BWW Review: STORMDANCER by Jay Kristoff
"Dying is easy. Anyone can throw themselves onto the pyre and rest a happy martyr. Enduring the suffering that comes with sacrifice is the real test."
~STORMDANCER by Jay Kristoff
Looking for a fantasy series as deadly and somber at times as Game of Thrones? Look no further because The Lotus Wars Trilogy by Jay Kristof will leave you just as emotionally wrecked as a book from George R. R. Martin does!
When I heard there was a fantasy novel on the horizon with a Japanese flair, I immediately wanted to read it. Having lived in Japan for two years, I still have fond memories of the country and its rich history. I'm new to the steampunk genre, but always willing to try something new, so when I heard that not only was Jay Kristoff's STORMDANCER going to be Japanese, but Japanese steampunk, I was even more intrigued.
The promise of Japanese steampunk wasn't a ruse to bring in readers, either. From the first page, the world is steeped in Japanese history. There are oni (demons) and samurai and geisha. There is mythology and lore that will make you wonder what is based on research and what is out of Kristoff's own imagination. While there is a lot of Japanese terminology floating about, Kristoff is good about making sure that readers are never left in the dark. He'll use the word "tora" in one sentence, then let you know he means "tiger" in the next. Due to all of the Japanese and Kristoff's flair for describing everything in miniscule detail, there is a lot of intense world-building in the first chunk of the book. At first, it was hard to fall into the world, because there was so much new, shiny stuff around each corner, but once the arashitora ("thunder tiger") is introduced into the mix, the story begins evolving and is easy to fall into. Seen through the eyes of Yukiko, a sixteen-year-old from the Kitsune ("Fox") clan, we're introduced to everything through female eyes, which is intriguing because such adventures and heroic destinies are usually left for the males to undertake. I love that Kristoff went with a strong female heroine when introducing us to his world. (See more on his world over at Jay Kristoff's website!)
The steampunk serves more as a background than it does a centerpiece in STORMDANCER, and is in fact reminiscent of the mecha so ingrained in Japanese culture. The Japanese are always so technologically-savvy that it makes sense that they'd adopt a steampunk culture first in order to adapt in a dying world while still retaining their unique culture and history. The story between Yukiko and the arashitora, or thunder tiger, an intelligent beast that's part griffin, part tiger, and the way they communicate and become one is epic. I liked the way Kristoff detailed their interactions; you could always tell who was talking when, and were never confused. There are also looks at family and the price of loyalty. Combined with the lore of mythic Japanese roots and a new, grittier version of Japan, STORMDANCER is a unique, innovative foray into both fantasy and steampunk.
STORMDANCER, the first book in The Lotus Wars Trilogy by Jay Kristoff, was first published on September 18, 2012 from Thomas Dunne Books / Macmillan.