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review 2016-06-27 21:00
Short Review: Stormdancer
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff


by Jay Kristoff
Book 1 of The Lotus War trilogy

**Side note:  This review has been slightly modified and my original rating changed--original review posted at Goodreads in April 2013.



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.

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.

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.

The last half of the book merited a 5 Star rating... but the first half of the book definitely didn't. Which is why this book only gets a 4 Star rating--originally, it was hovering on a 'meh' of a 3 Star rating. So, win-win, I guess.

When I finished reading this book for the first time, I was actually a little blinded by fangirl hype and gave it a half a star more for the rating and then proceeded to over-hype myself for the rest of the series. I recently finished listening to the audio book in anticipation of my plans to finish reading the rest of the trilogy... and I've found my experience not all that different than previous, except that I know for certain that, while this book was written very well, and events were quite awesome, it just doesn't appeal to me as much as it did the first time.

Nonetheless.... It's a good book.

And so I modified my rating and my previous review slightly.

The beginning kind of caught me inattentive, which brought upon the lower rating which almost bounced back save for certain things. I hadn't quite expressed much of an opinion on this book previously (because it was very late in my night and I was very exhausted after crunching the last half of the book--or so my previous opinions indicate). But I DO know that after I finally got past what seemed like a slow start to the story, I dove right into the rest of it with this thought: "I physically NEED to finish this book... right now!" Which is always a good thing in terms of how much I ended up loving the story and progression and most importantly the characters both main and supporting.

Because a lot of the slow start may have been my own fault, just being unable to focus for reasons other than because of the way the book was written, I wanted really badly to give it a full out five star rating.

Stormdancer is an excellent book: written well, progressed magnificently, awesome characters created with a nicely planned dystopian society of Japanese steampunk fantasy glory, and etc.... Unfortunately, before I finally DID get hooked into the story with its kickass heroine, crazy-awesome adventure, and selectively random humor that really DID make me giggle aloud several times... well, I still have to point out that the beginning somehow had a lot of awkwardness in the way it was narrated. True, I grew used to it and didn't care for the awkward dialogue and narration, but it still bugged me enough to start the book once the first time, set it aside because I wasn't getting into it, then try to start it up again several months later, and then being unable to get into it once again until the adventure with the thunder tiger hunt officially began.

This was actually a little similar to my recent audio book listening experience as well. The only difference is that I can passively listen to Stormdancer without really paying attention to anything that got awkward and dragged out, just to get past that first half of the story.

Anyway, aside from the above, I have little to complain about for Stormdancer. I know there's a large fanbase out there of readers who love this book to smithereens and any rating less than a five could be called blasphemous. But to me, maybe this is just a case of "It's not you, it's me," and it was really my fault that I had trouble getting through the first parts; however, after getting over that hurdle, there is no doubt that the story from there on out held my attention unwavering.

For now, this is just a brief opinion about my thoughts on the book and I apologize that this small post doesn't offer more about whatever else there may be reason to love this book.



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/06/short-review-stormdancer.html
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review 2016-05-10 19:09
Stormdancer: Or, the closest thing you can get to an anime in novel form
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff

This is going to be one of those book reviews wherein I don't feel like I have much to say. It all sort of boils down to this for me: Reading this book feels like watching an anime. Its resemblance to anime is both its strong point and its weakness. 

On the plus side this book was very easy for me to visualize, in part because of how much it felt like it was riffing off of anime. There are strong visuals, a world that lifts off the page and comes to life, characters that are instantly recognizable (although they wander into trope-land at times), and plenty of action. It made for a fun fast read. While there were few surprises for me, I did find myself feeling for the characters and caring what happened to them.

The downside is that there isn't a lot of depth to be found. The characters fall into neat familiar categories, their relationship progressions feel more like plot movements than organic evolutions, the environmental angle (which I liked) was heavy handed, and the cultural appropriation was occasionally a bit cringe worthy. To put it another way, beneath the bright colors and shiny coating the bones were on the brittle side and don't stand up to intense scrutiny or pressure.

All of that said, to the best of my knowledge this is Kristoff's first published novel, and for a debut it holds up decently well. I liked the story and the characters enough that I'm planning on reading the rest of the series and seeing where the story goes, as well as how his writing chops improve. (I've read Illuminae and it was fantastic.) If a fast paced anime-esque romp through a not-quite-Japan steampunk fantasy setting sounds like fun to you give this one a try, just don't expect anything too deep or nuanced.

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review 2015-08-22 20:10
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff

The world is polluted and it is only getting worse. The Shogun Yoritomo rules with an iron fist, taking whatever pleases him. The Lotus Guild holds sway via their knowledge of mechanics and running the empire’s many machines. The black lotus pollutes land and people alike, choking out the wild places, tainting air and water, and providing a temporary, poisoned escape from reality to those who smoke it. Yukiko, a 16 year old young woman, is of the Fox clan and has a special gift, one that she must keep secret. Her father was once a mighty hunter and the Shogun has not forgotten his past feats. He is sent on a hunt to bring the Shogun a live thunder tiger. However, one hasn’t been seen in so long some now believe they were only ever myths.

Honestly, it took me about 4 hours to get into this book. I’m really not sure why. This book has so many things that I love about fantasy in general and steampunk/dieselpunk in particular. It did take me a while to get attached to Yukiko, our main character. Nevertheless, once I became caught up in the story, I did not want to put it down. In fact, there were some moments towards the end where a few tears (just a few!) might have been jerked out of me. If you’ve been waffling about whether or not to give this book a try, then I definitely recommend it. Just be prepared to let the story gain momentum.

First, this world is not quite like anything else I have come across. I know the description says it is steampunk but the Lotus Guild’s tech relies much more on petroleum products than on steam power. But many of the literary elements of a good steampunk are there – we have an airship (highly flammable!), a guild that is pretty darn secretive about their tech, and goggles. Can’t have a good steampunk-like tale without goggles. On top of the tech, we have a feudal Japan-like setting. There’s plenty of Japanese vocabulary and cultural references throughout the book. There’s a series of islands too, though this book focuses on Shima. No matter what sub-genre you stick this fantastical world in, make sure to also label it ‘Awesome!’.

We don’t meet the thunder tiger, Buruu, until perhaps 3 hours in. He and Yukiko do not start off as friends. Indeed, far from it. In fact, their meeting and subsequent need to survive together is rather harrowing. Yukiko has a secret power that only her father knows about which is the ability to Ken with animals – basically mindspeak with them. The point where Yukiko and Buruu start working together was when the story really started for me and I became fully engaged. I really enjoyed the sometimes banter between the two. Also, Buruu has a rather distinct personality and pretty much only 1 way to solve problems – kill it! He’s not one for thinking about consequences. Yukiko has to be the one to do that for the both of them and that forces her to grow as a character.

Yukiko started off as a pretty self-sufficient yet angry teenager. Her father is often drunk on lotus smoke and Yukiko has to fend for herself most of the time. This is a pretty standard character set up and perhaps that is one of the reasons I was slow to come to enjoy this book. Once she and Buruu end up lost together in the last remaining Shima wilderness, things change. Yukiko is no longer raging (internally or externally) at her neglectful father. She now has a purpose, albeit a small one of mere survival. That blossoms into a larger purpose once she meets some unexpected folks. One revelation after another leaves Yukiko hardened into a focused individual who has one goal in mind. The Shogun should be worried.

Yukiko also has another unexpected ally – Shin. He’s a young guildsman who was badly injured. Through his eyes we learn some awful secrets about the Guild and their purposes. Shin, like so many others, didn’t have a choice about whether or not to be in the Lotus Guild. However, once fully indoctrinated, it is nearly impossible to leave. The Guild is responsible for much of the environmental pollution, the slavery and continued attempt to conquer new lands, and the lotus smoke that both intoxicates and poisons the users. In short, they have much to answer for.

Once the story picked up for me, I quite enjoyed the plot. There’s plenty of well-written fight scenes that had me holding my breath. Also, there is deception, intrigue, and a touch of romance. Yukiko’s and Buruu’s friendship continues to grow. In fact, there was this intense scene where we learn just how fond Buruu has become of his young mistress. Ah! I was worried for our main characters at that moment. The plot has a few twists, most of which revolve around revelations of the past. As Yukiko learns more about the Shogun’s past ill deeds, the more she focuses on him as the evil-doer and the easier it is to forgive her father.

I’m very glad that I stuck with this book. I came to love the main characters and to care about the land and what will become of its people. While the ending (which was most excellent) closed the story arc for this book, it also left us nicely set up for book 2. I’m definitely looking forward to more tales of Yukiko and Buruu!

I received this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Jennifer Ikeda was most excellent in her performance of this book! She had a great voice for Yukiko and her fluid Japanese accent for many of the Japanese words and names really added to the flavor of the book. I totally loved her voice for Buruu. She really managed to capture the tone of an angry thunder tiger! There were plenty of emotions in this book and Ikeda did a great job of imparting those to the character voices.

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review 2014-11-17 19:57
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff

Very, very mixed feelings here. I sort of enjoyed it, but...

I liked the second part better, in part because I'm not too fond of treks in the wilderness/mountains, and also because of the more complex political layers I could sense in it. Also, Yukiko had to grow up, from the sulking girl of the beginning to one who finally understood that things weren't always what they seemed—and grow up she did.

More problematic was the balance when it came to the Japanese influence: I constantly felt it was either too much or too little. The first 100 pages or so contaid a lot of exposition/descriptions, clearly intended for people who don't know that culture; however, as soon as you know just a little, it's already too much. It's worth for the language as well. My knowledge of Japanese is very limited (2 hours/week for, what, two semesters?), but it was enough for me to notice all the glaring mistakes and weird approach. For instance, "shima" means "island" (among other things—you can't tell without the kanji), so "the Isles of Shima" is, uh, "the Isles of Island", which is definitely weird. Another example: when characters, who're supposed to speak "Japanese" (and we're made to feel like they do, it's too close in influence to pull the "it's only inspired by it" card), end up translating expressions. There's no way Buruu, linked to Yukiko's mind, would need her to translate an expression like "arashi no ko". So, for me, it was really troubling, and I'm positive such words could have been translated for the readers without having to resort to such devices.

My other problem with the novel came from some of the secondary characters, who weren't given enough spotlight, or were given too much for plot-device reasons.

First, Aisha, who looked so promising, looked like she could've done and been so much more, and then... nothing. Second, Hiro, whose part was important, but whose influence in the firs two thirds of the novel sprung just out of nowhere. I would wonder: "Why is Yukiko thinking of that guy with green eyes? She only talked to him for five seconds at the beginning of the book." It was like insta-love fuelled by nothing.

(spoiler show)


On the other hand, there's ground for a lot of interesting things in terms of world-building, and in how the blood lotus flower and the environmental problems play a part in Shima's setting. I may pick the second book at some point after all, to see what becomes of this world.

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text 2014-09-30 16:41
Summer Bingo Wrap Up
Everything Leads to You - Nina LaCour
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff
Dangerous Boys - Abigail Haas
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
Anna and the French Kiss (Anna & the French Kiss 1) by Stephanie Perkins (2014) Paperback - Stephanie Perkins
Isla and the Happily Ever After - Stephanie Perkins
Open Road Summer - Emery Lord
Take a Bow - Elizabeth Eulberg
Summer and the City: A Carrie Diaries Novel - Candace Bushnell
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma

Summer Bingo Wrap Up


Well the Summer Bingo reading challenge is at an end. I didn't do quite as brilliantly as with the Spring Bingo. Spring bingo I completed the entire card. The Summer one I managed 21 squares. I finished The Girl Who Chased The Moon last night which would have covered the magical realism square (but I didn't get round to reviewing in time)


 My completed square list below links to my Goodreads.com page reviews which contains dates read. All reviews are cross posted to my Booklikes Page as well. 



Storm Siren – Storm Thunder or Rain in Title


Fangirl - Freebie


Imaginary Girls – Close Sibling Relationship


The Half Life of Molly Pierce – Summer Release


Isla and the Happy Ever After – Season Finale


Anna and the French Kiss – Set in Europe


Open Road Summer – Road Trip!


We Were Liars - Sky on Cover


Take a Bow – Music or Dance Themes


Dangerous Boys - Thriller


This Summer – Set during Summer


Threat of Sky and Sea – Blue Cover


Summer and the City – Pink Cover


Everything Leads To You – MC IS LGBTIM


Glimpse - Retelling


Scorched – Title Starts with S U M E R


Salt and Storm – Set on an Island


Stormdancer – Features an Animal Companion


The Moment Collector – A Stand Alone



Favourites of the Summer challenge were Fangirl, Stormdancer, Dangerous Boys, Everything Leads to you, Anna and the French Kiss and Isla and the Happy Ever After. Worst books I read were We Were Liars which I wound up hating, and Storm Siren which I couldn't even finish. Honorable mentions for other books I really liked go to The Moment Collector (also known as The Vanishing Season, Open Road Summer and Take A Bow.


I was also currently reading Rain my Amanda Sun which would have covered the Asian MC square and The Iron Trial by Holly Black + Cassandra Clare which would have covered the Middle Grade Square.


I made 5 bingos in all. 



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