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?
Did you just read that blurb? Yeah, so did I, and that’s what made me hunt this book down. I’ll tell you straight away that I am immensely glad that I did. This was one crazy-ass adventure that you really should get your hands on.
Characters: I love a good story about friendship. Yukiko and Buruu were a great team and I loved how they bounced off each other. Their relationship and how it develops was the best part of this book for me and I can’t wait to see how it progresses in future books. What I especially liked about the characters in this book was that each of them had a story. The side characters weren’t just there to help the plot. They had their own stories to tell and most of them could easily have been main characters. No one is as they initially seem and I loved how my opinions of people changed (sometimes by the page!) throughout.
Originality: A Japanese steampunk dystopian novel with thunder tigers and a kick ass heroine? Yeah, go and find me a book like this. You won’t find much. Full marks for originality! Kristoff has created a rich, complex world with so many dimensions and problems he could easily write a dozen more books set there and I would gladly pick them all up. The structure of the society was particularly stand-out for me and I loved how different and new everything felt.
Plot: The simplest way I can think to describe the plot of Stormdancer would be to mix How to Train Your Dragon with Japanese culture in an alternative history/future tainted by pollution. Yeah, not that easy to sum up. Which is one of the reasons why I love this book! Essentially it’s a good versus evil plot but it goes so much further than that. Just go and pick it up. It’s totally worth your time.
Writing: I really enjoyed Kristoff’s writing style. Dialogue was definitely a stand out. It felt very real and honest, and I was extremely happy to read a book that didn’t hold back on what it wanted to say and how it wanted to say it. Sometimes you get the impression that the writer is holding back, but not in this book. I also liked how Jay managed to write a very detailed and vivid world while never stepping away from the plot. Overall the writing was concise and honest, just the way I like it.
David’s Rating: Easily the most original book I’ve read this year. This is the first in a series and I am very glad this is so. It wouldn’t be fair to only have one to read. If you are tired of reading the same rehashed story over and over again, then you should definitely pick this one up. Five snitches, of course.