(The Lotus War #1)
Release: September 18, 2012
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.
"One day you will see that we must sometimes sacrifice for the sake of something greater."
Stormdancer is an epic journey of a book that follows a young Japanese girl on an amazing adventure in a steampunk version of feudal Japan. This is one ambitious book - and it totally blew me away! With all the hype surrounding this book (a to-die-for cover and an exciting synopsis) I was afraid it could not live up to my hopes for it, but I was wrong. I loved everything about Stormdancer and even days later I find myself still thinking about all the twists and turns I encountered and the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced while reading.
The setting and blur of genres here is what excited readers well before the book's release date. Steampunk is a new and popular genre but until recently it was mostly held captive in turn-of-the-century London. Kristoff mixed some steampunk into feudal Japan and came away with a seamless mesh. The samurai carry chainsaw katanaas and their armor consists of metal plating and clockwork gears. Citizens of the big city Kigen wear respirator masks that vary in complexity according to cost to avoid the horrible smog in the air. Guildsmen wearing metal suits with all sorts of tools and weapons (and even tubes that are attached to their bodies) roam the streets. Long-distance travel is accomplished through the use of sky ships, which I imagined to be kind of like a clockwork motorized hot air balloon. Its a well-created and creative setting that I loved being in while reading.
The story centers on Yukiko, a sixteen year old girl whose father is the Shogun's head hunter master. Yukiko is a sympathetic character that I could relate to, but still one seriously tough chick. She knows how to wield a sword well but doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut. She was just the right combination of loyal, hard ass, and sensitive. Her growth during the book was incredible and I am SO excited to see where she goes in the next book.
Buruu, the thunder tiger (or arashitora) that everyone wants to tame and keep for their own, is an amazing character.....even though he never says one single word. As he and Yukiko grow closer throughout their time together I grew to absolutely adore him. His wise 'words' and fierce loyalty to Yukiko even through his personal tragedy was so touching. He had quite the character arc as well and it was great to see the affect Yukiko had on him as the story went on.
“Our troubles are but mayflies, rising and falling between the turn of dawn and dusk. And then they are gone to the houses of memory, you and I will remain, Yukiko.”
There is some romance in this book.....and heartbreak, and betrayal and all that wonderful stuff. You have to wait until the second half of the book to get to all the romance and heartbreak so don't be dismayed when you start reading and its not there yet. In fact, much of the first one-third of the book is setting us up for the rest of the story. While not exactly boring, this portion of the story is definitely not as amazing as the rest of the book. I liked the first one-third a lot.....I was rabid with my obsession for the last two-thirds.
At the heart of the plot is this terrible Shogum and the horrible condition of the island of Shima, Yukiko's home and where the book takes place. Through the over industrialization of the lotus plant, Shima has gained new steampunk-esque technology but at the same time suffered from pollution, famine, a corrupt government, a never ending war, etc. As the book goes on you start to feel the revolution building and sides being chosen as people finally start to wake up and see what is happening around them. This element is in the background throughout the story, but a constant part of the plot that drives the story forward and motivates several different characters' decisions. Since this series is called, "The Lotus War" I expect that the next book will lead us closer to that revolution and I am seriously ready to jump into the fight!
There's so much to this story - so many unexpected twists, secrets revealed, betrayals, location changes, ups and downs - that I just don't know what else to say about it! I was thoroughly engaged in this book and am highly recommending it!!!
I do want to note that although this book is technically Young Adult, it did not read like a typical YA book in any way, shape, or form. There is sex mentioned, although not at all explicit, and there is a lot of violence (hello...chainsaw katana swords.....).
"You walked into this village with a thunder tiger beside you. You have slain demons with your own hands. Are the old myths really that hard to believe?"
"They wouldn't be myths otherwise, would they?"
"Then have a care, Yukiko-chan," Daichi smiled. "Keeping the company of the last arashitora in Shima sounds like an excellent way to become a myth yourself."
Recommended for fans of: Japanese fantasy, steampunk, strong female protagonists, mythical creatures, crying, swords, and complex characters.