Release Date: Aug 21st AU | Sept 1st US | Sept 18th UK
Publisher: Pan Macmillan AU | St. Martins Press US | Tor UK
Add it: Goodreads
Preorder: Amazon | Book Depository
A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium is verging on the brink of environmental collapse; decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshippers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, land choked with toxic pollution, wildlife ravaged by mass extinctions.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of the imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary beast, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows thunder tigers 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 hidden gift that 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.
Stormdancer has already been making waves across the blogosphere and it's easy to see why. Two drool-worthy covers and a synopsis that promises one hell of an exciting ride... there's clearly a lot of expectation to live up to. But if you're doubting for a second whether Jay Kristoff can pull it off, I think my newly acquired chainkatana is begging for some friendly one-on-one time with your neck. Stormdancer lived up to the hype AND THEN SOME. After Braiden bashed us with his love on his blog and twitter and facebook and goodreads and alarmed the neighbours by worshipping the book gods from his front lawn (the last part may be a slight exaggeration), I knew to expect something EPIC. And epic, dangerous, imaginative and heartwarming is exactly what I got.
Yukiko is an amazing heroine. Wise for her age, you'll find it hard not to fall in love with her spirit, kindness and determination right from the beginning. But as impossible as it is to believe, she grows into an even braver, more admirable young woman by novels end. Her mistakes and vulnerabilities make her all the more relatable and strong, for she doesn't define herself by what she does wrong. She rises above and keeps on fighting. She's earned herself a throne right next to some of my favourite leading ladies. Every character shines in Stormdancer; I loved Akihito, Kasumi and Kin, not to mention Masaru, Yukiko's father; their relationship so brilliantly layered and sure to rip at your heartstrings.
It goes without saying that every aspect of Stormdancer is breathtaking, but I'd be lying if I said I loved it all equally. There is one relationship that consumed me throughout the book. Romance be damned, the newest trend we'll all be talking about when the apocalypse hits? HUMAN/THUNDER-TIGER RELATIONS. Not the weird sexual kind, but that touching, soul-deep connection between human and animal. Yukiko and Buruu form an unexpected bond that is nothing short of beautiful to see unfold. The subtle changes in them both as they grow closer, the fierce sense of loyalty and understanding; the trust and playful affection. And when they fight together? There you'll find the art in battle.
It's impossible to leave this book unaffected by their journey and if you do, you either have no heart or your name is Yoritomo (which are pretty much the same thing). Yoritomo takes the crown for best villain of the year. I'm quite a loving creature of the earth in real life (I am), but he's the kind of cruel bastard you want to reach through the pages and slowly drain the life from. He is ruthless and cares for nothing more than his own desires and petty pride. He's not an idiot either, which is never a good combination for one with an high aptitude for evil.
The worldbuilding is amazing; equal parts fascinating, repulsive and beautiful. The mythology itself is a thing to be revered, as is the brilliant mix of STEAMPUNK and JAPAN (I know you're drooling). But the damaging effects the blood lotus trade has had on Shima is heartbreaking to witness. We see the natural beauty that still exists in some parts of the region, and when you compare that with the cities polluted by chi - suffocating air, red skies and a dying environment - it's no wonder there are many enraged to the point of rebellion.
Jay doesn't load everything on you at once; not the worldbuilding or the true heart of characters. He takes his time to give you such a well-rounded perception of the magnificent life he's so lovingly set word to. He cleverly punches a hole in your heart and pushes every inch of his story into it. So when his characters hurt, you hurt. When they laugh, you laugh. Stormdancer exceeds on it's every promise and delivers something truly spectacular; Japanese culture like you're never imagined before, action and politics that keep you poised to the edge of your seat, and Yukiko and Buruu; a duo you're forever cheering to dominate the skies of literature.
5/5 Golden Apples!