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?
Stormdancer is a Japanese steampunk epic fantasy. Yeah, you read that right.
What I Liked
The book has one of the most original settings I’ve ever experienced. The world is being overtaken by the Shima (Japanese) war machine. Airships and mechanical armor, chainkatanas, and other wonders, all driven by chi–an extract drawn from the blood lotus. Just as the chi saturates the food they eat, and the lotus weed the people smoke.
The Lotus Guild is an obvious tribe to Dune, where even their signature phrase “The Lotus Must Bloom” echoes the “Spice Must Flow.” Unlike Spice, which has positive effects, however, the lotus chi is polluting the skies, causing cancer, and killing the soil. The Shogun can take over the world at the price of destroying his own homeland.
Enter into this Yukiko, a sixteen year-old girl of yokai (spirit) descent. Most of her kind has been hunted down and killed by the Guild, so she keeps her gift of reading animal minds a secret. At least until the Shogun sends her and her father to capture a legendary thunder tiger (griffin).
The imagery throughout the book is vivid, well-researched, and astounding. Kristoff paints a beautiful and disturbing picture of his world.
What I didn’t like
And while the imagery and description is one of his strengths, it can be one of his weaknesses, too. Sometimes the book seems to get so lost in painting a picture of its world, the pace slows down. Other times, the author gets somewhat caught up in his description and uses sentences that don’t flow as well as others, or fit perfectly.
Who I’d recommend it to
Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed reading this book and I’m eager to see the continuing adventures of Yukiko. I’d recommend the book to anyone interested in steampunk or Japanese culture.