Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer coverFrom Goodreads:

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?

Like:

Everything.  I devoured this book in one sitting.  Forgive me while I gush for a bit.  The world building is complex, but not difficult to grasp.  The book is a well-blended mix of steam-punk and Asian mythology.  These two genre’s don’t always play together well, but here they seem natural.

Characters are fleshed-out and unique.  The relationship between Yukiko and Buruu evolves organically.  I’ve read so many books where enemies become friends because the main girl thinks the other is cute or feels mysteriously drawn to the other.  Well, Yukiko knows that Buruu hates her and will kill her as soon as he can right off the bat.  It takes a lot of time and the realization that they need each other to survive before the two start grudgingly seeing eye to eye.  The growth of their relationship is one of the biggest highlights of the book.  Buruu’s wry sense of humor adds levity to serious moments.  And ooh boy are there serious moments.  There is as much political machinations in this book as martial arts action.  The Shogun reminds me of a mad Roman emperor and the Lotus Guild fills in the spot of a religious cult that secretly rules the empire through control of the blood lotus that acts as an opiate drug, and as a fuel for all technology.  These elements elevate what could have been a straight forward adventure story to a complex political drama.  Yukiko evolves through navigating these political waters from a slightly childish girl looking after her father to become a strong leader for rebellion.

Oh the fight scenes.  This was like reading a movie.  Chainsaw katana’s need to be in more books.

Other things I liked.  The descriptions of places are lush and add to the ambiance the book creates, instead of just eating up pages.  You get a good sense of how polluted the land has become by the blood lotus and the few untouched lands that you see heighten the feeling of loss and underscore how corrupt the empire and Lotus Guild have become.  Everything is connected.  Little scenes in the beginning come back later and influence the plot.  The smattering of non-English words can seem disorienting at first, but they quickly help to immerse the reader in the culture or the world.  The provided glossary in the back helps.  There is romance for those who want it.  I’m waiting for more books to see how it develops before I weigh in on whether I like it or not.  The final thing I liked – the last chapter.  It had me cheering out loud.  That is all I’ll say about it.  This would be a fine self-contained story, but after the last chapter I love the direction that the series is taking and can’t wait for more.

Don’t Like:

There is very little I didn’t like.  Just one small detail bothered me and it contains something that could be considered a spoiler.  It doesn’t affect the plot but if you don’t want to know skip this next bit.  Did the emperor really need to be incestuous?  We already get that he’s evil and it adds nothing to plot.

The next book isn’t out yet so I can’t read it.  Yep that’s what I didn’t like about the book.  I want more and can’t have it yet.

Overall:

This is tied for the best book I read in 2012.  Drop what you are doing and go read this book.

Why are you still here?  Go.  Shoo.  Find Stormdancer and enjoy.  That is an order.

4 out of 4 Throwing Stars

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