Wendy Darling's Reviews > Stormdancer

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
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Dec 17, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012-publication, dystopian-post-apocalyptic-utopian, young-adult, smp, aussies, september, male-ya-author, steampunk, asian, supportive, 2012-favorites, read-2012, fantasy, historical-fantasy
Read from August 10 to September 04, 2012

Read our hilarious and informative interview with Buruu! THERE ARE MORE ARASHITORA. Ahem.

4.5 stars When a book arrives with a massive amount of fanfare, in the form of glowing advance praise and accompanied an agreebly affable author, it's necessary to take a step away from all the hype to ensure that a review isn't influenced by outside factors. Which I did--I avoided reviews, fled the country (okay, that wasn't just to read this book), and read it away from much of the joyful noise that surrounded the book's release.

After the promise presented by the author's description of the story as "telepathic samurai girls and griffins in steampunk feudal Japan," I'm happy to find that this particular novel proved to be an exciting and memorable a reading experience.Stormdancer is nearly operatic in its scope and grandeur, and young Yukiko's reluctant quest to find a supposedly extinct griffin--and her subsequent relationship with the fierce, noble beast--is both thrilling and moving.

The thing is, the reasons why this book is so fantastic are partly why I also had trouble with its beginning. The writing is beautiful, with strong world-building and a meticulous attention to detail that left me slack-jawed with awe at times. But there is far too much description in the first 100 pages or so, where the story plods along very slowly, weighed down with ornate descriptors and exhaustive detail. Reshaping the opening chapters and weaving the history and world of Shima into the narrative more seamlessly would have helped tremendously with tension and pacing.

There is a sincerity and purity in this prose, however, that I very much appreciated. Nowhere did I get the sense that the author was trying to flaunt showy words or to distract the reader with "purple prose" sleight of hand. Rather, it seemed to me that words just poured out in an intensely focused, if seemingly endless, stream in an earnest attempt to make us thoroughly understand this devastated society that Yukiko lives in. It's true that isn't until the thunder tiger Buruu puts in an appearance that the spark of imagination really catches fire. But oh, what a fire it is! The magnificent aerial battle as twenty men strain to contain this furious legendary creature is unforgettable--and Yuki's relationship with Buruu is definitely the strongest and most appealing facet of this book for me. It's impossible not to be touched when the proud, crippled arashitora says succinctly, FEATHERS GROW BACK. SISTERS DO NOT.

Other things I loved: the action and fight sequences. Chainsaw katanas. The scenes in which Buruu's humor peeked through. The dangerous politics of an empire controlled by ambitious and ruthless men. The (quite topical) cry of mercy for a dying land.

I do wish that I felt more for the somewhat under-nuanced secondary characters, however, and that the romance in particular felt more urgent and anguished and real. I've also seen, in passing, a number of reviews that have touched on inaccuracies in Japanese culture and customs. It seems perfectly reasonable and understandable to me that specific knowledge will influence a reader's review of this book; I am mostly and somewhat blissfully unschooled in that area, however, so I found nothing in particular that bothered me. I also tend to look on fantasy with a more lenient eye (true story: there weren't griffins in feudal Japan, either!), similar to the way I might indulgently overlook broad caricatures in martial arts films and the like--but it's fair to say that those who are intimately familiar with Japan may well find more sticking points than I did. Still, it seems worth noting that this is Shima, a place inspired by Japan, not the actual country.

This isn't a book that all readers will enjoy and it's certainly not a perfect one, but for many fans of traditional fantasy--or even occasional fantasy readers like me--this wildly imaginative adventure is lightning that strikes in just the right place. Remember the name Jay Kristoff, because this spectacular debut blazes a fiery trail across oft cloud-laden skies. I for one, cannot wait to be swept away with the next installment of the Lotus War. And I may even get to ride a thunder tiger next time...

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

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Quotes Wendy Darling Liked

Jay Kristoff
“It's easy to lose yourself in the idea of a person and be blinded to their reality.”
Jay Kristoff, Stormdancer

Jay Kristoff
“To be a servant can be a noble thing, but only as noble as the master served.”
Jay Kristoff, Stormdancer

Reading Progress

08/11/2012 page 65
19.0% "SEA DRAGONS." 17 comments

Comments (showing 1-50 of 98) (98 new)

message 1: by Jay (new) - added it

Jay Kristoff Lol, it's taken me about 2 years to distill it down into that one sentence. :D

Wendy Darling That must have been an awesome pitch letter that went to St. Martins. ;) It's impressive that you were able to put so much alluring information within a 140 character tweet, too!

message 3: by Jay (new) - added it

Jay Kristoff I think my agent just got the Exec Editor at SMP soused at lunch. :) But thanks, it's much appreciated!

Wendy Darling Your agent should...take Tarantino to lunch, hah. I don't know what the feel of the book is like, but just that one sentence alone puts all kinds of great visuals in my head.

message 5: by Jay (new) - added it

Jay Kristoff Wendy Darling wrote: "Your agent should...take Tarantino to lunch, hah."

Haha, that'd be pretty awesome :D

Really glad you like the sound of it, hope the 120k word version lives up to the 140 character version! :)

message 6: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura It won my attention when I read the word Shogun.

message 7: by Jay (new) - added it

Jay Kristoff Laura wrote: "It won my attention when I read the word Shogun."

Cool. He's quite mean in the book, so it's about bloody time he did something good for once.

message 8: by Sesana (new)

Sesana Telepathic samurai girls and griffins and steampunk feudal Japan? It's like Christmas in *checks release date* September!

message 9: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa I'm so glad you're reading this one. I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

Wendy Darling Enjoying the vivid imagery so far, ladies. :)

message 11: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Wendy Darling wrote: "Enjoying the vivid imagery so far, ladies. :)"

I'm glad to hear/read it. :)

Wendy Darling And c'mon, sea dragons make everything better, right? ;)

message 13: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Wendy Darling wrote: "And c'mon, sea dragons make everything better, right? ;)"

Definitely. Sea dragons. I don't think I've seen those for a while. :)

message 14: by Tammy (new) - added it

Tammy Ooh, how are you enjoying this one so far? I've got a review copy sitting on my shelf and am planning on starting it soon. I hope this is good as I have some seriously high hopes for this one!

Wendy Darling I'm enjoying it so far, Tammy! Still in the setup stage, though, not much has happened yet. Writing is very descriptive, though.

Catelin Wilde (Feel weird commenting since I'm new and never talked to you before, but I've stalked your reviews for a while. What can I say?) Words can not describe how jealous I am of you right now. Congrats on snagging one. I guess I'll just have to join the hordes of people awaiting this release, and your review!

Wendy Darling Hi Catelin! Don't feel weird about it at all, you're among friends here. I'm very much enjoying this book, and fortunately it's not too much longer to wait before it's out! I will definitely write a review for this one. :)

Catelin Wilde Thank you Wendy <3 You're right! At least I only caught on to this one recently and haven't had to wait for too long. Glad to hear you're enjoying it! So glad you'll be uploading a review, yours always bring a smile to my face :-) Happy reading!

Liz Hello there, it's awesome you were able to snag a copy of this book. It's probably one of the books I'm most interested to read this year. Only a few more weeks to go. I'm glad you're enjoying it, hope it continues that way. :)

message 20: by Lettie (new)

Lettie I have it on hold at my library and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

message 21: by Mithrendiel (new) - added it

Mithrendiel oooo I can't wait to hear what you think about this one, Wendy. I've seen it come up on a few blogs, and it sounds interesting. :)

Wendy Darling Sorry everybody, I've been away on vacation AND still severely jet-lagged, so I'm still playing catch-up.

Thank you, Catelin! That's so nice of you to say, I hope the review lives up to the book. The writing is really great.

Liz, if you're a fantasy fan, it's a definite must-read. :) It's already made a lot of favorites list among my friends, and I can see why! I'm very much enjoying it still.

Lettie, I'm glad your library ordered it--and it's a good thing you put a hold on it ahead of time. I bet there will be a waitlist for it as word starts spreading about how good it is.

Mithrendiel, I am fairly confident that you will enjoy this one. :)

message 23: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy This one looks and sounds really good. I keep wondering though is this one for the younger side of the YA or older?

Liz Wendy Darling wrote: "Sorry everybody, I've been away on vacation AND still severely jet-lagged, so I'm still playing catch-up.

Thank you, Catelin! That's so nice of you to say, I hope the review lives up to the book. ..."

Glad you're enjoying it! It's on my to-read shelf and once it comes out I'll be ordering it. I'm a huge fantasy fan. :)

message 25: by Brandon (new) - added it

Brandon I am so looking forward to what you thought of this one. I've already heard a ton of great things about it. :)

message 26: by AH (new) - rated it 5 stars

AH I loved this one. Can't wait to see your review.

Wendy Darling Cindy, this one is definitely for the older YA set. Not because of anything inappropriate (at least, not so far), but because of the mature way in which it is written.

Liz, not too much longer to wait! :) We'll be giving away a signed hard copy on the blog in a few weeks as well, just FYI.

Brandon, I am quite sure you will love this one. So great for fantasy fans.

Yay, 5 stars AH! Can't wait to compare notes with you. :)

Emily (Book Jems) I'm so glad you loved this one, Wendy! This is in my top three releases of 2012. And now I'm like, "Where's book twooooo?" And Stormdancer isn't even released yet. -__-

Wendy Darling Dude, where the hell did this book come from?! I know all the contemporary Aussie books seem to get the love around here, but honestly Australian fantasy authors have been blowing me away lately. They are the wombats of Aussie literature, I think: a noble but woefully under-appreciated animal, hah.

message 30: by Jay (new) - added it

Jay Kristoff We should get T-shirts!


Emily (Book Jems) Speaking of wombats, I was at the zoo the other day and they had purple ones on sale. It made me think of you.

message 32: by Ceilidh (new)

Ceilidh So glad to heat that you liked this Wendy! Can't wait to get my hands on it!

message 33: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Elizabeth Sounds interesting! I'm adding it to my to-read list thanks to your recommendation. :)

message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Glad you liked it, Wendy!!

Lexxie (un)Conventional Bookviews YAY, you loved it too! I look forward to your review :)

message 36: by Jay (new) - added it

Jay Kristoff Emily (Ed and Em's Reviews) wrote: "I was at the zoo the other day and they had purple ones on sale. It made me think of you."

Were they like ninja wombats or something? Did they have jetpacks and flames up the sides?

Emily (Book Jems) Jay wrote: "Were they like ninja wombats or something? Did they have jetpacks and flames up the sides?"

No (you wish), but they were seriously overstuffed and probably the ugliest stuffed animals I've ever seen. If they looked like ninjas, I would've made that 30 USD purchase! It looks nothing like the cute wombat that Wendy got in AUS and that's why I thought of her. I was thinking that her stuffed wombat would be offended.

message 38: by Micheline (new) - added it

Micheline Excited that you liked this one Wendy! Can't wait for your review :)

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

This book sounds awesome. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

Steph Sinclair Yay! I'm glad you liked it! Can't wait to read your review!

Wendy Darling I want that tee-shirt, Jay! And I whole-heartedly support your wearing one.

Em, my wombat scoffs at purple wombats. But I am pleased that you now think of me when you see one. :D

Just a few more weeks until this one's out, Ceilidh and Lisa! Not too much longer to wait. Then you can complain about the immediate lack of book 2 like the rest of us, hah.

I can't wait to read your reviews too, Kara and Lexxie! This one's gonna be fun to write.

Micheline, I'll have a review up soon, hopefully. This month is jam-packed, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a bunch of reviews flooding this site.

Ooo, I hope you like this one, Fry. It's pretty awesome stuff. :)

Thanks Stephanie! Look forward to reading yours, too.

Molly I cannot wait to read this! Looking forward to hearing your say.

message 43: by Renetta (new) - added it

Renetta I'm looking forward to your review!

Wendy Darling Oh ladies, this is a lot of fun! It starts off a bit slowly, but your patience will definitely be rewarded if you stick with it.

message 45: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Wendy Darling wrote: "Oh ladies, this is a lot of fun! It starts off a bit slowly, but your patience will definitely be rewarded if you stick with it."

Yay, you finally finished it (and loved it). I'm really looking forward to your review.

Wendy Darling I bet our tastes will align with this one, Lisa, given our similar reactions to SMOKE & BONE (mixed) and EON and EONA (positive). I already know what the criticisms of this book will be (and am busily thinking up rebuttals ;), hah), but I do think the book will find its audience in fans of traditional fantasy. And also in some occasional fantasy readers like me!

message 47: by Agent Smith (new)

Agent Smith I own this book-haven't read it yet

sanny I was really excited about this one, but after a few reviews pointing out the cavalier way Japanese culture and terms and handled here, I'm a little worried. Because reading incorrect Japanese would really disorientate me... *dilemma*

Wendy Darling Sanshow, I totally get why people who are very familiar with certain cultures might get upset by details that may or may not be authentic when they're reading books. I generally expect that fantasy books take a certain amount of license, however, so I tend to look upon them with a more lenient eye.

That being said, I'm not all that well-versed in Japanese history and customs. So your comfort level with any inaccuracies may influence how you feel about it overall. I have a friend who majored in Asian studies who is reading it now, so I'm curious to see what she thinks of it.

Jonathan Yes I have heard the same thing about the way the Japanese culture is handled. But I'm not well versed in that culture and I look leniently upon fantasy based on those cultures as you can play around with things far more in fantasy. Still I only gave this four for the - personally I felt - sluggish start. The next book will no doubt be even better for me.

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