Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Series: The Lotus War #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her father are commanded to capture one for the murderous Shogun of the Shima Isles, they fear their lives are over. After disaster befalls the mission, Yukiko finds herself stranded in the wilderness with only a crippled griffin called Buruu for company. Working together, the pair makes a stand against the authorities, facing intrigue, betrayal and murder in hope of seeing their homeland saved and Buruu fly again.
"I wanted to write an epic adventure, full of battles and betrayals and chainsaw katana fights, with a kick-ass heroine who didn't need to choose a boy by which to define herself."I don't think Stormdancer could be described any better than that, so I'm going to call this a mission accomplished on Jay Kristoff's part. Doesn't that sentence alone just make you want to yell, "YES, PLEASE!"? That's the stuff of dream book descriptions right there.
Did the book live up to my super high expectations after reading that note? Heck yeah, it did. This book is pregnant with epic-super-awesome-amazingness. I'm having a difficult time putting all of the things that I love about it into coherent and structured paragraphs.
I love that Buruu thinks in ALL CAPS, because I think that a thunder tiger griffin thing would be yelling all of the time, even in its head. I like the human-has-telepathic-connection-with-animal trope, and this one is done with particular care, heart, and humor. I like that Stormdancer has themes that are relevant.
The characters are so real. They're honorable and dishonorable and bitter and hateful and power-hungry and angry and loyal and zealous and manipulative and deceitful and just oh-so-flawed but mostly lovable, except for the villain who is completely detestable in the best kind of way. I love it. Buruu is obviously my favorite, because really. But everyone has such a depth to them and the characterization just makes me really, really happy.
The world is complex, and requires a few chapters of exposition in order to build the world and inform the reader of its current state and how Yukiko ends up in her situation. The pacing of these chapters is a little slow, but there's some really good stuff in there as well. If you are impatient, then this might put you off initially, but stick with it. Once Buruu comes into the picture, the story becomes a fast-paced, non-stop crazy adventure with Arashitora wings. The writing is descriptive without being flowery and is just really good.
Though it has been sort of adopted by the YA community due to its 16-year-old heroine and its steampunk amazingness and its mythical creatures and its general possession of awesome, Stormdancer is written for adults - there is some gore and violence, some language, and some sexy times in it. If you aren't into reading about throat biting and blood spatter then some of the scenes might gross you out. Personally, I like a little gore in my sci-fi & fantasy, so I was all about it. And I feel that it serves a purpose toward the juxtaposition of humanity and animal instincts. Yukiko and Buruu share a bond that blurs the line between those two things, and each of them loses a piece of themselves as they gain a part of the other.
The ending is epic and extremely fulfilling. Conflict is resolved - no cliffhangers here. But it's only the first part of what must be done. I am so looking forward to the second book of The Lotus War.
I recommend this book. Highly! Go get it because you know you want to read about griffins and chainsaw katanas and betrayal and war. If you like steampunk, Japanese-influenced fantasy, mythical creatures, and/or rebellion, then you need to have this book in front of your face.