You might think it was the awesome cover art or the kickass idea of a Japanese inspired steampunk novel that drew me to Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, but I can honestly say that it was something else entirely. What drew me to the novel was the author himself. I stumbled upon Jay on Twitter and followed the link to his blog. As soon as I started reading, Jay’s cheeky humor and witty turn of phrase had me grinning like a fool. I knew immediately that, if his writing voice carried even a tiny glimmer of the voice that came across in his blog, I would enjoy reading his book. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t coming out in the U.S. until September 18th, but with a little persistence pursuing a variety of possibilities, I eventually obtained an advanced reader copy (ARC).
There is one aspect of the book I adored that not everyone may love (though I think anyone could appreciate the refreshing departure from the norm). The book is Japanese inspired, so the cultural influences, martial aspects, and array of Japanese names/words all sang to that part of me that is in love with Japanese martial arts, language, and history. I stumbled over name pronunciation less in this book than I do in a lot of fantasy and science fiction, which was surprisingly pleasant.
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Yes, that was really awful. Stormdancer has nothing in common with this.
Whether or not you are a fan of the Japanese inspired aspects of the novel, however, it still has plenty for you to enjoy.
Jay weaves us into his dark, gritty world with a captivating tapestry of description that blossoms around the characters as they move through the story. With every sentence, the world becomes more vivid and real. I started the story floundering along, gazing in wonder at this foreign world, then, before I knew what had happened, I was choking down poisoned air with the hiss and clank of steam-powered machinery moving around me.
The protagonist, Yukiko, is one of the best strong females characters I’ve read. She’s smart, determined, a bit stubborn, and not once does she give in and become the damsel in distress that so many heroines seem to melt into at some point, not even when facing that samurai with the amazing green eyes. At the same time, she is still very obviously female, something that can become lost when an author is too intent on making their women strong.
Complex relationships, like the setting, slowly blossom throughout the story. At every turn, the characters reveal new depths to their personalities through their interactions with the people and the world around them. Yukiko’s burgeoning relationship with the thunder tiger, Buruu, and the way that relationship changes them both is worth the price of admission by itself, but you also get deeper and deeper glimpses into Yukiko’s tumultuous relationship with her father and their tragic past that make it impossible not to feel for these characters. Jay extends that complexity of character down to even the bit players in the story, bringing the world to life through their emotions and experiences.
At the end, there were still many unanswered questions. Enough to make me want to know what happens next and look forward to rejoining the characters in the second book, but I was satisfied with the ending Jay gives this first book in his trilogy.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who ever had an itch to fly on a griffon’s back (seriously, if you don’t think that’d be cool, there’s something wrong with you). Or perhaps you can be enticed by the urge to wield a chainsaw katana (not joking here). In case you aren't convinced, here is the book trailer for Stormdancer, releasing September 18th in the US and September 13th in the UK.