Series: The Lotus War # 1
Published: August, 2012
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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 HIDDEN GIFT
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.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Format: Library Hardcover
Started: July 14th, 2016
Finished: July 15th, 2016
Drink Pairing: Can I recommend sake even though I’ve still never actually had it?
I’m conflicted with this review. I just finished mini-reviewing and rating Kinslayer and realized I never ended up reviewing Stormdancer. Which means instead of the shining, raving review you would have gotten before I’d read Kinslayer you’re going to have a slightly more critical look back on Stormdancer and the things I overlooked.
If you couldn’t tell from this glorious cover and Patrick Rothfuss’ excerpt, Stormdancer is a Steampunk fantasy set in feudal Japan. It was basically like reading an anime (that I wish was an anime) and I was in love. Kristoff weaves a beautiful story of a young girl with some bad-ass fighting skills and a rare talent that allows her to communicate with animals (in her head, of course. No Doctor Doolittle adventures here). The Shima Isles, divided by four clans – Tiger, Dragon, Phoenix, and Fox – and monitored by the Guild, is slowly dying under the strain of Lotus farming. The poisonous plant that sustains the entire nation burns and poisons the ground, making it permanently inhabitable to both plants and humans.
A country shroud in lies and deceit and repression, the revolution starts small but grows fast. Hiding her talent while trying to find the truth and herself in this coming of age story, Yukiko steals the stage and sets to the skies with Buruu – the impossible and magnificent Thunder Tiger.
“Wait,” he whispered.
But she didn’t.
Basically the book. Annoying? Yes. Original? No. Still enough to keep me reading? With enough sighs, yes.
What really got me hooked was Kristoff’s character and world building. Despite only being 16 years old, Yukiko is so awesome she had my head spinning. She is the daughter of the legendary Kitsune Hunter (proper title escapes me now) who is painted on rice-paper walls. But she doesn’t just rely on his name to make her famous – no no. She’s also as good of a hunter as him and works as one of the Shogun’s four master hunters. Colour me impressed.
And the wit? Totally my speed.
“He wants a thunder tiger, Akihito.”
“Well, I want a woman who can touch her ears with her ankles, cook a decent meal and keep her opinions to herself. But they don’t fucking exist either!”
On top of keeping track of dozens of characters, Kristoff also adds the element of animal personalities. The Thunder Tiger, Buruu, for example, quickly learns the art of sarcasm and humour but still has yet to learn why humans do with the lips and the spit and the touchy things (and then think about it for hours afterwards.. which he can hear if it’s Yukiko):
RAIJIN, TAKE ME NOW.
She shot Buruu a withering glance as he rolled over on his back and pawed at the sky.
HAVE MERCY ON ME, FATHER. TAKE MY WINGS. CHAIN ME TO STINKING EARTH. BUT THIS TORTURE I CANNOT ENDURE.
“Oh, shut it.”
My only qualm with Kristoff is his writing. Almost every other page my eyes would skim over the many long paragraphs to see if there was dialogue (sometimes nothing for three or four pages), or what would happen next because I didn’t care about small details. I hate when I do that and it’s usually a sign that the author is either taking too long to get to the point, being too verbose for the world building required, or are going off on some random tangent that I don’t care enough about (personal opinion only).
He also spent too many words on world-building. Usually there’s issues of under world building but my goodness, after half a book I’m pretty sure I don’t need another four paragraphs to tell me how much the streets smell like shit and how everything has a red tint from the lotus smoke. I got it. I read it the first time. Twenty chapters ago.
Not to mention that his poetic narrative seems to be what most people are hung up on. And I understand, I do. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes poetic dialogue and prose actually diminishes from the beauty or simplicity instead of adding to it.
“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.”
It can be a little hard to read, sometimes – that’s when you skip the line and keep moving. So how do you decide if you like his writing or not, when half the time you’re skipping paragraphs, and the other half you’re swooning over how beautiful it is?
…I don’t know either.
But all in all, the overly poetic prose and over detailed world building aren’t enough to keep me away from this series, nor is it enough to make me down rate how much I absolutely loved Stormdancer. Kinslayer is another story, but I’ll save that for another day.
ENOUGH NOISE. STAND ASIDE. I WILL GUT HIM.