Author: Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
My rating: 4.5 stars
This didn't happen. This was a dream. Tomorrow, I will wake up and realizing I dreamed all this stuff about bigass thunder tigers and Japanese people dying.
Oh, who am I kidding? This book was awesome, and it is everything it says it is.
EVERYTHING, PEOPLE. EVERYTHING.
From the moment I read the blurb of Stormdancer, I knew it would be something amazing. The premise is captivating: a feudal dystopian (ironic) Japan with Iron Samurai and a weed that's sucking the life out of a previously beautiful country. And after reading Kristoff's own review of his book, I was expecting a lot out of it: creativity, romance, high adventure... Basically, all of the things I would look for in different books seemed to have culminated in this one. But what I hadn't expected was for this book to completely tear me apart in the way that it did.
I'll have to admit that the first part of the book didn't interest me much at first. There were long blocks of text that described the setting in precise detail, and for someone like me with the attention span of a gnat, it was difficult to read through them despite Kristoff's gorgeous style of writing. I think I did a lot of my skimming there and missed a bunch of facts about the background of the society, which came back to taunt me afterwards. However, the long-winded descriptions almost completely stopped being an issue in the second and third parts. That was when Kristoff began focusing on the action and plot development, not so much the setup. And boy, does Kristoff do a good job with action. It's so vividly told, and the weapons are so vicious, you're pulled in the moment blood starts to spill. And Kristoff leaves no survivors. Everyone comes out with some sort of injury or trauma, which is a welcome relief from the annoying part when the heroine is always saved by some dreaaamy guy.
Speaking of the love story in this book...
SPOILER ALERT. IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT HOT SAMURAI, DO NOT READ ON. I MEAN IT.
It completely threw me for a loop. I had inklings that it might happen, and Kristoff didn't really let us know Hiro (the hot samurai, if you were reading my status updates) very well. His and Yukiko's relationship seems mostly founded on lust, but AGHHHH. I couldn't believe it, still. I think it's because no author has done that to the main character's obvious love interest. Now, I have no choice but to put my support behind Kin, although I didn't like him that much. He seems a bit girly and weak, but he has an entire series in which to reassert himself.
That said, I don't think I liked the love in here. It played a measly part, especially since Yukiko spends 200 pages dreaming about some guy with creamy jade eyes, and we only get him for fifty before he goes stark raving mad. I don't think you could even count it as a romance element. It was more a couple secret smiles and sexsexsex at inopportune moments.
--END OF SPOILER--
I think the huge blocks of description in the first part and the romance were my only issues with the book. Oh, and a little bit Masaru & Kasumi & Naomi. I know it's feudal Japan and whatnot, but I didn't like it. It made Masaru and Naomi's love much less authentic and believable.
Criticism over! Now, onto what made this book amazing.
BURUU. Oh, Buruu, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
First of all, the majesty and power that Kristoff gifts Buruu with. Yet the way his thoughts are twined with Yukiko's makes him much more human and vulnerable. Kristoff can write animals. Like... I don't know how to explain it, but he's great at it. Maybe in a past life, he was a griffin. But that part with Yukiko's dog, Buruu, dying? I started telling my friends about it and how it was so sad and they were just looking at me with are you a psycho? looks on their faces. But I really like Buruu. Especially the way he loves Yukiko and his devotion to her towards the end when he has to choose between flight and her. It gave me chills.
THE WOMEN. Despite her somewhat bad decisions with Hiro (but he was sexy, so I'll give her that), Yukiko's a badass. She can kick some serious butt. But not just her. Aisha, I thought, was a wonderful character. I like that Kristoff empowers his women but preserves their femininity. There are some astute observations about the way men treat them, but it's not preachy, and the women fight back. It's great. It's just great.
SETTING. Shima is a complicated place, and the fact that it's set in Japan requires a bunch of study. Well. Kristoff took that concept, and he conceptualized the crap out of it. I don't even know if that makes sense; I may just be blubbering now. Despite the long lines of description in the first part, he begins utilizing action and adventure to paint the image of the world, and I loved the elements of Japanese culture that I saw. It made it so much more exotic and beautiful than some lame, humid forest in the middle of Washington or something.
THE END. The end blew my socks off. It was so heartrending, climactic, and altogether shocking. Prepare the tissues, because you'll be saying goodbye to many characters that you learned to love during the novel.
And that's all I'm going to say. Read the book and find out for yourselves! This one was so amazing... I wonder what the next one will be like.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for giving me a chance to read and review this book.
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