Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Published: September 1st, 2012 (TOR UK)
Age group: adult with crossover appeal
Series: The Lotus War, #1
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½
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?
To fall with the door in the house like we would say in The Netherlands (it's a proverb): with its elaborate world building, Stormdancer has a very, very slow start. It takes a good 100 pages for the story to finally start getting interesting. Most people, including me in normal cases, would have given up at that point. However, because Debby convinced me it was worth it to continue reading (she was the one who eh, made me aware of the book's existence in the first place), I kept going. And while Stormdancer was definitely worth my time, I can understand anyone who'd decide to DNF this book before the 25% mark. I'm glad I was stubborn enough to plough through and discover the wonder that is Buruu.
The story takes place in a sort of alternate universe of Japan, stuffed with both fantasy and steampunk elements. My OCD brain is going nuts trying to fit this book into a box when it comes to genre, but it's not possible.. The storytelling feels most similar to that of fantasy novels I've read, but I have to say that Jay Kristoff really took this to another level.
I want to point out that this is by no means a young adult novel. Sure, it features a teenage heroine, but the storyline is clearly aimed at an adult audience. It does definitely have crossover appeal though, so don't let that scare you away.
For me, the biggest drawback of this book is also one of its biggest appeals: the world building. It's rich and cinematic and lush and also a lot to take in all at once. When you start reading the book, it's a terrible amount of information to take in which makes it a sad case of infodump. It immediately puts you into this fantastic world, but it's hard to try and take in all at once. It's overwhelming and that makes the story hard to read. While the story unfolds, you're still thinking about a description of what the scenery looks like where this event takes place, and I don't think that's what you're supposed to do.. BUT when you get through that, you practically dive into the story and you are very well rewarded as this story is absolutely glorious.
The second biggest appeal comes from Buruu. This character is so wonderfully written. He comes alive on the pages and the interaction between him and Yukiko is off the charts. I absolutely loved reading all these parts. And the fighting scenes. And the conspiracy theories. And..
I have to say that I'm very curious about what's going to happen in Kinslayer. I hope the sequel will be just as rewarding as a reading experience as this one was for me. The whole lotus business that Kristoff created rules the character's lives and it really added to the story, giving it another dimension. With the series being called The Lotus War, I'm assuming this will only become more important as the series progresses and create even more exciting events. Personally, I cannot wait.