Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: Sept. 18th, 2012 by Thomas Dunne Books
Source: Amazon Vine
A DYING LAND
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.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
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.
A HIDDEN GIFT
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.
Before I get started, please note that I say this is YA at the top of this post, but I think it might be considered adult. However, the main character is 16 and while it had some heavier themes I would recommend it for mature YA readers.
This was a book I selected on a whim. I hadn't heard of it yet (somehow) but it sounded excellent. And I am so *so* glad I did because this was an absolutely stunning book. It had so much about it that made it completely unique and while it's a mix of genres, each genre represented was represented extremely well.
The characters were unbelievably amazing. Yukiko has grown up in a time and place where speaking up is definitely frowned upon. You could be killed for speaking your mind. But this doesn't hold her back. She rebels against the system every way she can that isn't outright going to get her killed. But once things change and she realize what needs to be done, we see this strength in her to do everything it takes to make things right.
All the other characters were great as well and I loved that there were two characters that were completely loyal to her and would do everything to keep her safe. They were true friends and showed this in many, many ways. And while they were not the kinds of friends you would expect, both of which could easily be her enemy, they were everything I could ever want in a friend. And as a reader, I enjoyed the humor they threw into the mix while at the same time horrible and devastating things were happening. Having humor thrown in just makes things a bit more bearable and lightens it up, which I appreciate in darker books. Both of these characters I would love to just give a ginormous hug to, they made this book what it was and were completely brilliant.
This book is epic fantasy, dystopia and steampunk. All rolled into one delicious story! The fantasy part of the book was brilliant. We get mythical creatures, crazy demon things and a world that is devastated, but still holds beauty. Particularly in the Japanese feel of everything. The world has been devastated by the Blood Lotus. The Blood Lotus has taken over agriculture and is used for everything. It's a drug, it's a fuel, it's basically what the country is run on. Unfortunately it pollutes the air (from the fuel), it kills the soil (which makes them tear down more forest and kill off more animals) and it's making the country die. That is the dystopia, along with the Shogun's harsh rules and evil ways of ruling with an iron fist. The steampunk aspects are that it's the Guild Workers in their giant metal skins (like a suit of armor, kind of) that create all these brilliant inventions. Unfortunately it is largely them that is working at killing the country because they push the Blood Lotus to be grown more for them to have more fuel for more inventions. They also kill people that are impure. To be impure you have to suspected (note the suspected part) of having an ability like being able to talk to animals. They burn them if they suspect this. We get airships, along with masks that are to filter the filthy air and this is the steampunk aspect. I'm sure I'm forgetting something very important in this bit, but that's what I'm thinking of off the top of my head.
This book started out a tad bit slow, but we are shown the world through Yukiko's eyes, along with a few jonts into some others and a few pages here and there of memories. We get a clear idea of the world quite quickly and while it slowed the pace for the first bit, it made the story so easy to picture and imagine. And it wasn't long until it started moving at a fast pace and became impossible to put down.
While there is a tad bit of romance in the book, it's very light. However, it has some very big twists and you really would never guess how things would turn out. While I would have liked an epic love story, I think that in this book it just wasn't right. However, I'm holding out hope that there's some serious romance to come in the future books.
Personally, I loved this book. I wanted to tell the world to read it as I read it, and I hope that even those that think it's maybe not for them give it a try. The mix of genre's was nice and I think that those that don't like any one of those genre's would still enjoy it, because each one plays a big part without being too much. The inventions aren't at all crazy or weird or difficult to imagine, the dystopian feel is obvious, but yet not too dark as we get a good middle bit of a more lighter feel. And the fantasy, while epic, wasn't difficult to conceive of with it's court intrigue and crazy world. There is some bad language, and there is sex but it fades out. There are more mature themes, but nothing inappropriate for the mature YA reader (in my opinion). I very highly recommend you give this one a shot.
Disclosure: I received this book for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.