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?
A big thanks to Macmillan for sending me a review copy of this book!
If you've been reading reviews on Goodreads lately, especially over the past few months, then you would already know about people in the book blogging world raving non-stop about the Australian author, Jay Kristoff, and waiting in agony over his debut novel STORMDANCER, the first in The Lotus War series. Fortunately enough, I was one of those readers waiting in agony to get my hands on this book. Not because of its gorgeous covers, both the US and the UK one, okay maybe it was 'part' of my reasoning in wanting this book in the first place, but rather it was because of the book being a Japanese-based steampunk storyline and those are my two favourite combinations genre-wise. In fact, I'm obsessed over those two types of genres.
In a dying and polluted land, we are quickly introduced to our main heroine, a sixteen-year-old girl named Kitsune Yukiko (otherwise known as Yukiko), who lives within the borders of The Shima Imperium Empire. Given a command by the Shogun of Shima, Yoritomo, both Yukiko and her father, Masaru, must look for an ancient 'extinct' beast known as the arashitora and as one impossible journey leads to another, along with many dangers, secrets and lies, Yukiko soons finds out that she possesses a strange power: She is able to communicate with animals telepathically. But when her adventure is soon put on hold and turns awry, she then crosses paths with Buruu, one of the arashitora, but will she sacrifice and turnover Buruu over to the Shogun or will she do whatever it takes in order to protect him, herself and those she holds most dear to her heart?
Now I'm not going to lie. Despite those glowing 5 stars worth of praise, STORMDANCER and I had a pretty bumpy ride from the beginning and almost til the very end. I know, right? How could I of all people say that about a book such as this one? Clearly as much as I thought this book and I would be practically soul mates, but I guess some things just aren't meant to be for certain readers and their much anticipated books. So with me already being a Japanese-fanatic, I did understand most of the terms mentioned throughout the book without needing to look at the glossary terms at the back of the book. So, if I wasn't already aware of those Japanese terms or even the culture within itself . . . then really, there would be little hope for the rest of us - those other average readers - to understand certain things that happened that book so I was lucky I wasn't one of them.
But as I continued reading on and on, sadly I also had further problems as I kept reading the book, one of which included not understanding what was actually going on for the first half of the book. Really I was pretty much clueless with STORMDANCER and I was bored too - and it frustrated me so - at being that clueless about the book. However, when it came to the second half of the book it all eventually began to pick up the pace and it became a little bit more comprehensible for me than the first half of the book was, so a big yay for that! But then there was the writing also . . . I know, I know . . . I hate saying this but as much as I love the uniqueness in Kristoff's writing - how everything read like beautiful and descriptive poetry - but I also found that there was too much description in the paragraphs and I was lost in it I'm afraid. While I do applaud the author for actually knowing what he is talking about and you can easily tell through his writing alone that he researched Japan and other little things like that but . . . yeah . . . the book just didn't work in my favour as sad as it is and it then became a huge disappointment for me. I'm probably one of a few readers saying this but that's just how I felt.
For STORMDANCER's characters they were all pretty intriguing and different to each other's in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. I, especially, loved the relationship between Yukiko and the ancient beast, Buruu, who were in all honesty the only characters I would say had some love coming from me. But when push comes to shove, much like what I had experienced with the storyline, I still felt that there was no real passionate connection with the characters either. Sure I cared about what was happening, but I still didn't care all that much because they were all just . . . characters to me. In the end I guess I just wanted characters to be more then just characters placed into a book, so I really, really hope the sequel brings more out from these characters of ours, you know . . . to a much higher level so I can then appreciate them more than I did in this first book. Also, even the romance I'm afraid to say, the brief romance shared between Yukiko and Kin and with another boy vying for Yukiko's attention, Hiro, had no real passion either. Take for example a 'certain scene' in the book that occurred between two of the love interests (if you've read this book you will know what scene I am talking about), now that scene I found was completely unnecessary and out-of-the-blue because of the lack in romance-depth, but hey, what can you do?
Overall, I can see why many readers utterly adored this book, not only because it contained some of the most beautiful writing but because the story was told from a beautiful imagination as well, this great and wondrous world of Jay Kristoff's. While it may not have been a great read for me, but maybe it will for you! Both original and stunning in its own right, STORMDANCER is a great debut from an Australian author and it will please many of its readers and let's hope you are one of them too!