Kristoff has blasted onto the fantasy scene with Stormdancer, a steampunk, japanese fantasy. Stormdancer tells the story of young Yukiko whose life has been filled with tragedy and a deadly secret. This secret, however, is just what she needs to befriend the legendary griffin she and her father are sent to hunt down by a corrupt emperor.
I started seeing reviews for Stormdancer a while ago, and quickly found Jay Kristoff’s blog because he is just a hilarious blogger. I’ve never been caught by the steampunk bug, and so I figured this could be a good book to ease into those waters. I had some pretty high expectations for Stormdancer due to all the hype and Kristoff’s obvious awesomeness, and it didn’t quite meet those expectations. I’m really looking forward to watching how Kristoff’s grows as a writer, however.
Goodreads | Amazon
Author: Jay Kristoff
Pages: 322 (hardcover) pages
Genre-ish: Japanese Steampunk Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★☆ - interesting premise and characters, flat delivery
Setting: Stormdancer occurs in a steampunk/fantasy world inspired by Japan, with balloon carried skyships and mechanized armor for the rich. The land has been horribly polluted by the overfarming of the only fuel source: chi. The sky is red, the rain black, the land dying, and yet the emperor and Guild do nothing to fix it. Legendary creatures such as naga, sea serpents and griffins are in living memory, but suspected to be completely extinct due to overhunting.
Premise: When the young emperor wakes up from a “vision” of him flying on a griffin against the armies his empire is waging war against, his greed compels him to have this impossible desire. He orders Yukiko and her father to go find this legend for him to ride. They set out on the suicide mission with a number of loyal companions, but soon crash into the last wilderness in the empire. However, before crashing, they see the legend in the flesh, and Yukiko is able to communicate with it….
- First and foremost, I have never heard of a setting like in Stormdancer. The fresh ideas of the book fueled a lot of my interest in it, and Kristoff definitely delivers on awesome new ideas.
- I love tattoos, so the idea of an entire culture being symbolized by the tattoos that people adorned themselves with was pretty darn awesome.
- Anytime a strong female overcomes tragedy and can communicate with legendary animals, there will be awesomeness. The action scenes that Kristoff is able to write when Yukiko and Buruu fight alongside each other are stunning.
- Let’s start with the subject of some very negative Goodreads reviews. Apparently Stormdancer fails on the Japanese culture thing, though I’m not enough of an expert to really know. If you are informed about Japanese culture, apparently this book might piss you off a lot.
- On a similar note, all of the japanese terms sprinkled in lead to a headache for people not used to them. I had a very poor visualization of the characters throughout the book because I had trouble remembering what different outfits and weapons looked like. When writing for an English speaking audience, it’s usually best to avoid needing to constantly info dump just to keep your reader knowledgable about what you’re talking about.
- The setting was super depressing. Due to all the pollution, everyone is dying of cancer, and I mean everyone. This is fine to start with if things get less depressing, but I was just never happy when reading Stormdancer because I was being constantly reminded how much everything sucks. This is certainly useful to drive tension and plot sometimes, but there needs to be resolution as the main characters make things better. Maybe there will be in the later books, but Stormdancer was less exciting to read than I had hoped.
While there are a number of things that make it clear that Kristoff is a new author, Stormdancer is still a very interesting book. The setting and ideas in it are captivating, and I hope that the rest of the trilogy improves on the flaws of the first book. I think people who like steampunk more than me will probably be more captivated by the various technologies, but apparently people with an interest in japanese culture cringed a lot while reading Stormdancer. Whether or not you like Stormdancer, though, I really think you should check out Kristoff’s blog because it is hilarious.