I'm gonna be straight up with you, OK? Because I respect you, and I don't want you to waste your time. If you don't like,
or E. Fun
you probably won't like Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. But honestly, even if you don't like steampunk...there's still a REALLY good chance that you will love Stormdancer.
Stormdancer leans heavily on what are typically seen as steampunk tropes. I mean it's got them all; goggles, airships, industrialization, chainsaw katana...
Ok, so it's safer to say that it takes those tropes as a jumping off point, as the rest of the book is full of both original ideas and riffs on classic steampunk tropes.
One of the most unexpected (and surprisingly refreshing) elements is how Kristoff weaves surprisingly strong social commentary about war, imperialism, the environment, and the oppression of the working classes throughout the story. This puts it squarely in the tradition of steampunk (or "Victorian adventure") authors, from H.G Wells and Jules Verne, to K.W. Jeter and William Gibson, all of which feature varying degrees of commentary (and criticism) of science and colonialism run amok. There is a strong case to be made that "true" Steampunk must bring this social consciousness to bear, otherwise it's just "Gaslamp Fantasy" (which is fine, if that's what you are looking for).
Yukiko, who serves as our window into this world, is a16 year -old girl, struggling with the traumas of her past and present. She is really quite a good protagonist; she is distinctly feminine, but the story doesn't overly rely on her being so; she feels like a teenager, and makes some stupid, bad decisions, but also discovers hidden strengths and competencies; she falls in love, but never loses her head.
She also kills demons with a tanto and rides a griffin, so make no mistake. This book is pulpy as hell. And I loved every page of it.
While I have read criticisms of the book's use of Japanese imagery, misuse of honorifics, cultural appropriation, etc. I didn't find it personally to be a problem (but take that with a grain of salt, as I am neither Asian, nor female). I'm simply happy that writers are branching out into more diverse cultural and geographical settings.
I am thoroughly looking forward to the sequel, Kinslayer (The Lotus War #2). Stay tuned, good readers....more
Superheros have dealt with may threats over the years; trans-dimensional beings, gods, killer robots, menacing doppelgangers. But one of the most enduring foes is also one of the most seemingly benign.
Superman was called to defend those least like him. Spiderman is is forced to conceal his identity to protect those he loves. Perhaps most noticeably, the X-Men are defined by being the "other", hated and feared in equal measure, becoming an image of oppressed minorities, specifically the GLBT community.
Few people feel more different than teenagers, especially teenage girls. But a female, nerdy, Muslim teenager unexpectedly gifted with superpowers?
Now that is something truly different.
"Ms. Marvel, #1: Meta Morphosis," by writer G. Willow Wilson (herself a Muslim convert) and artist Adrian Alphona, tackles just such a topic in the person of Kamala Kahn. A normal teenage girl, Kamala writes Avengers fan-fic (a wonderfully meta touch), negotiates a fraught relationship with her immigrant, Pakistani parents, and, oh yeah, is mysteriously gifted with superpowers after the events of "Inhumanity" led to the awakening of latent genetic abilities (most noticeably the ability to manipulate the size, shape and appearance of her body). As Wilson said in a interview prior to the comics' release;
Islam is both an essential part of her identity and something she struggles mightily with. She's not a poster girl for the religion, or some kind of token minority. She does not cover her hair –most American Muslim women don't—and she's going through a rebellious phase. She wants to go to parties and stay out past 9 PM and feel “normal.” Yet at the same time, she feels the need to defend her family and their beliefs.
Ms. Marvel was lauded upon it's release, and with good reason. Having a Muslim lead for the first time in Marvel's history would be accomplishment enough, let alone doing so while rebooting a beloved, decades old character (one frequently outfitted in, we'll say, provocative clothing). But Ms. Marvel also stands out for it's finely observed relationships, it's empathetic portrayal of the immigrant experience, and its beautiful, distinctive art, looking more like an "indie" comic than typical superhero fare. For example, here is a typical panel, remarkable if only for its rich depiction of family life familiar to any person, Muslim or not.
Ms. Marvel only suffered in my mind from being so universally lauded upon it's release that it almost assuredly could not completely live up to the hype. Taken on it's own, however, it is humane, thrilling look at the origins of a superhero that is the face of a new America....more