Emily May's Reviews > Stormdancer

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
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Jul 10, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: young-adult, arc, fantasy, steampunk, 2012, coverly-love
Read from July 16 to 25, 2012

At first I didn't write my review of Stormdancer because the publisher specifically asked me to hold off on posting it until September. Then I didn't write it because I was in the minority and I had to take a deep breath before I put my negative opinion out there. And now I'm writing it because I don't care any longer, I've accepted that my opinion is valid and not just a one off that deserves to belong on my "its-me-not-you" shelf. I didn't enjoy Stormdancer, I can't give it more than one star because it doesn't belong in the realm of "it was ok" for me.

I understand why people would love this, and if you don't understand then just navigate towards the million glowing reviews on the book's goodreads page. Stormdancer has a strong heroine, widely developed world-building, an Asian setting, many mythical creatures, and it is very wordy and big on the descriptions. And it is this last that made so many people gush while simultaneously making me want to tear my hair out. The prose is so dense and overly descriptive that it just didn't go in. It was one of those situations where I repeatedly read the same few sentences over and over, desperately trying to absorb what they were telling me but my brain kept getting caught on the painful wordiness.

Also, there's the Asian thing. I love that this isn't just another young adult novel with white American kids, I love that authors are stepping outside their comfort zone and writing about other cultures. Because there is so much mythology to explore from all corners of the globe, there's just no need to stick to the same old. But, seriously, I know the author is not Japanese and he deserves to be allowed room for mistakes... but was any research actually done when writing Stormdancer? Well, beyond the reading of manga, anyway? This book is like what would happen if someone went into a Japanese tourist shop and decided to write about the culture based on it.

If this novel had been set in Italy, the Italian equivalent would be:

They went strolling down by [insert overly descriptive sentences] the Vatican and the Coliseum before eating [insert more descriptiveness] pizza and pasta. Then they went to Venice and [more description] rode a gondola whilst being chased by angry Roman gods. They escaped to Sicily where they were [description, description] hunted down by a Sicilian mafia boss called Giovanni and his two henchmen - Mario and Luigi - before finally being shot by Antonio. As Antonio pulled the trigger, "Ciao bella mia!", he exclaimed. The end.

You get the idea? This book throws around a Japanese word and/or stereotype at every possible opportunity. It also assumes that the audience - largely western readers - has quite a bit of knowledge about Japan or is at least willing to sit with google at the ready for the entire novel. I am not joking when I say I sometimes had to use google multiple times in one paragraph in order to understand what the hell was going on. This isn't enjoyable, it really isn't. The descriptions plus the language made it feel like I was wading through very thick sludge.

Discounting manga/anime, I can count on two fingers how many Asian-inspired fantasies I know of. Stormdancer gets the middle one. If you want to explore this genre, I can't tell you to completely disregard Stormdancer because so many people obviously thought it was amazing, but I would say that Goodman's world in Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and Eona is far better all round. Eon/Eona is just a better heroine than Yukiko, in my opinion, and isn't thinking about "the samurai with the sea-green eyes" when her life is threatened. Read Goodman's novels instead.
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Reading Progress

07/16/2012 page 1
0.0% "So... I applied for a review copy a while ago and never heard back. I then read the 3 online chapters and they didn't really grab me. So I removed from my TBR. Then this pretty hardback turns up... *sigh* okay, one more chance." 6 comments

Comments (showing 1-50 of 64) (64 new)

message 1: by Jenny (new)

Jenny If you do read the book...
I'd like to know if you thought this book was similar to "Eon" or "Eona" because to me they seem kinda similar
Thanks :)

Emily May I'm liking it a bit more than I did originally but I'd say Eon and Eona are far better. The only similarity between Stormdancer and those is the Asian-based culture/mythology.

message 3: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Okay
Thanks :)

message 4: by Maya (new) - added it

Maya aww, totally missed your rating for this one! with this and the comments about the awkward random japanese words being thrown around ... I have to lower my expectations.

message 5: by Kyle (new) - rated it 1 star

Kyle Yikes! Not that many 1 star reviews out there. I find it rather odd that so many 5 & 4.5 star reviews say they really, really didn't like the first half, yet they still rate it so highly. Just a little odd.

Emily May I know, that's partly why I hesitated so long before writing my review. But I just didn't enjoy a minute of it so I can't rate any higher :/

Janina I totally see where you are coming from. I am not necessarily very knowledgeable when it comes to Japanese culture, so it doesn't feel all that stereotypical to me, but after what I read in an interview about the form of research Kristoff did, well ... I still find myself enjoying the novel, mostly because I like the characters so far (especially Buruu). But the throwing around of Japanese words annoys me to no end as well.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Aww, Emily. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it. You should never feel hesitant to share your opinion though. You're always articulate and you explain your reasons well. I hope the next book is a hit!

message 9: by Kenya (new) - added it

Kenya Wright I agree. I DNF'd on the first paragraph.

Emily May @Janina I didn't read this interview but I have heard about it and it really doesn't surprise me. But, oh well, I hope you enjoy the rest of the novel.

@Kara Thanks :) I just hate to be the negative in a sea of positive and I really wanted to like this one.

message 11: by Rose (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rose I understand your reasoning entirely, Emily. I'm sorry you didn't like it. Don't ever feel like you can't share your opinions just because they go against the majority, though. I think it's worth hearing perspectives on either side of the table, so to speak, and there's a wide medium between that.

On that note, this is making me want to read Eon and Eona that much more, because I want to see what they do with the characterizations and considering I've heard so many good things about them both.

message 12: by Tatiana (new) - added it

Tatiana I haven't read that interview. Link, please?

Funny how negative reviews are finally coming out only now when the positives have been there for a long time. We've all been very kind to Mr. Kristoff's book.

Janina I saw a link in another review I read not too long ago ... let me see if I can find it again.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Stormdancer is certainly one of the books where the positive reviews are so intimidating that I'm actually scared about a WHAT IF xD what if I don't like it? thank you for sharing your review with us. I am still very much looking forward to the book.

Janina Tatiana wrote: "I haven't read that interview. Link, please?"

Here it is.

message 16: by Tatiana (new) - added it

Tatiana Thank you!

message 17: by Tatiana (last edited Sep 04, 2012 08:41AM) (new) - added it

Tatiana Wow. No kidding. Wiki and anime as the only research sources.

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh my! I won a Firstreads ARC, so I will be very interested to see how this reads to me.

oliviasbooks Doesn't surprise me that much, somehow.

message 20: by Kaia (new)

Kaia So glad I've decided to take this off my TBR list. I studied enough Japanese language and culture to know this would drive me nuts. And that's not even that much studying; certainly not enough to write a book on.

Kinda off topic, but regarding that interview...am I the only one who read question 10 and had to struggle not to fly into a rage? I could write an entire essay on how much bullshit that is.

message 21: by Buka (new)

Buka Honestly, I can't believe he managed to get simple basics wrong, if he really watched anime. I mean, it's not Chinese - Japanese speech is so articulate it's really easy to pick up basic words and grasp the correct usage of things like -sama and hai (something that other negative reviews wrote about) after watching just a couple of anime titles.

Emily May It wasn't the answer that annoyed me, but the question. The assumption that all girls are only interested in romance really annoys me. I thought his answer was quite fair to female readers.

message 23: by Kaia (new)

Kaia It was actually the question itself that annoyed me. Fantasy has been for boys/men for years and much of it still is. There are plenty of books for boys to read. They are not somehow missing out because the industry has finally deigned to acknowledge the other half of the population.

And they wouldn't be at any risk of missing out at all if our gender essentialist society didn't work so hard to convince the male half of the equation that they need to think romance is icky. And I'll just stop there because I wasn't kidding when I said I could write an essay on this.

Emily May Kaia, I completely agree. It works both ways, boys are told they have to be repelled by romance and girls are expected to care about nothing else. Even the specifically female genre of "chick lit" is normally little more than cheesy romances and boy troubles.

message 25: by Tatiana (last edited Sep 04, 2012 09:39AM) (new) - added it

Tatiana I am not sure if it works the same for YA fantasy, but adult fantasy has been dominated by male writers for decades (or forever), as far as I know.

message 26: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Blythe Ouch.

Syahira Sharif all of my status upates on this book is about me complaining about the 'exotic' attempts and the missmatch language and names. I'm building up a very lengthy negative review from the start. Plus, its not just poorly researched. Its completely made up. Its like the author have a japanese-english dictionary and some hyped manga and wanted to do some inspired stuff. And it SHOWS!

I thought it would be a good read from the reviews (sucker me) but I have two MONTHS trying to finish this book and it shows how very DNF it is. But I have an issue about doing DNF review so I will try to finish the book.

Btw, if you need some japanese steampunk, there is Sakura Wars (サクラ大戦) series.

message 28: by Rose (last edited Sep 04, 2012 10:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rose Syahira wrote: "Btw, if you need some japanese steampunk, there is Sakura Wars (サクラ大戦) series. "

There are a lot of good anime series to check out in terms of steampunk. Last Exile (which I really enjoyed), Steamboy, Gankutsuou (which is the adaptation of Count of Monte Cristo) are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. Samurai 7's another I actually enjoyed which combined steampunk and samurai. I haven't seen the original series of Sakura Wars in goodness knows how long, though. I liked the characters and story plot though.

message 29: by Marie (new) - added it

Marie That question...wow. I guess that fact that women are part of the audience/creators AT ALL is apparently traumatic, and just seeing women's names (given how male-dominated fantasy has been) must be enough to turn them away.

Anyway, that's been discussed.

I very much like your review! Knowing that little research has been done does make me much more hesitant to look it up—I'd still like to try it, maybe after Eon, which is also on my list, as long descriptions and convoluted sentences is actually a style I enjoy (suppose I'll have to see if it's done well).

Sympathies for feeling like the only one to give a negative review to such a hyped book. That's happened to me :) but I have to say it helps a lot to get a different opinion. I'm still divided on this one.

Syahira Sharif Rose wrote: "Syahira wrote: "Btw, if you need some japanese steampunk, there is Sakura Wars (サクラ大戦) series. "

There are a lot of good anime series to check out in terms of steampunk. Last Exile (which I reall..."

Sakura Wars was stuck into my mind because its a female-centric steampunk (I've finished with Meljean Brook's Riveted and thought about the series too). I used to watch it on my tv and I used to have the OVAs and movie.

message 31: by Rose (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rose Syahira wrote: "Sakura Wars was stuck into my mind because its a female-centric steampunk (I've finished with Meljean Brook's Riveted and thought about the series too). I used to watch it on my tv and I used to have the OVAs and movie."

Ah, okay, that makes sense. :) I watched the original series and I think one of the OVAs before, but it's been a while.

message 32: by Giselle (new) - added it

Giselle Your review is right on spot with how I felt, Emily! I didn't get any farther than 25% and I don't care how mind-blowing the last half is, I don't have the patience or motivation to find out O_O

message 33: by Blythe (last edited Sep 04, 2012 01:29PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Blythe Love this review, Emily! This is exactly how I felt throughout the entire book, but I did find the second half to be much more enjoyable. I'm contemplating lowering my rating from 3.5 stars to 3, because the more I think of it, the more I can pinpoint the negatives with this book than the positives.

Amy (Turn the Page) Great review Emily. Is interesting to me that I've been seeing nothing but glowing reviews for this and now suddenly, one star reviews are starting to pop up coinciding with its release.

message 35: by Maya (new) - added it

Maya Emily, you're not alone here. And I think as more people (and those familiar with japanese culture and asian fantasy) read this, there will be more diverse opinions. Well, I'm still going to read this, because I love asian fantasy ^^ but thanks to your review and Cyna's I've lowered my expectations significantly. I'm hoping the final print version might have removed some of the errors ...

Btw, I still hope you will one day pick up my favorite asian fantasy series :)

Emily May Thanks everyone :)

I think what I've noticed a lot about Stormdancer is the same as what happened with Code Name Verity. Lots of people loved it and posted glowing reviews but those who didn't like it seemed to abandon ship early on and not give a rating because of it. That's why there aren't so many negative reviews.

message 37: by Tatiana (new) - added it

Tatiana I would say the same applies to Seraphina. It looks like these books' authors have a certain level of respect here, on GR, or the novels are objectively well written, so people who don't actually like them are reluctant to be negative and go against the majority's opinion, even though the majority appears to be smaller upon examination.

message 38: by rameau (new) - added it

rameau Ah, so this is why I'm struggling. I had trouble identifying the reason why I'm not as captivated as I wanted to be. Such a shame because I love the idea.

It's probably better that I won't read that interview. Just glancing at that one question made my neck ache from all that shaking.

Great review, as always.

Emily May Thanks rameau! You're right, it's a real shame... Japanese steampunk fantasy? It should be awesome :/

message 40: by rameau (new) - added it

rameau Yes, it should. I admit that I was skeptical when I first heard of the book simply because the author wasn't Asian himself, but then I found out he's not a fan of happy endings. That's one of my guilty pleasures I'm willing to tolerate a lot for, but I think I've just reached my limit.

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Excellent review, Emily. :) Many readers dropped this book either because their patience ran out or to avoid giving a negative rating and/or review, and so I really appreciate the guts you have in writing this, along with your honesty and eloquence. :)

Emily May Thanks Leanne :)

message 43: by Megan (new)

Megan It's funny, this book has great reviews, but pretty much all of my GR friends/people I follow have given it a poor review or dropped it due to the dense & overwritten prose.

Emily May I'm seeing it getting dropped more and more for that lately, it's nice to know it isn't just me :)

message 45: by Candace (new) - added it

Candace Your review cracked me up, Emily! Especially your mock-Italian version of the book.... Mario and Luigi! Hah!

I love Japanese culture, and I love fantasy, so I was sure I'd read this... but I might hold off for a bit now.

Aside from the two books you mentioned, the other Japanese fantasy I have my eye on is The Weeping Empress.

Emily May Thanks Candace! I couldn't resist sticking Mario and Luigi in there :D

message 47: by Ankita (new) - added it

Ankita Okay I am not reading it....

TheFountainPenDiva I disagree with you about Stormdancer for one huge reason. Yukiko is CLEARLY Japanese. Yes Yukiko was somewhat hung up on Hiro as any normal teenage girl would be, but when it's time to do what she needs to, there's no indecision or second-guessing. Also I disagree with you about Eon/Eona. The story itself was Asian-inspired, but there was no sense of Eona's ethnicity (a fact I mentioned in my review of Eon). It seemed to me the author was trying to be as oblique as possible in order to keep that segment of the reading population who won't read anything that isn't white American with blue eyes, blonde hair and never a bad fashion day. Other than that, you do bring up some interesting points, though the appropriation aspect is one I'd love to discuss with you. I appreciate your honest feedback. It takes a lot of bravery to go against the grain, in light of how some reviewers are often attacked. I've been there.

Emily May Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We will have to agree to disagree about Yukiko because I believe she is what a tourist/manga-reader who has done little research into Japanese people would think a Japanese person is like. For example, I'm English and I recently read a book with an English character written by an American author. They frequently drank tea, said "bloody hell" and loved to mention the queen... I honestly know no one who behaves like that character did. I dislike it when authors create foreign characters built around cultural stereotypes, it's laughable. And I think it's great that Goodman didn't turn Eona into an Asian stereotype. Also, though Asian-inspired, both worlds are completely fictional and Asia (the continent) doesn't exist in either one so I think Goodman's way of avoiding typical Asian stereotypes makes more sense.

Recent interviews with the author of Stormdancer have only confirmed my suspicions that he did almost no research into the culture anyway. Wikipedia and manga were stated as his sources, which personally I think is pretty bad.

TheFountainPenDiva Great conversation and thank you. May I add you as a friend. I enjoy ccnversations with literate and thoughtful reviewers, even when we don't agree.

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