Stormdancer: The Lotus Wars 1 Paperback – 1 June 2013
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- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1447200497
- ISBN-13 : 978-1447200499
- Product Dimensions : 13 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm
- Publisher : Tor UK (1 June 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 119,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the Author
Jay Kristoff grew up in the most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience. He worked in creative advertising for eleven years and has won several awards that nobody outside the advertising industry gives a tinker's cuss about. He is 6'7, has approximately 13870 days to live, and can demand whiskey in almost a dozen European languages. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and the world's laziest Jack Russell. Kinslayer is the second novel in his The Lotus Wars series, continuing from Stormdancer.
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Stormdancer is a masterpiece of world building, originality and character. Set in steampunk Japan where 'chi', gathered from the seeds of lotus flowers, is the fuel on which ships and machinery run on, despite it slowly killing the land and people in it. Yukiko, from the Kitsune clan, is charged with bringing a Griffin to the Shogun of Shima. On her journey, secrets are revealed, and with the Griffen by her side, Yukiko realises she can make a difference to the Shima Isles.
I have seen other reviewers say that there are slow sections and that this ultimately turns into a rebel vs evil lord kind-of-novel, and these are both true - but for me, the world, characters and the author's beautiful prose kept me hooked and engaged enough that neither of these things mattered. Highly recommended.
Firstly I want to say how much I love the cover to this book! Am I right? Though, when I first saw this book it was to the white cover, not my preferred one, and from that I was expecting a somewhat traditional fantasy. Then I read the blurb, and I'm like okkkkkkkay. Not what I was expecting but still. Then I see the alternative cover and I'm just blown away. I LOVE the colour contrast, as a massive lover of Japanese art (mainly tattoos) I loved it immediately. I feel the grey/red cover is far more appropriate for this story than the white cover. Just saying 🤷♀️
Now to the actual story 🙈
The characters in this novel are great, each varying in their issues and each growing and developing. The main focus being Yukiko and Buruu, on their relationship and how they grow together. And man am I a sucker for a companion! So this was winning already.
I do think that the prose could have been a little less. There was so much embellishment at times I lost where I was in the story. It was mainly a problem at the start when you were still yet to get to the thick of it but blimey it was a lot. While being a slight weakness to the debut it was also a plus, I don't think this steampunk world would have been quite so spectacular without it. So do with that what you will.
The world which JK has created it so amazing, and it pulls you in because you understand it. With the world we live in today being ruined by pollution, overfishing and much much more it is a world we can all relate to. You understand Buruu’s anger and loathing of those who destroy it for nothing more than greed. It makes his characters that much more.
Despite, my earlier protests of it taking a little while to get into due to a slow pace and description, this book is well-paced and keeps you reading. It does have some flashbacks, but not so many that you lose yourself. They are more her memories of moments that will and have helped her. I hate flashbacks and instill really enjoyed this. So, even if your not a fan if them they take nothing from the story.
This book is incredible, I was worried at the start with it being so flowery and descriptive, but keep on reading it is SOOOO worth it.
It took me several chapters to fully 'get into' the book - it was only really after the third chapter that I began to take interest and was better able to keep track of what was going on. I found this pattern repeating itself throughout the read - some chapters were thrilling, with tantalising cliffhangers... and others were really subpar with cringy melodrama. It's truly a shame as the chapters which got it right really carried me through the book, but ultimately it's not really been enough to push me to buy the sequel (yet). It's certainly worth giving a go, but I cannot highly recommend it to readers.
Let me also say, before I start, that I have heard a lot of bad about his book. I've seen people complain about how Kristoff's Japan is inauthentic and that his creatures are actually more Chinese or Indian and oh no, you can't have that sort of thing happen in Japan because no, historically it wasn't like that. At this point I want to tell people to stop and think for a second: do we tell Tolkein not to include Elves in his work which is suppose to give the UK a mythology because there are no Elves in England? Do we complain when fantasy writers with books set in Europe mix up cultures from all over? The answer is no. So why should Kristoff work by different rules just because he's writing about Japan? The answer is 'he shouldn't'.
Like any fantasy writer, Kristoff should get to do whatever the hell he bloody well wants, and if he decides that oni wear pink kimono with rainbow obi and are actually friendly (which he doesn't, btw), then we should all nod and accept it and not question the fact that he is breaking a mythology that he is being inspired by.
Hell, anyone who has read manga and anime will know that the Japanese are first in line to breaking their own history, let alone when they get to just be 'inspired' by all the myths and legends of their country. So please, to all the people out there bashing this book because it isn't true enough to Japan and you feel a need to show off that you obviously 'know more than the writer', stop and think for a second. Would you do that a writer writing European based fantasy? Because if the answer is no, I'm sure you can see the problem!
Anyway, having gotten that out of my system, onto the review proper!
Stormdancer follows the story Yukiko, daughter of the Black Fox, master hunter of the emperor. But there isn't much work in Shima left for her, her father and their companion: the lotus fields and the pollution from them have driven most animals away or to extinction, and some have even become creatures of legends, people no longer sure if they even existed. So when the emperor demands that a Thunder Tiger be brought back to him, Yukiko--who has had to drag her drunk father out of a gambling den again--is afraid that it is the end of them all.
Kristoff effortlessly brings his world to life, applying efficient brushstrokes of description in all the right places to describe the bustling, thriving, stinking streets of the city where the story starts. You can almost hear the din of all these people together, imagine the strange contraptions that form the streampunk side of the story (although oilpunk or chi-punk would actually be a far better description!). There is life in Kristoff's world and it is everywhere and unavoidable as Yukiko pushes through the crowd, navigating crowded streets expertly.
The story is well paced, and doesn't like to wait around. We find out early on that Yukiko is special and I love how the 'love interest' is introduced. Yukiko is a fierce young girl but that doesn't mean that a pair of pretty eyes isn't going to stick with her, sometimes at the most inappropriate of times. It doesn't take long for the arashitora to be captured but then everything goes to hell: the sky vessel Yukiko and the others are on catches fire and crashes: Yukiko is separated from the others and finds herself with the now crippled Thunder Tiger as only companion.
Here starts one of the most genuine and touching friendship I have read in a long time: Yukiko's gift allows her to communicate with animals telepathically and so she does with Buruu. At first he hates her and hers for what they have done to him, but he has to tolerate her presence because he cannot survive in the middle of the mountains alone when he cannot fly. And so the two are stuck together, Yukiko hunting for the both of them whilst Buruu keeps watch. Soon hatred turns to wariness, turns to a grudging respect that Yukiko can sense when her mind is connected to Buruu's. And together in the mountains, Yukiko and Buruu meet the people that will change both of their lives.
Kristoff does an excellent job of his heroine, who is both strong and soft, wilful and conflicted, but overall driven by a need to be reunited with her father and to stop the abominations that are happening all around her. Yukiko is not stupid, though she can be reckless (and what girl her age wouldn't be at times!), and she almost manages to outwit all those who she needs to. She is extremely likeable, and it's impossible not to get attached to her. Much as it hard to not get attached to Buruu or to feel for Kin who is trapped, literally, in a skin he doesn't want to be in.
But beyond that, Kristoff manages to make us care for the world, for all the people we never get to see, for all the creatures that have been exterminated throughout the years. The weight of it all is there but never is it overbearing and the beauty of the described landscapes plays a perfect counterpart to the events happening within the story.
I fell in love with Stormdancer within the first few pages and after that I was hooked. I wanted, needed to know what would come next. Even when events took a direction that I usually find infuriating in books (getting caught for some stupid reason, namely!), Kristoff managed to not drag anything out, and put the story back on track very quickly. I just honestly cannot see what people have against this book. It was a fantastic read, full of life and adventure, and I am definitely looking forward to listening to the sequel!
Jay Kristoff's characters live and breathe on the page. You can't but help root for the good guys and boo at the bad guys (specially the psycho Emperor). The plot line and action scenes are visually vivid and stunning.
Now, to why this is not a five star. Although I love the story and the characters, the prose like writing was overly descriptive and made me falter several times while reading it. For example, I would start one paragraph and by the time I got to the end, I would have to read it again to get the meaning of it. I think some prose is good, especially in this style of book, and mades the experience for the reader very rich indeed, but too much numbs the senses. The first few chapters were particularly hard going as I found the constant description of the city and its people repetitive. The word chi must have been used a hundred times in those first chapters.
My only other reservation was the relationship between Buruu and Yukiko. Buruu comes across as a proud, elemental beast who hates humans for what they've done to the land. Yet, his friendship with Yukiko develops at a phenomenally fast speed and several chapters later, he loves her like a sister. I didn't find this plausible. I do like the complexity and texture of their relationship towards the end of the book but I think it should have come after many more challenges to test their feelings for each other.
Oh, and I do hope the author tells us what happened to Yukiko, Buruu and Kin? (not sure whether he made it out, I fear we'll find him imprisoned in the Guildhouse in the second novel) during those forty-nine days after they left the city in the second novel!
All in all, a stupendous first book!