A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.
Five Stars: An astonishing debut that will astound you!
Yukiko rushes through the crowded, filthy streets headed to retrieve her father from the evil den where he drinks, gambles and fills his lungs with the addictive and poisonous lotus weed. She arrives to find him embroiled in a filthy brawl. Disgusted, she drags him out and informs him that they have a request to fulfill from the cruel, greedy, black-hearted Shogun. Her father, Masura also known as the black fox, serves as the Shogun's master hunter. Now the Shogun commands him to do the impossible; hunt down and capture the mighty arashitora, the thunder tiger. A beast that is half tiger, half eagle and supposedly extinct for a century. The Shogun insists he saw himself in a vision leading his armies to victory on the back of the mighty thunder tiger. In a land where the Shogun's every command must be fulfilled or risk death, there is no choice but to hunt this beast. Yokiko and her father set out across the dying land of the Shima to find the thunder tiger. Can they capture this elusive creature?
What I Loved:
- Sometimes reviews of books that blow me away are often the hardest to write. I always feel that my review will pale in comparison to this amazing book, and that I will not even scratch the surface of how awesome this book is when I try to put my thoughts into words, so here it goes! Every once in awhile you run across a book that speaks to you and astounds you with its intricate story, incredible characters, and stunning writing. It isn't often that I read a book that stirs my soul and makes me giddy! Stormdancer did just that. As I read this book, my stomach fluttered with excitement and I thought to myself, "This is it! This is that special read you have been waiting for all year!" Indeed it was! Stormdancer is my must read book of 2012. You can stop right here and go get the book or you can continue to read my ramblings about this terrific achievement!
- I admit, when I first heard the early whisperings on this book, I brushed them aside thinking that book isn't for me. Thankfully, as the whispering grew louder I sat up and took note! I am so glad I decided to read out of my comfort zone. Stormdancer is a book that blends fantasy, steampunk, mythology and dystopian all in one. This book has it all! A story centered in a dystopian version of feudal Japan with lots of action, adventure and so much more! If you like the blending of genres, this is a must read. Read it anyway!
- The players are all multi-layered and well-developed including the secondary characters. I was shocked time and time again by the deep secrets and dark pasts that sculpted each individual. Yukiko is a remarkable heroine. She is sixteen and already damaged. Her vicious past has hardened her and caused her to begin to quietly question the world around her. She despises the show of wealth by the Shogun while thousands starve in the street. She lives under blood red skies, a world slowly choking and dying from the poisonous lotus flower, and sees death all around her. The blood red flower dominates the culture and the economy, but at a terrible price. Yukiko undergoes a profound metamorphosis as she slowly opens her eyes and sees the truth. In addition to Yukiko, there is the thunder tiger, Buruu. He roars onto the pages thunderous and terrible, but over time he changes, too. He becomes more human. I absolutely feel in love with Buruu, and I especially enjoyed the way the telepathic bond formed between Yukiko and Buruu transforms them and becomes something great. As remarkable and brave as Yukiko is she also makes mistakes and falters, making her more human. Then on the flip side you have the vile and cruel Shogun Yoritomo. He is hedonistic, depraved, vicious, and calculating. I screamed with hatred at him and sickened more with every turn of the page at his lack of humanity. He is truly a monster. If you like books with outstanding characters that elicit an array of emotions, read this one!
- The story is complex and full of gut wrenching developments. Once the book reaches midway, it fully hits its stride and it comes at you fast and furious. You can't put it down! I could hardly catch my breath between scenes. Just when I eased out the breathe I was holding, and began to grasp at that flicker of hope that things are going to go the way I wanted, Mr. Kristoff throws in a wickedly cruel wrench that hit me hard and set my heart pounding! Truly, this has an edge of your seat, can't turn the pages fast enough finale! Be prepared for big surprises, and jaw dropping revelations from everyone! Don't let your guard down! Yet, even though at times the story is incredibly brutal, there are moments of compassion and love that hit you right in the heart. Also peppered in are moments of humor and sarcasm that just make the read!
- This book does not have a love triangle, nor a cliffhanger and the world building is done with astonishing detail. I know many people have complained about the complex world building and attention to detail, saying it slowed the pace in the beginning. I headed into this prepared to slog through the first half of the book, but I never for a moment felt this book dragged. I am a stickler for intricate world building, and this book does an outstanding job in creating a world so believable that at times I immersed so deeply into the story that I felt I was there under those choking skies, or riding on Buruu's back fighting the enemies! I had to pull back and come up blinking into the sunlight to catch my breath! I love it when a book and an author are able to completely pull me into their world. Now, for those of you who aren't big fans of detailed worlds and complex plots, my advice is patience...and remember good things come to those who wait. I assure you, once you hit midway this book pays off. All the intricate threads laid out begin to tighten and the action and suspense notch up and you will be completely stunned. For those of you who hunger for action, this book has it! There are some adrenaline spiking fighting scenes that will satisfy you! I am sorry for all of the readers who gave up prematurely on this one because you truly missed out!
- Finally, I must address the writing! I am a big fan of intricate writing and Mr. Kristoff shows me that he has a superior talent when it comes to story telling. Not only does he create a remarkable story, complex and amazing, but he does it in a way that is extraordinary. His metaphors and descriptions at times caused me to pause and just marvel at the way he strung words together. I cannot even begin to do it justice by trying to stumble through a description. I will say this: if you enjoy creative writing, you must check this book out! I fully intend to continue to read his works! This is just the beginning!
And The Not So Much:
- Now that I am done blathering about all the awesomeness of this book, I will touch on a few areas that could be improved. First, the bloody red lotus flower is the cause for the destruction of the world. It drives the entire economy and it is present in almost every aspect of life. I felt I didn't quite have a full grasp on this flower. How did this flower so quickly overtake the world? How did it poison the environment, does it give off toxins while growing, and how does it poison the soil? How fast does a crop grow? Where did it come from?
- The only character that I didn't feel was as fully developed as the others was Kasumi. She was Yukiko's father's companion and it was evident that she had a strained relationship with Yukiko. I just wanted to know a bit more about her.
- The Lotus Guild was a bit confusing to me. They are a group comprised of three different types, and they wear iron suits with complex machinery. I just felt like I didn't understand the structure, how they came to power, how they worked and why they had so much influence.
- I didn't fully comprehend the wars that were being fought. Who exactly were the people of the Shima fighting against and why?
- During the tumultuous finale the Shogun uncovers that someone close to him is a betrayer. It is not discussed how he found and out and the confrontation is left out. I wish that this scene was included, even though I know it would be terrible and heart wrenching.
Stormdancer is a book that has earned a coveted spot on my favorites shelf, and I assure you it is a book I tend to revisit. This book has so much to offer as it is a blend of genres. There is an intricate plot, amazing depth and detail and it is filled with suspense, danger and plenty of action. This book features stunning world building that will pull you in and hold you hostage until you gasp and dance through the final pages. I know my review doesn't begin to convey how awesome this book is, so do yourself a favor and get it now! The best and worse parts are that there will be another book, but now to endure the wait!
"Deeply lidded eyes, skin turned nut brown by a life spent beneath Shima's sweltering red sun. Black hair ran in rivers down her spine, pierced by jade combs carved to resemble prowling tigers. There was a hardness to her,calluses and lean muscles, a glint of ferocity in her movements: a big cat, pacing a cage as wide as the world."
"She had dreamed of the Iron Samurai with the sea-green eyes; a silly, girlish fancy of flowers and longing, stares and happy-ever afters that left her stomach fluttering with a hundred butterfly wings."
"Stars tried to twinkle in the skies above; faded jewels across a blanket of dusty black velvet."
"The drone of the engines and the song of the propellers seemed to fade away, and the sound of his voice was as flame to dazzled moths."
"Too long ago---the memory faded and blurred like an old lithograph, colors muted over time until all that was left was an impression; a half image on yellowed, curling paper."
"Sometimes we don't get what we deserve. We play the cards we are dealt instead of whining about what might've been. Therein lies the difference between an adult and a child."
"YOUR KIND ARE BLIND. YOU SEE ONLY THE NOW, NEVER THE WILL BE."
"AFTER THE LAST FISH IS CAUGHT. THE LAST RIVER POISONED. THEN YOU WILL KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. AND BY THEN IT WILL BE TOO LATE."
"Just because you are standing in a crowd doesn't mean you belong there."
"She was almost soundless, fluid, as if she danced to a tune only she could hear. Untouched by the snags and clawing undergrowth, dodging around the falling leaves: he fancied even the storm was afraid to touch her as she walked between the rain. Just the gentle kiss of the wind on her skin, running its fingers through her hair.
To be the wind."
"When a man's fate is not his own, when he may die at the behest of a man born luckier and or wealthier, when he sweats his life for scraps from another's table, then he is in peril."
"CHANGE IS SELDOM BLOODLESS. SOME EYES WISH TO REMAIN CLOSED. SOMETIMES THEY MUST BE CUT OPEN."
"She could feel it inside him, the rock he had set his back against, the core of his being. A compass that would steer him through this darkness, this torture at the hands of insects, safely out the other side into blinding lightning and howling wind. It would lead him home.
It was love."
"The summer's worst was over, and autumn would soon be approaching on dry, yellow feet. Yukiko wondered if she would be back in the Iishi by then, to watch the trees shed their green dresses."
"A darkened hush descended as night deepened, the pale moon limping through a poisoned sky toward the hour of treason."
"She flung herself around his neck and he wanted nothing more than to hold her in his own arms, to smell her sweat, feel her hair on his face. If he could have given up every day of his life at that moment for just one minute with his flesh pressed against hers, he would have done it with a smile on his face."
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. I was not compensated to gush at length over this book!