Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
In a world based off of feudal Japan and mixed with the steampunk vibe, the child of the Shogun’s greatest hunter embarks on a journey to find a fabled “thunder tiger” on the whim of said Shogun. As the hunters track down the thunder tiger, it attacks their airship and causes it to crash, but that is only after the father slices off the griffin’s wings, rendering it unable to fly. Now, the heroine, Yukiko, has a gift where she can meld minds with animals. As the ship is crashing, she mind melds with the griffin and they save each other from death (even though the thunder tiger hates her). Because this world is based on honor, the hunter faces death for losing the thunder tiger, as well as rogue ronin are attempting to overthrow the Shogun. And lest we forget, there are the Guildsmen, the purveyors of the source of power in this world have their own schemes.
Buruu the thunder tiger is awesome. Mr. Kristoff created this wonderful mythical creature that is not only deep, but also very humorous. Yukiko and Buruu’s connection is really a joy to read and Buruu is very witty for an “animal.” I really enjoyed reading their growth and reliance on one another to survive. It was organic and natural, but also had that layer of respect to each other. I dig it.
I loved the Japanese steampunk world Mr. Kristoff created. Sure, I don’t know enough about Japanese culture (and many internet trolls say that of the author…), but it wasn’t overtly jarring to read. Yeah, some of the terms needed to be Googled (thankfully there is also a dictionary in the back of the book of Japanese terms), but I thought it was cohesive enough, and detailed enough to get a true understanding of the world. I liked the Mr. Kristoff went all out with his Japanese world, using terms, clothing, myths, legends, titles. I like seeing something different like that. Really made the story stronger.
I really enjoyed the vibe given from the chi (the source of power), as it is both energizing the world, but also used as a drug. Very cool stuff. I definitely loved the Guildsmen. These people wear suits of metal (called their skin) and are basically robots. I thought it was a cool idea to have the character of Kin learn his history isn’t exactly the correct path.
The writing is very fast-paced (a staple of Kristoff’s) and easy to read. The action was action-y and the dialogue neat. Though there were some flow-y prose in certain points of the story, but I enjoy that (I know others might not)
But the best thing is obviously Yukiko. I love me some hardnosed badass chicas. Yukiko has a temper, but also grounded in every which way. She’s smart, witty, loyal, and overall, just a fun character. Obviously her connection with Buruu is amazing, but I also found her connection (or early lack-there-of) with her father to be a true reflection of the setting and the world they inhabit. It started as one thing and then ended completely different, far away from what I would have expected to see. Very well done.
What doesn’t work:
Personal preference alert: I hate hate hate hate hate hate 3rd person omniscient POV. I just can’t do it. I dislike going back and forth between characters in consecutive paragraphs. I much prefer a set POV for each scene. Granted, Mr. Kristoff did a great job of maintaining voice of characters when switching to and from, but I just can’t get into it.
Even though this is Adult with YA crossover, one thing I really didn’t like was the “green-eyed samurai” love interest for Yukiko. It felt shoehorned into the story and I could have done without it, or at least made it a slower burn.
One thing I can also agree with some of the other reviews out there is that it takes quite a long time to get the story off the ground. It takes about 100 pages before we meet the thunder tiger. Now I understand the need to set the story up, but I think some of the earlier chapters could have been tightened to get to the best part of the story and that is Yukiko and Buruu.
4 out of 5