. ( )
  sunset_x_cocktail | Aug 20, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jay Kristoffprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chan, JasonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Amanda, My life, my love, my first and only reason
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As the iron war club scythed toward her head, Yukiko couldn't help wishing she'd listened to her father.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
His friend Yukiko kill the
Shogun of Shima.
Blood lotus is the
Life blood of Shima, but it
Poisons land, sea, air.

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In this dystopian steampunk fantasy set against a backdrop of feudal Japan, warrior Yukiko captures a supposedly extinct (but crippled) griffin for the Shogun, then learns -- after meeting secretive Kin and the rebel Kage cabal -- of the horrifying extent of the Shogun's crimes, both against her country and her family. Returning to the city, Yukiko is determined to make the Shogun pay -- but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?… (more)

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