Friday, September 14, 2012

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff a Review

Stormdancer

by Jay Kristoff
Goodreads Summary:
A DYING LAND 
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever. 
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. 
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

I'll just say right now, this is a book I've been waiting almost nine months to read. It had a lot to live up to and I can say not only did it not disappoint me but if far exceeded my expectations. I expected good writing, I've been following Jay Kristoff's blog for awhile and knew he was capable of it. I got exceptionally descriptive prose so artistic that it painted a picture of the world he was describing. Yes, it was intricate and detailed to a fault, but once described, I knew what an Irezumi from each of the Zaibatsu clans looked like. I knew that Docktown was crawling with all types of people peasant to beggar to merchant. And the color of the sky, the color of a person's skin, and the color of Shima under the Shogun's rule. I was never in doubt. And this was what I always thought steampunk looked like, streets and air clogged with pollution and smoke from too many machines, people choking on the air, wearing goggles because they had to, not as a fashion statement. Too many people in too small a space. Not revolutionary ideas, but excess of machines. So yes, there is a lot of description, but like any painter, he must lay down the foundations, the base colors before the finer colors, the plot, the characters can be painted.

And the characters oh, so unforgettable. Yukiko, the 16 yr old main character is has hard as any substance on this planet. She is not without feeling, her heart is big and she loves, but she does what must be done. I thought I had seen tough characters in the past in the books I've read. All of them put together do not equal Yukiko. It's not just her skill at killing or her friendship with Buruu the "thundertiger" or the proper name arashitora. It's her ability to make decisions, the hard ones. To separate feeling from her mission. She is ruthless in her quest to restore Shima to it's former glory, when the sky was blue, when there were animals, and green plants. When the sun didn't burn everything up. When the water was clean and the air was safe to breathe. How she'll do this, she's not sure, but in this novel, she takes the first steps. 

The other characters whether minor or major, were never ignored or forgotten. From Hiro, the samurai  with the sea green eyes, to Masaru, Yukiko's father and the Master Hunter of the Shogun called "The Black Fox", no one was forgotten, each given rich detail and motivation. I was afraid I'd get hung up on foreign names and nicknames with "san" and "chan" added after the names and everything being so different. But it's as if Jay Kristoff leads you by the hand until you're comfortable with the world and then let's go. So I was never lost, I knew what every Yukiko-san meant and what Bushido was (of course the glossary in the back was very helpful and I read it a few times before I started reading). But the depth of what honor is and sacrifice for something bigger than herself-Yukiko taught me that lesson better than anything I've ever read, classics, adult comtemporaries, anything else in YA.

To say Stormdancer left an impression on me would be a huge understatement. To say that it is a good novel is an understatement. And to say that Yukiko and Buruu are just two characters in a book is an understatement. Nothing in Stormdancer is an understatement. I was there. I lived it. I felt it. That's what a great novel is. Stormdancer.
Heather

13 comments:

  1. Squeals!!!! Awesome summery about this awesome book!! There is so much to tell about this book, that often I I feel like I didn't do it completely justice. I loved the interesting mix, bit mor of all I loved Buruu!

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    1. There is just so much to say I thought it might take two posts to do it justice. In the end I just focused on what I loved most. I loved both Buruus. I cried, oh, not a good time for that first Buruu scene for me. I loved how protective Buruu became of her!

      And your review did a great job! I do see what you meant about that romance! LOL

      Heather

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  2. YAY! I've been *so* curious about this book ever since I saw it on your blog and waited to read your review (which was awesome by the way). I'm really curious about the marriage of the Japanese culture and steampunk in this book. I just saw it on order at my library and so hopefully, I'll get it really soon.

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    1. I haven't read much about the Japanese culture, a few required reading books my son had to read, but this was so great! The respect was there that I always see in the culture, but the marriage of the steampunk and what it did to Shima (the land) was actually heartbreaking. It was so gritty and grimy, I sometimes felt like I was choking. There are a lot of machines in use, believe me!

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  3. I also enjoyed this book a lot but the writing was too much for me. I really struggled in the beginning chapters.

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    1. I guess that's what I meant in that he had to lay down the base colors before he could put in the details. He is very descriptive and the story doesn't start until about page 50 or so, but it was such a new place and time and genre for me I needed all of that to get me introduced. After it, I was never lost like I was afraid I might be not knowing a thing about Japanese culture. I was actually patient for once, not something I'm known for.

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  4. This book is everywhere today! And this is the 3rd absolutely glowing review for it I've read this morning, so I'm thinking I need to get on the Stormdancer train and see what all the talk is about. I love when a book I've been waiting forever for exceeds my expectations, that's such a great feeling. So glad this book was that way for you Heather!

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    1. Jenny-
      There isn't a great romance, not in the boy/girl sense but there is a love between Yukiko and Buruu and knowing you and your Boxers, you will love Buruu and that relationship! And you will appreciate good writing. Yes, he's a bit descriptive, for some too much, but it was fine for me. And I understand how some would get tired of it, but I needed it to get me immersed. I was totally there in the story. When they were hunting the Thundertiger (Buruu) I was there in the lighning and the rain, tasting the fresh water, seeing how majestic this supposedly extinct animal was. The mark of a great book for me takes me completely out of my world and this one did. Hope it's that way for you, too.

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  5. I LOVED this one as well. It was so well written. I think I want a print copy of this one. I so agree, the world he created was very lush and Buruu was great! My dogs are scared that I'll bring one home... ;)

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    1. Yeah, unless you can communicate with Buruu they way Yukiko can, I'd be like your dogs! He might think they were a snack!

      I loved this one. I had no idea how things would work out. I couldn't imagine what Yukiko was going to do when she made that promise and then when the ending started to happen I was just like "NOOOOO!"

      I read someone's review that said this could be a stand alone and in many cases that's true I think. Almost all the loose ends are tied up except the one huge one. I like it when there aren't any big cliff hangers!

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  6. I think I got tears in my eyes your review was so perfect! I just wanted to yell "that! Yes, THAT!" because you said what I felt. Its a detailed world but like you said, Jay holds your hand through it, you just need some patience. Its been a couple months since I read it and I still have so much love for Buruu. I just loved that Thundertiger!

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    1. Oh I am so glad you felt that way too Candace! So many people think it was over done, but I appreciated the hand holding. I feel like I wouldn't have read it if he hadn't done that. He did it just long enough for me to feel comfortable.

      Who could not have loved Buruu? Oh, did I love him! The connection they had, it was incredible!

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  7. Squee! This book is fab, fab, fab! I don't think I've read such a descriptive and imaginative world in like...oh...forever! LOL Yukiko kicks butt! Awesome story.

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