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Arashitoras are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shõgun, they fear that their lives are over – everyone knows what happens to those who fail the Lord of the Shima Isles. But the mission proves less impossible and more deadly than anyone expects. Soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled arashitora for company. Although she can hear his thoughts, and saved his life, all she knows for certain is he'd rather see her dead than help her. Yet trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and the beast soon discover a bond that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on collapse. A toxic fuel is choking the land, the machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure, and the Shõgun cares for nothing but his own dominion. Authority has always made Yukiko, but her world changes when she meets Kin, a young man with secrets, and the rebel Kagé cabal. She learns the horrifying extent of the Shõgun's crimes, both against her country and her family.

Returning to the city, Yukiko is determined to make the Shõgun pay – but what can one girl and a flightless arashitora do against the might of an empire?

451 pages, Paperback

First published August 21, 2012

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About the author

Jay Kristoff

38 books23.9k followers
Jay Kristoff is a #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction. He is the winner of eight Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, has over two million books in print and is published in over thirty five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 12,000 days to live.

He does not believe in happy endings.

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Profile Image for Cyna.
219 reviews261 followers
December 4, 2013

This book made me really fucking mad.

I'll admit, I was a little leery of Stormdancer from the start - Japanese steampunk sounds cool, but coming from a white western author, the chances of problematic weeaboo fuckery are high. Exoticization. Romanticization. Plain old appropriation. Yet for some reason, I didn't really peg Stormdancer as a weeaboo outing. I don't know why. There was no good reason, and yet, I expected Kristoff to be a scholar of some sort, or at least, to do some very in-depth, scholarly research, borne of a deep interest in, and respect for, Japanese culture. And while even that could have also potentially yielded something problematic, at least it would have been sincere. What I thoroughly did NOT expect to get was a book informed by fucking Wikipedia and anime, set in Japan for the sake of novelty. That came as a genuine shock. And a dramatic rise in blood pressure. WHAT THE FUCKITY FUCK?

The thing is, that Wikipedia part? You can kinda tell. I mean, the first hundred pages or so of Stormdancer, basically until the airship crashes, are a chore to wade through, mostly because of the Wikipedia-esque info dumps. It takes almost exactly half of those pages to make any progress on the plot. The first fifty are just about showing off the world and detailing every little aspect of it, which is why it takes like twelve paragraphs for Yukiko and her father to walk down a street: we have to hear about the architecture, detail the clothing being worn (because we're using Japanese terms here, and not many readers will know offhand what a fucking hakama looks like), and explain the exact geographical setting, right down to which rivers cross where, and the ~exotic smells~ in the air, even though none of it is actually relevant to anything that's going on at the moment. I understand wanting to set the scene and acquaint readers with the world, but Jesus Herbet Christ, get on with it already. Work this stuff in to the action. Make me not want to put the book down out of sheer boredom. I mean, I haven't even gotten the chance to get angry yet.

Making the world-building harder to parse are the Japanese words and terms strewn throughout the descriptions, most of which assume a familiarity with the culture that many readers just won't have. I had to break out the Google more than once to give myself a better mental image of what was going on, and though many of the terms aren't exactly vital to the story, it was still annoying as hell. I want to be able to see this shit in my head, to get what's going on, and it doesn't help when half of the words are in Japanese just for the flavor of it. It's one thing when a word doesn't have an English analog; it's another when you're including easily translatable and even borrowed words, like "sarariman" (seriously? it's "salary-man" or even just "businessman", kthnx), in their romaji form just to make the story seem more ~authentic~. At the very least it's unnecessarily confusing.

There is a glossary in the back of the book that would have been quite helpful to know about while in the midst of those first fifty pages, but if you're an e-reader like me, you wouldn't have realized it's there until you actually made it to that page...just after the story has ended. Perhaps print readers will be able to make better use of it.

But blah blah blah, detail-heavy writing, I can skim past that. My only issue was boredome until I started noticing all of the shit got wrong. Then my head began hitting the desk. Repeatedly.

And okay, preface: I'm not an expert on Japan, nor am I Asian. I've never studied the country or the language formally. I've got little knowledge outside of what I learned in my own weeaboo phase, from, yes, mostly manga and anime. And YET I still came across glaring errors, repeated errors, stupid errors, errors that made it impossible to read through a conversation without wanting to strangle someone, and errors that lead to questions about some very basic assumptions of the book.

Let's start with my primary nails-on-a-chalkboard issue, the usage of the words "hai" and "sama", shall we? Here are a few examples of these words in action in Stormdancer:

"That is more than fair." [...] "Ameterasu bless your kindness, sama."
"I want for nothing. Thank you, sama."
"He slew Boukyaku, young sama. The sea dragon who consumed the island of Takaiyama."
"Honor to you, great sama."
"What is Raijin song, sama?"
"Forgiveness, sama."
"Apologies, sama."

...and so on and so forth.

"These cloudwalkers were men of the kitsune clan, hai?"
"I have no doubt of your success. The man who stood beside my father as he slew the last nagaraja of Shima will not be trouble by a simple thunder tiger, hai?"
"You must keep it secret." [...] "It is a gift, hai, but it is not one to be squandered..."
"The solitude is pleasant, hai?"
"I can get into the trees, hai."
"Just deck-hands on a sky-ship, hai?"


And both together, for a double-slap to the face of any immersion you've managed to scrounge up:
"Sama, please. Enough for one day, hai?"


That's not how you use those, either of those, come ON now. "Sama" is a suffix, an honorific. It goes at the end of someone's name (ex: Masaru-sama), or title, or profession, to denote respect or a higher social status. You NEVER use it by itself, it isn't a stand in for "sir", or "lord", and in fact, the included glossary explicitly acknowledges this, so how the fuck this managed to remain intact through editing I have no fucking idea.

Similarly, "hai" is not a one-to-one translation of "yes", or "right". A more accurate translation is "I have understood what you just said", and it's only used to answer a question or a request. You don't stick it on the end of the sentence to rhetorically prompt confirmation. Believe it or not, there are actually Japanese words for that (well, not the "rhetorical part"), like "ka" or "desu", but Kristoff doesn't make use of those ad nauseum, just the jarringly, tellingly wrong "hai".

This is Weeaboo 101 people, we should not even have to be talking about this, especially if these characters are and are speaking Japanese.

Except...other potential "errors" bring that last statement into question. Are the characters in Stormdancer speaking Japanese? Seeing as how the book is set in Japan, I went into the story operating on the assumption that they were, and that it was being "translated" by the author to English for our benefit. One would think that this is the case, that characters in Japan would be saying Japanese words, and yet:

"Impure." Yukiko whispered the word [...] It was such a simple thing; two syllables, the press of her lips together, one on another, tongue rolling over her teeth.

"Arashi-no-ko," she heard them whisper.
She could feel Buruu frown in her mind, puzzled by the word's shape.
She smiled, embarrassed, turning her eyes to the floor.
Storm Girl.

"I lo-"
She kissed him, stood on her tiptoes and threw her arms around his neck and crushed her lips to his before he could finish the sentence. She didn't want to listen to those three awful words, feel them open her up to the bone and see what the lies had done to her insides.

Mmmk. 1) "Impure" in Japanese? Google says "fuketsu". Three syllables, no "press of her lips together", minimal "tongue rolling".

2) If they were actually speaking Japanese? After Buruu asked what the fuck "arashi no ko" meant? Yukiko would have said "arashi no ko", because those are the words for "storm girl*" in Japanese. DUH. How and why Yukiko would have even needed to translate Japanese for the Japanese-speaking tiger is beyond me, and yet, if they are speaking Japanese here, what she just did is completely illogical.

*except that even the translation is sketchy. "Ko" = child, not "girl".

3) "I love you" in Japanese, those "three little words"? "Aishiteru", or "aishiteru yo"/"aishiteru wa". One or two words at best. *Although I'm informed it could also be "kimi ga suki". BUT STILL.

This pretty effectively proved to me that, either by fuck-up or by intent, the characters in the book are speaking English. In Japan. What the fuck? I can't imagine that that was the intent, because it makes no logical sense whatsoever, but even the fuck-up makes the book's narrative frustratingly Eurocentric.

Oh, yeah, and then there's the amalgamative "Asia-land" that Shima ends up reading as. That doesn't help in the slightest. Despite being 99% a fantastical analog of Japan, again whether by fuck-up or intent, bits of other Asian cultures slip in. "Nagaraja", for example, are actually Indian creatures. Likewise, somehow the lotus pollution is threatening the local panda population, even though pandas are indigenous to CHINA, which is, incidentally, NOT JAPAN. The characters also use Chinese expressions of exasperation, even though there are perfectly good and common and available Japanese ones.

And this is just the shit I've come across. Sei, finder of the Chinese slang, came across more errors, which she lists in her very insightful review, and

Syahira has a very detailed analysis of the awkward naming conventions, and Krystle vents her rage about this "omage" to her culture.

You can see why this is problematic, right? The lack of research, the Eurocentric viewpoint, the playing fast and loose with Japanese culture, the smooshing all things Asian into the same story, the same country, because hey, all Asian cultures are all the same, right?

HAHA, NO. No. NONONONONONO. This is not how you write this shit, people. As my friend Shiori put it, Asian cultures are not fucking Sizzler. No, you don't get to help yourself to the shit you like and leave the rest, why the fuck would anyone think that? For the love of god, please, educate yourself before you write about other cultures.

So, yeah, that was...frustrating, putting it mildly. *twitch* It was really, really difficult to put that aside and look at the book, I'll admit, and might be at least part of why I found it impossible to connect with the characters. That being said, I wasn't a huge fan of the plot itself, either.

The book takes FOREVER to get going. Sure, stuff happened here and there, but it seemed like the vvvvvaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast majoooooooority of it was Yukiko and Buruu sitting around doing absolutely nothing...

Read full review at You're Killing.Us.

More Links

Assorted thoughts on Stormdancer:

Linda on the Green-Eyed Asian Love Interest, plus her series of thoughts on Asian fantasy.
- Author Karen Healy & Tumblr pinpoint some of the more problematic aspects of Kristoff's interviews.
- The comments in Linda's review have yielded a very interesting discussion, and several good links on the subject.
- The Book Smugglers review Stormdancer and share their thoughts on their interview with Kristoff, in which he spouts more problematic bullshit.
- Silver Goggles has a funny and wonderful reaction to the inevitable question: "does this mean we're not allowed to write outside our ethnicity?"
- Zoe Marriott discusses the difference between diversity and appropriation.
- Calm Down, It's Only Fantasy: Ladybusiness over at Livejournal has a response to the "Ignorant White Person 101" defense of Stormdancer. This is one of my favorite posts to come out of this whole mess. The response to the predictable "But but other fantasy authors change other (non-minority) cultures for their books, why aren't we riding them? WHAAAAAAAA!" in the comments is an excellent, well thought-out smackdown.
- Finally, for conflicted fans of Stormdancer, behold! How to be a fan of problematic things. Spoiler: it's not that hard.

Meanwhile, there's the continued response from Kristoff, the gist of which being "BUT FANTASY, why should I be held accountable? You're taking it TOO SERIOUSLY."
- The aforementioned Book Smuggler's interview with Jay Kristoff, where he explains that "if you can wrap your head around the idea Shima and Japan might look a lot alike, but aren’t the same place, you’ll have fun."
- The Stormdancer website FAQ, in which Kristoff explains how much he doesn't give a shit if you care that he got shit wrong, because "this is fantasy, folks, not international frackin' diplomacy." Charming.
- A guest post at Fantasy Faction on world-building, with lots of "pros" that not-so-subtly explain why his book is TEH AWESOME and "cons" that casually give the middle finger to and shits on anyone who called him out on his bullshit.
Profile Image for Jay Kristoff.
Author 38 books23.9k followers
July 10, 2012
Edit 10 July: You can read the first three chapters of STORMDANCER all typeset and logo'ed and whatnot here.

STORMDANCER is my book, so it should go without saying that I love it in the pants. I love it more than that moment at the end of Top Gun when Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise have just killed the bejeezus out of all those commies and Val is all like "You can kiss me on the mouth be my wingman anytime" and the music swells and some deckhand is just wailing on an electric guitar somewhere in the background, everyone all hugging and whatnot. But I’m not going to give my own book a star rating, because that would just feel... weird.

But, I should say something about it, since we don’t have covers yet and it can’t speak for itself. Poor baby. :(

The book is infiltrating YA lists on Goodreads (many thanks to the awesome people who are voting), but it's being published on an adult imprint. Nobody seems to know what this thing is, what with all the sweary and the stabby and the sexahhh and so-on. For my part, I say only this:

But while we’re utilizing visual aids, let me try and explain this whole ‘Japanese-inspired Steampunk dystopia’ deal.

See, some people think Steampunk is this:


(All corsetry and disturbingly shaped ray guns and what have you...)

STORMDANCER is more like this:


Combined with this:


(She's Chinese, but you get the idea.)

So we end up with something like this:



Of course, within the pages you will also find some of this:


(They won’t be blonde, obviously...)

But truthfully, there’s more of this:


(She means it…)

There will be some of these:


(Actually, there are five…)

And before I forget, there’s also one of these:


(He's kinda important. And he doesn’t really say moo...)

Hopefully things are clearer now.

To those of you who plan to read STORMDANCER and help me live out this absurd little dream, I give my heartfelt thanks. Sincerely. Love it. Hate it. For agreeing to spend some of your time in this tiny world I’ve made, thank you.

I leave you with this looped .gif of Tyrion Lannister teaching his nephew Joffrey what the five fingers said to the face.

It has nothing to do with the book. I just find it strangely hypnotic...

What did the five fingers say to the face?
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
September 4, 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.
Profile Image for Krystle.
893 reviews337 followers
April 4, 2021

I really have no idea how I’m going to do this review when everyone else expressed everything I wanted to say in such an eloquent and succinct manner, especially Cyna’s review.

You have no idea how badly, badly, I wanted this book to turn out brilliant and smashing and turn into one of those amazingly successful books that takes the publishing world by storm. Even more so when the absolutely gorgeous and fantastic covers that came out which weren’t white-washed! Omg, SCORE! Although I am really tired of sakura (cherry blossoms) being used as a motif to designate/symbolize that this book is about Japan. I mean, really? Can we create something a bit more original that’s not so tried and predictable?

Ugh, I’m getting off topic.

So, when I read the first three chapters I thought this was great stuff. Oh, man. I was ready to start running around and screaming its wonders.

Until I hit that solid wall soon after.

Holy crap. That prose. It drove me crazy and made my eyes wander. There were long passages that described everything in minute detail and these many passages stretched over many, many pages. It reminded me of Cayla Kluver’s novel, Legacy. One I also hated for the excessive mind-numbing amount of unnecessary overly specific descriptions that were just fluff and not needed. Not to mention I already read enough dense and long articles every day for grad school, my brain does not want to be burdened with more. It really doesn’t.

In fact, it got so bad that I started skimming a majority of the novel and I really can’t give an exclamatory
grade/rating/review/whatever you want to call it for something I skimmed the majority of. It’s probably why I forgot a lot of IMPORTANT STUFF I should have noticed.

You know, it really sits my teeth on edge when all along this book was heavily marketed as kind of like a book set in some sort of alternate history version of Japan with an added splash of fantasy and steampunk only it’s really a Japanese-inspired story set in an alternate world. The Japanese elements of this story are so heavily borrowed to create a world just like Japan that I’m super critical.

I didn’t know until later but it really upset me that the extent of the author’s research was only via Wikipedia and by watching anime. Really? REALLY? Even when I had essays for my Japanese literature classes I did extensive research by reading the original source material, looking up the author’s ideology and how it showed up in his work, the social and political climate at the time, and even went through books that had critical commentary on the literary movement's novels. And that’s just an ESSAY. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? My culture and heritage is not something you can surface skip through a five minute perusal of links on Wikipedia and splash something together and say it’s a great homage to it. No. NO, NO, NO.

There is a lot of use and abuse of the Japanese language in this novel. I mean, if this is supposed to be set in an alternate world to Japan but is NOT Japan, why are they still using Japanese and THEN having characters NOT understanding whatever is said IN Japanese? That does not make sense at all!

It really aggravated me when the suffix –sama was used by itself as an address to someone of higher rank. Excuse me? Sama does not function that way. It’s a suffix. It’s even stated in that glossary that it’s a suffix, so why is it used so incorrectly!? Ugh! Furthermore, if more research was done into the very rigid class construct and hierarchy system in Japan, you can’t just USE someone’s name and just add a –san or a –sama and address them as such. They are ABOVE you. You do not have that social status or standing or right that refer to them as if you were on equivalent levels. This does not automatically make your speech more polite. There is a lot more to it than that!

I don't remember this word being used that much in the novel but my eyes caught on it right away: sarariman or salary men/man. This is for white collar workers who spend all their time in offices and cubicles. This word has NO place in a fantasy novel set in a historical context because this word is a MODERN convention. I'm sorry, you can't just take a word like this and apply it for anything, especially in a historical context because the word is very MODERN. It's a borrowed ENGLISH word adapted for the Japanese language (or katakana-ized if you prefer). Gah! I just want to rip something into shreds.

Oh and then there's that "aiya" thing. Aiya means something like "oh no" or an expression of surprise, dismay, or shock when something happens you didn't expect or didn't want to happen. Like you placed your stack of books on the table and then as soon as you walk away they all fall down. Aiya is a CHINESE expression, NOT Japanese. I am telling you this bothered me a whole heck of a lot seeing this OVER AND OVER again. It may have the same phonological similarity but it is NOT Japanese.

It really irritated me when he just threw out random words haphazardly in his sentences. It just totally destroys the prose and it’s extremely unnecessary. It smells of weeabos going, “Omg, this is SO kawaii, ne?” Just SHOOT ME NOW. And he doesn’t do this sparsely, he does this ALL. THE. TIME. It’s an eyesore and something I commented on in other books. And that hai thing? COME ON. REALLY? Hai is not the general universal, yes, or I understood. You know there are other variations! Like un, sou desu, wakarimashita, ryoukai, kashikomarimashita, all with varying levels of politeness and casualness. (And different conjugations). Meh…

Another thing that I hated was how the author used simple words to designate his world. Like “shima” for the Japan-like island place this story was set in. Shima means island, so Island Isles? WTF? I remember he said that it’s hard not to be literal and things but using simple words like kyoudai, shiroi, gaijin for your naming conventions sounds very ridiculous to a person who can understand Japanese at a high enough level. It does not bring any mystique or what not to whatever thing he’s trying to do because it only made me laugh. I think it’s a waste of time for the reader if you KEEP translating what the words are in very close proximity to when you originally used, especially when there’s already a glossary provided in the back. UGH. Some people might think this is cool but I’m sorry, I think this is terribly lazy because if you really wanted to use Japanese words you could at least try to combine words or kanji compounds together and make something up. Even putting together random sounds would have been fine as a last resort.

The male gaze is pretty prevalent in here. One scene that really grossed me out is that Yukiko’s identity is discovered by boys who peep on her when she goes to take a bath. REALLY? REALLY? That’s the only feasible way you could have had your plot move forward? By having guys PEEP on her? You couldn’t have say, had her tattoos uncovered when she’s FIGHTING monsters or something? I don’t know, something less creepy. It really creeped me out when the brother’s sister is described as being extremely beautiful that all men wanted a taste of – and that’s compounded by the fact that there’s some incest relationship going on there? SERIOUSLY? Did we really need that? Ugh, gross.

Btw, who are the gaijin anyway? This is never explained or dealt with. Also the lotus thing that everyone gets drunk on… Lotus? Why lotus? I mean, Japanese love to use nature and especially flowers as symbolism in their works but a lotus doesn’t have as much weight or impact as say sakura or kiku or a litany of other things. And if you wanted to show drugs, what’s the problem with opium that came from POPPIES? They did have that back then, you know.

I didn’t like how the poetry aspects were scoffed at. Haiku is not the be all and end all of Japanese poetry, you know? There’s also tanka, chouka, renga, and freestyle (plus many more). Being able to write beautiful poems was a point of pride back then. They would spend hours having poetry competitions adding to another person’s poem, or reading out loud their own. The one’s with the most eloquent, beautiful, witty, or impressive were seen as highly intellectual individuals that were praised and respected. I didn’t like how this was just thrown in as just to add more “flavor” to the story. I remember the manyoushuu being brought up and it was called, The Book of a Thousand Deaths, or I dunno some ridiculous title like that. FYI, it’s called “The Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves”.

If you’re going to borrow so heavily from Japanese, at least create new aspects to your world. Something Shadows on the Moon or the Eon: Dragoneye Reborn series (although this one is based more off of Chinese culture/mythology) did quite excellently. In regards to white authors having stories set in Asian environments/casts.

I kind of marginally liked Buruu’s snark and attitude and the connection he had with Yukiko as it was fun to see them grow into their bond together. The last quarter of the book moved at a lot quicker pace and I didn’t have to slog through it as much as I did in the first three-fourths. At least there were plot twists I wasn’t expecting. I even sort of liked Yukiko’s romance with the green-eyed (ugh) soldier because she got to have a consensual sexual relationship with him and wasn’t shamed for it (at first), until you realize he used her feelings and sex against her as a form of manipulation and called her “filthy” and “dirty”.

There was something that always bothered me about the green-eyed soldier until Linda’s post pointed it out perfectly. These are ASIAN characters where the majority of common people have BROWN eyes. I know there are exceptions like some ethnic Chinese groups or Mongolian people (although this is contested as there may have been crossing way back when) but for regular pure-blooded Japanese people, this is practically impossible. Why can’t Yukiko be initially attracted to someone with BROWN EYES? What’s wrong with them? Meh.

I can go on and on and on but this review is heinously long. There’s also the problem I had with the depiction of the Shinto gods, the grossly incorrect usage of kimono – including juunihitoe (for royals!), pandas, inconsistent and/or incorrect romanization of Japanese, non-Japanese names (Aisha!?), and a myriad of other things.

To sum it up quickly: Bitterly disappointing. I am not happy. Not at all.

Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.2k followers
August 9, 2012
I need to take a moment to do some­thing before begin­ning this review.


Stor­m­dancer is a fan­tasy nerdgasm, writ­ten by a fan­tasy nerd, for the fan­tasy nerds – and if it sounds like I just pil­fered some of the Get­tys­burg address then that’s because Abra­ham Lin­coln rid­ing a griz­zly bear was just about the only damn thing miss­ing from this book.

Lincoln riding a bear
Image by Rando

Sub­se­quently my life is now complete.

Stor­m­dancer is a world one step removed from our own. Imag­ined as a Japan with Steam­punk tech­nol­ogy and alter­nate his­tory, chok­ing the life out of itself by grow­ing and har­vest­ing the Blood Lotus – which fuels all their mechan­i­cal mar­vels. And then there’s Yukiko. Daugh­ter of the Hunt Mas­ter, sub­ject of the ter­ri­fy­ing and cruel Shogun, impure yokai-kin sent on an impos­si­ble mis­sion to find the myth­i­cal grif­fin and cap­ture it for the Shogun.

Things I liked about Stormdancer:


The Writ­ing










Obvi­ously the scene stealer of this novel is Buruu. Proud, funny, vicious, blood-thirsty and beau­ti­ful. But char­ac­ters aren’t enough to breath life into a novel. What Stor­m­dan­ver has is the near-perfectly con­structed prose which trans­form this beau­ti­ful nar­ra­tive into a sprawl­ing epic. Kristoff’s style is rich, whim­si­cal and near lyri­cal in his form and struc­ture. Novice’s to fan­tasy may either get swept away or drown if it’s too deep for their skill level.

Clearly a great deal of ten­der lov­ing care has gone into Kristoff’s stun­ning debut, as vis­i­ble from every sin­gle page labored with meaty lore, obses­sive detail and great imag­i­na­tion. Some may enjoy the sub­tle, or not so sub­tle, nods to other fan­tasy and sci­ence fic­tion that lit­ter this book. The plot and pac­ing keep up a steady stream of inter­est and enthu­si­asm, I felt. Mak­ing this book excep­tion­ally read­able and enjoyable.

And now that I have got­ten all the oblig­a­tory seri­ous dis­cus­sion and annoy­ing stuff that I have to do to be taken seri­ously as book blog­ger out of the way, may I just men­tion one, juve­nile thing that I rather enjoyed:

Chainsaw Katana
Orig­i­nal pic­ture by Cory Doc­torow – alter­ation based on Darkstarz

All the jizz­wor­thy toys. Yes! Great char­ac­ters, writ­ing, world-building, plot, pac­ing, blah-blah-blah… GIVE ME MY CHAINSAW KATANA, KRISTOFF!

The mech­a­nized armor and sky ships and CHAINSAW FUCKING KATANAS and tat­toos and the hun­dred other lit­tle Steampunk-y ideas that filled this novel up and made it stand out above the rest! I LOVE IT! I LOVE IT! I LOVE IT!

calming down

Ah… erm, that is all…

Buy this book. Buy it and read it and love it. Then make me a chain­saw Katana.

This review also appears on my blog, Cuddlebuggery Book Blog
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,576 reviews33.9k followers
August 13, 2016
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.

Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 90 books232k followers
April 4, 2012
What's this? A Japanese Steampunk novel with mythical creatures and a strong female protagonist? Yeah, I'm all over that. Though honestly, you had me at "Japanese Steampunk."

I'm not giving this a star rating because the version of the book I read was an "advance uncorrected proof" of the book. That means it could undergo some changes between now and when it's printed in September. "It's hard for me to give it a number, since I don't know what stuff might be different in the version I read, vs the version you'll be able to read in September.

Simply said, I liked it. Plus, y'know, Japanese steampunk....

Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
January 14, 2013

The first thing that came to my mind after finishing Stormdancer was the very eloquent: WHOA! The second more composed chain of thought was something along the lines of: Why yes, that *was* just as badass as its cover suggested. Stormdancer had it all for me. Richly crafted world building, carefully placed humor, realistic characters, unpredictable storyline... I mean, I could go on and on here! This book was freakin' awesome! I went into Stormdancer expecting to fall in love with it because it has such an awesome premise. Which is saying something because I'm not a huge fan of Steampunk. *Cue the mock horror and shock* But you know what? I loved this book. Prepare yourselves, friends... for a glowing review.

Right off the bat the reader is immersed into Shima's culture with no hand holding from Kristoff whatsoever. The beginning is intelligently planned and doesn't insult the reader with countless explanations of terms, locations and titles. That's what a glossary is for. Thankfully, Stormdancer has one, which I found myself visiting often at first. However, those visits tapered off as I became more familiar with the story. It's almost like watching your favorite anime with subtitles. In the beginning you're doing a lot of reading, but halfway through you find yourself catching on, getting lost in the story, following along easier without the need of your training wheels. Good stuff, people. Good stuff.

The plot rocked my socks. It all revolves around a flower called "blood lotus" that fuels their machinery and the population's drug addiction to it. The Shogun believes he is destined to be a legendary Stormdancer, riding the back of a Thunder Tiger, leading his army to victory against an enemy he plans to enslave for further production of the plant that's choking the life from his country. Throw in Samurai with clockwork armory, a telepathic griffin and chainsaw katanas and you, my friend, have got yourself a damn good time.

The characterizations are phenomenal. I absolutely loved Yukiko. She's incredibly smart, fierce and independent. And her voice felt very real to me as a female. The best part of Stormdancer hands down was Buruu the griffin. HILARIOUS! When he and Yukiko first meet up he affectionately refers to her as "insect" and "monkey." Did I mention this dude speaks in ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME? (He sounds like Zordon from the Power Rangers in my head. But with attitude.) I found myself laughing every time they interacted. His development was also an interesting one because he starts off with a simpler mind, thinking short choppy violent thoughts, with no understanding of sarcasm, only blood. But as the novel progresses you can see his sentence structure improving and his thoughts becoming more humane (darn!). It was all a very smooth transition until I couldn't see the final Buruu any other way.

What's that you say? You find it impossible that I can find no fault with Stormdancer? Well, that's not entirely true. But keep in mind this is coming from someone who doesn't read a lot of High Fantasy or Steampunk. Basically, ignore me. Lol. If there was one thing that bothered me, it was the beginning. It felt a little slow for me with the myriads of description after description. When my best friend asked me in the beginning what I thought of Stormdancer I told her it was kinda like when Rowling went nuts on describing the Weasley house. And her reply was, "Yes! I love tons of descriptions." And that's when I realized I was obviously the weirdo in this case. For once. Don't worry, I'll be back to being the "kool" one soon enough.

So why did I give it 5 stars? Why not 4? Truthfully, for about half the book I thought, "Okay, 4 stars for sure." But then Buruu and Yukiko brought the THUNDA with that fight screen against the Oni... and I was like whoa, dude! Oh, and when the minor character, Michi, started going into splits, cutting dudes to shreds!! OMG, it was like a serious Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon badass scene on steroids. And then with the plot twists! *takes deep breath* Sorry, I-I-I couldn't contain the fangirling. But it was awesome!

And that ending?! Wow. So much win and I never saw it coming! And damn you Kristoff for making me shed a tear! Who knew my cold, dead heart was capable of such emotions? But you know what they say, "The lotus must bloom." Heh. I am very thankful that salt wasn't poured into the wound with a cliffhanger, but I feel like a desperate lotus addict looking for book two to magically appear on my bookshelf. *weeps* It's not there! So I'll just be over here rocking back and forth waiting for my bookish fix.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

ARC was provided by the publisher. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. Doubt me not, friends. These are my honest thoughts. Kristoff happened to write a book and I happened to love it.

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.


Reaction right after reading:

Like, wow. Need book two. Now.

I hear Mr. Kristoff does not believe in happy endings. That roughly translates into sucker punching your emotions and then proceeding to stomp them, probably with a bloody smile on his face.

He should expect my therapy bill in the mail.

In case you were wondering: Yes, Stormdancer is as badass as its cover suggests.

Review most definitely to come. Alas, I'm not allowed to post it until August 1st. Just remember that it hurts me more than it does you. (Well, maybe not...)

5/18 EDIT: Check out the badass US cover! Don't forget to stop on over to Cuddlebuggery for a chance to win an ARC!

This cover screams, "I'm going to cut you."

3/27 EDIT: Just saw the UK cover!


This book sounds badass. Must acquire at all costs.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,984 followers
September 14, 2012
This is going to be LONG

Ana’s Thoughts:

There is a story behind my reading of Stormdancer and it starts months ago when the author first contacted us to introduce his upcoming book. That email remains one of the best book pitches we have received, and the book was described as a dystopian novel in a Japanese-inspired Steampunk setting with a strong girl as its protagonist. We loved the idea, as it sounded like it was a book made for The Book Smugglers (Dystopia! Steampunk! Diversity! Kick-ass Girls!) and we reacted accordingly. In the ensuing months we were one of the many people creating hyper around the book, we participated in its cover reveal and interviewed Jay Kristoff in our September Newsletter. Basically, I was predisposed to like it.

That is, until I became predisposed not to like it.

First, there were a few very negative reviews online describing the reviewers’ reaction to the problematic depiction of Japanese culture within the book. Whilst I am able to shut my ears to all sorts of criticism before I read a book in order to make my own mind up about it, when it comes to cultural appropriation (especially of cultures not my own), I listen. A couple of interviews with the author (including, unfortunately, our own) did not assuage my fears – in fact, they may have exacerbated them. I found the expectation that readers are supposed to accept that the world of Shima (the setting in the book) and Japan “might look a lot alike but, aren’t the same place” to be disingenuous. Especially taking into consideration the fact that EVERYTHING about the book screams Japan: the language; the descriptions of the people and the culture; the very cover of the book and the character represented on it.

It strikes me that my reading experience of Stormdancer is emblematic of not only the power of reviews but also of the increasing flow of information about authors – all of that available to anyone who bothers looking for it, before we even start reading a book. Reading does not happen in a vacuum and this is more true now with the increasing amount of information available online.

In that sense it was impossible for me to dissociate myself from my reaction to those reviews and interviews and thus, I started reading the book under the weight of conflicting emotions and being hyper-aware to these potential issues.

Interestingly enough, I had several problems with the novel but none of the problems I personally had related to the Japan-inspired setting – but I will get back to this latter affirmation further down.

There is a good book idea here somewhere. The premise is fabulous. There is a believable Dystopian world (although in a less believable Steampunk setting) where an evil overlord exploits the lands and its people and they accept it all because of a cultural concept of honour and devotion to their leaders. The main character Yukiko and her arc were actually pretty interesting in its basic idea (coming of age, quest for revenge, leading a revolution) and I really did like the fact that main female is sexually empowered without being shamed for it.

So, as I said, there is a good book idea here somewhere – but the execution left a lot to be desired.

To sum up some of my feelings:

The first 100 or so pages are basically exposition and descriptions. Paragraph after paragraph of info-dump where things are described in minutia (there is a very long paragraph, for example, describing the clothes someone is wearing). I am not a fan of exposition at best of times and this drove me to distraction. As the story progresses though, the level of exposition diminishes somewhat and becomes a bit more manageable and the story flows better.

Storylines progress far too quickly, events happen at speed of light without a lot of depth or actual development. For example: the main character’s whole concept of “honour” and devotion to the Shogun which is SO important, essential even to the character to start with? She forgets all about it after a few hours in the company of a group of rebels. The same goes for relationships between characters especially the bond formed between Yukiko and the Thunder Tiger Buruu – one moment Buruu was all like “GRRR I KILL YOU” , next thing you know he is all like “MY SISTER, I LOVE YOU FOREVER”. To be honest, SO much happens here, I feel this one book’s plot deserved a trilogy of its own.

Clumsy translation issues: character thinks of something in her language and says it in JAPANESE then…translates it into English. But if her language is JAPANESE, why the translation is here in the first place? Example:

" ‘Ichigo’ was the pet name he’d given her when she was little. ‘Strawberry’ “

There is no place for this “strawberry” here if “Ichigo” is the word in her language!

Then the book is obviously set in this traditional, feudal Japanese world and there are the (overuse) of (presumably) Japanese words but also very contemporary English words like “shit” or “fucking hell” or “damnits” spread throughout. Jarring.1

The message of BAD GOVERNMENT and GOOD NATURE is extremely, extremely heavy-handed.

In fairness, I thought it did get a little better in the latter chapters in terms of plot. But I had so many problems with characters’ arcs and story execution and with the incredibly stilted dialogue as well as the heavy handed message that…I can’t really say I enjoyed any of it.

Which brings me to the topic of Cultural Appropriation and the Japanese culture as depicted in this book. Was it well done? Was it done respectfully? Was Japan a mere source of aesthetics, superficial inspiration that exploited nothing but its stereotypes?

To be honest?

I couldn’t say.

Because I know fuck-all about Japanese culture.

And that is why I really appreciate reading those reviews and then those interviews cited above.

Because I know nothing about Japan, when I pick up a book to read that is so obviously inspired by Japanese culture, I expect the author to have done their research well. I trust the author to have done their research. This whole experience to me, speaks to the trust between reader and author. When I get a book that is inspired by Japan I implicitly trust the author to do it right. To at least attempt do it responsibly and respectfully.

But then you start reading reviews by people who DO know and they point out mistakes ranging from misrepresentation of concepts to the wrong use of language and you realise that there is something wrong with this picture. That the people behind a book (author, editor) could not be bothered with really simple things in terms of research that even people like me who are not experts at all can tell is wrong after a simple Google search. I do think when that happens and a reader becomes aware of those facts, something is inevitably lost in the reading experience that not even good writing/great characters or whatever can save a book…at least not to the extent of making it an AWESOME book. For me, it will always be something like: “this is a good book BUT…” (and unfortunately Stormdancer doesn’t even fall in that category of “good, but” for me).

Look, I don’t expect perfection from every book I read nor do I believe that authors that source inspiration elsewhere are evil White appropriators – I admire authors who try to do something different, who respectfully try to represent other cultures in their stories. “Respectfully” is the key word here. I don’t think saying that “this is only inspired by it” is enough of an excuse because you shouldn’t simply use a culture that is not yours as your source of inspiration and pick only what you think will look cool on page.

And that is what I have to say about my experience with Stormdancer.

Thea’s Thoughts:

Well, what can I say to follow that? Ana has expressed a good majority of my feelings and experiences with Stormdancer. I, too, was ridiculously excited to read this book – because Japanese-inspired dystopian steampunk world starring a kick-ass young heroine?! FUCK YES! – but I, too, started to feel that prickle of dread as the reviews started to roll in. And then it was time to finally read Stormdancer.2

And, unfortunately, this was again a case of cool premise, terrible execution, and cultural appropriation taken to the extreme.

Let’s start with the cool premise part. As Ana says above, there is a good story buried within Stormdancer – in particular, I the initial exchanges between Yukiko and Buruu are fantastic (although their bond solidifies far too quickly), as is Yukiko’s overall storyarc. I also appreciate the idea of the world of Shima and the general message decrying the evils of mindless industrialization at the sacrifice of the natural world. That said, the pacing was completely off-kilter – thousands of words wasted on lengthy descriptions of crowds and clothing (fine in moderation, excruciating when protracted across paragraphs for no apparent reason), and then NO time invested in the development of emotion, relationships between characters, or characters’ watershed arc moments. And, while Jay Kristoff does have a natural skill with description, there is a whole lotta repetition going on. Example:

"Branches whipped her face and tore her clothes, rain and sweat slicked her skin. She touched the fox tattoo sleeving her right arm, tracing its nine tails in prayer."

and then a few pages later:

"Masaru cracked his neck and touched the exquisite nine-tailed fox design sleeving his right arm, whispering a prayer to Kitsune."

The same goes for descriptions of sweating crowds swathed in silk, or characters that bow with “hand covering fist.” Or with Buruu’s apparent love of the word “DESPOILER” (Buruu talks in all caps, in case you were wondering). These things are incredibly irritating – and this is to say nothing of Yukiko’s insipid daydreaminess about he of the green eyes.

Which brings me to the next section of this ponderings post, and the main problem with Stormdancer – the cultural appropriation. The lack of research or respect for Japanese culture (as confirmed in the author’s own words!). The – as one apt goodreads reviewer puts it – weeaboo fuckery.

I am not a scholar of Japanese culture, nor am I Japanese. That said, I do know a bit about Japan having lived in Kobe and Fukuoka for four years, and having attended a public Japanese school. While today my Japanese is rusty at best, I am comfortable saying that I know a bit about Japan. So please believe me when I say that for all that Stormdancer is set in a mythical place called the Shima Isles, this is clearly Japan. These characters speak in Japanese. They reference Japanese creatures (oni, kami, kitsune) and weapons (tanto, nunchaku) and symbols (kanji – which are irritatingly referred to as “kanji letters” and apparently no hiragana or katakana are around, even though some romaji phrases – e.g. sarariman – are used). AND YET, the Japanese used is frequently, repeatedly incorrect. To reiterate what other reviewers have mentioned, there’s the use of “hai” as the equivalent of “yes” in all its forms throughout the book (it’s as if someone did a massive search and replace in the manuscript…). This is especially irritating because had the author (or editor, or copyeditor! OR ANYONE!) gone to enough trouble to talk to someone that speaks Japanese, they would know this is ridiculously wrong. In fact, they would discover that Japanese *does* have phrases that act as a question of affirmation (so desuka, ne, and so on). Similarly, the incorrect use of “sama” has been well documented (interestingly, “chan” is used correctly as an honorific). The Shogunate (the Kazumitsu dynasty seems to have been unconvincingly modeled off the Kamakura shogunate) itself feels off, as is the use of weaponry (strange, that Yukiko uses a tanto, when she should probably have two blades) and dress (the irritating assumption that “kimono” equals “robe” and offhanded use of “obi” as a mere sash).

This is sloppy, it’s lazy, and doing the handwavy thing to say “well, Shima is a different place” is not acceptable.

Finally, I just want to put out one last note. THE GREEN FUCKING EYES. This is one of my BIGGEST Oh No Nos – you have a diverse character, who is made ALL THE MORE SPECIAL BEAUTIFUL because s/he has BLUE/GREEN/VIOLET/RAINBOW eyes. AKA, you are taking a character of color, and you’re giving them a caucasian trait/symbol of beauty that makes them even MORE beautiful than anyone else around them. I fucking go batshit when I see this. And yes, a character in this text – the lusted-after teenage samurai lord – has sea-green eyes.

And that is all I have to say about that.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,933 reviews10.6k followers
August 16, 2012
When the Shogun demands someone bring him an arashitora (griffin), a group of adventurers gos on an airship voyage to capture the beast, long thought to be extinct. The airship goes down and a girl named Yukiko befriends the captured arashitora. Can the two of them be reunited with Yukiko's friends and overthrow the Shogun?

I received this ARC from the fine folks at St. Martin's. It's freeness does not diminish its awesomeness.

Not too long ago, I got an email asking if I wanted to give Stormdancer a try. Once I read the phrases "steampunk feudal Japan" and "free," I was sold.

Stormdancer takes place in a fantasy version of feudal Japan, one with an environment fouled by the blood lotus, a plant that blights the land but has many beneficial properties, like being smoked or turned into a super-fuel. Thus, the island nation of Shima has an impressive empire, ruled by mad and cruel Shogun.

Yukiko, the heroine, is the daughter of an aging hero Masaru, The Black Fox, and a yokai, one of the people touched by the spirits. The Yokai are relentlessly hunted by The Lotus Guild, armored machine-men who keep the Shima technology moving forward.

If I had one gripe about the book, it's that it takes a little while for the main plot to kick off. To be fair, though, there is a ton of worldbuilding that needs to be done before then. Anyway, once Yukiko meets the arashitora, the book grabs on tight and doesn't let go. I found myself getting really attached to the characters and probably would have went into seclusion if Buruu had died. The relationship between Buruu and Yukiko was my favorite part of the book.

You know how most steampunk seems to be Paranormal Romance with some gears and brass added on? Stormdancer is not one of those. This book is jam packed with interesting concepts, like the Iron Samurai, the Lotus Guild, ninja cells with agents hidden everywhere, yokai, the list goes on and on. Still skeptical? Two words: chainsaw katana.

The ending was poignant yet satisfying. If one were so inclined, one could read this book and not read the subsequent volumes and be satisfied. I'll be continuing, though. Stormdancer is the most original science fiction/fantasy novel I've read in a long time. Five easy stars.

Note: I did a blog interview with Jay Kristoff here. He's a hilarious guy so buy his book.

Profile Image for Bibi.
1,282 reviews3,263 followers
August 29, 2017
Someone please make it stop....

DNF @ 20- what the heck was I thinking- %
Profile Image for Vernieda.
265 reviews
October 11, 2012
I am judging every single person who has blurbed and recced this book.

Leaving aside the criticisms of cultural appropriation (and there are many criticisms to be made, believe me), this book has some serious gender issues and proves why many female readers do not trust male authors who claim to have written a "strong female character." Mostly because that strong female character will be written in a creepy, sexualized, (straight) male gaze-y fashion.

And even putting that aside, the story is just not that good. It's pacing is slow -- it takes 100 pages before anything really happens. Why? Because the first 100 pages are devoted to clumsy infodumping, which only highlights the superficial cultural research. There are plot cliches everywhere. The romance, such that it is, makes me roll my eyes because it's a classic Nice Guy(tm) fantasy.

It's just very disappointing. This is a book that got a lot of buzz, and part of that buzz is because of the setting. Except it's exoticized, fetishized Othering and it's bothersome to think that the kind of books that get that amount of attention only support the failtastic Orientialism that's been in the fantasy genre for decades. We haven't moved past this? Really?

In conclusion: (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ
Profile Image for Syahira .
650 reviews72 followers
July 30, 2013
also in my blog

Stormdancer is a Young Adult Fantasy fiction about a Kitsune Yukiko and her father was sent to find a mythical creature for their shogun. The novel consisted of 35 chapers with various point of views from Yukiko, Masaru, the Arashitora, the Shogun and some others. It have glossary at the end of the book because the author uses Japanese words while writing and there's tremendous descriptive writing accompanied with every scenes that spans from raindrops, smells and the furniture.

Stormdancer is one of the most highly anticipated novel in YA communities for a good reason. Its Asian-inspired steampunk and the cover is a girl with a sword. Generally its well-liked by most reviewers who like reading manga and anime. Its foreign, its interesting.

But this is possibly top as the most disappointing hyped book in this quarter of the year.


Well, apparently it was said that the language and stuff is intended because its asian-inspired and I shouldn't be in panty-twisted mood because the whole language madeupness is 'forgivable' because its intended to.

Fine. But remember, its 'intended' to be a Japanese Steampunk book so naturally, those who have some interest in Japanese culture would be attracted to this book.

But, the usage of pseudo-Japanese in this novel is actually equivalent to a book written in any language that is badly edited AND ridden with countless of grammatical errors. In other word, unpublishable. The point was, its hard to read without being a grammar police and complain about verbs and spellings every pages!

The book bastardize even the most basic kindergarten level Japanese which made the whole book unnatural to read by a normal person who know a tiny amount of japanese language.

Here's an example of a novel that made an entire language. Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange is a Russian-British fusion distopia novel and uses Nadsat in every page of his book. He created the language with a fusion of English and Russian slangs and idiomatic expressions. And its shows that he did extensive research to his novel which is frighteningly original. Most of people consider him a genius in linguistic because he is one and the way that he uses the root words and combine it into a very setting-appropriate language that was natural even to a British or a Russian reader.

What made this book a failure is that there are a lot of basic wiki-able thing that a person can do that the author just basically ignore. This 'tiny' but constant repetitive errors is very distracting and divert my attention from the plot and characters's dialogues.

Kanji is not a symbol. Its words.

Imagine a person calling a noun as a hieroglyphics symbol.

It doesn't help at all that the dialogues in this book is in broken fake japanese.

Of course, it will be a bit too much to ask for a writer who basically don't know Japanese besides from a translated comic book to know about this. But when you first went through the first couple of pages, you'll notice a map which basically never had a function while reading this book but existed because naturally its a fantasy book.

Here's an example. There's no kanji whatsoever in this book besides Romanji names.

Since Kanji often carry double meaning when paired with another words so I just have to assume the most 'likely' meaning to it.

Minori.実里 (beautiful harbour)
Yama. 山 (mountain)
Iishi Mountains. 飯石山 (food-stone mountain which 飯石 is a real place btw but is without a mountain)
Kojima 小島 (little island)
Shoujo River.少女川 (girl river)*
Kigen 機嫌 (Mood) or 紀元 (era) or whatever

Okay. As you see, its a map. Yes, there's some eye raising thing happening, there's nothing big deal about it. Until you read the book and there are repetitive usage of the word 'Shima'.

"And from wedded bliss, eight children drew precious life: The Isles of Shima."
"As was custom among all the great bloodlines of Shima,"
"long-forgotten days when the kami still walked Shima with earthly feet,:
"The Shogun of Shima surveyed the people around him"
"shall be the richest man in all of Shima."
"So too would the islands of Shima transcend..."
"the last nagaraja of Shima through the Renshi swamps,"
"Next Stormdancer of Shima,"
"Ten Thousands Days speaks of eight islands of Shima"

and a bunch more... but now I need you to read this and replace "Shima" with the word "Island"

and I repeat, Shima is 島 and is "Island". Who would name an island as island, twice?!

And then you'll understand why I had to take a deep breath and try to keep my senses together.

If GRR Martin can create "Westeros" and Tolkien can create "Middle Earth" and Le Guin's Earthsea, why can't you just replace the Shima with Ryukyu Islands (琉球諸島 - Ryuku shoto and 諸島 means group of islands) with some other things that was not two syllable of 島島 in this 'alternate world'.

So... thats just one tiny word that was probably mention a hundred time in this novel. Imagine what other word did to me.

Which --> Yama is 山 which is a "Mountain".

"Plus we'll need to refuel in Yama City"

"We're heading south, toward Yama."

"Akihito and Kasumi on a sky-ship to Yama."

"Lord Izanagi commanded to Yama Kings"

In addition to that, here's another repetitive things in this book.

Normally, God is refered to as kamisama, 神様. Even if the book have their own gods but it wouldnt hurt to just generalized as 'okamisama' or 'izanagisama' or 'izanagiokamisama' instead of "Lord Izanagi" in every single repetition. I first thought that was actually a person since the word Lord is very specific to the Shogun (especially with the over repetitive "great lord")

And another thing.

嵐虎 aka "Arashitora", the thunderbird in this book. 嵐虎 is not that wrong in Chinese but its usually written like this 嵐の虎 (arashinotora) in Japanese (like 'Ushio to Tora'). の can be seen as something than can replace 'of' or ('s). 嵐 can also be shortened into "Ran" with kanjis.

But here's the thing, there's no such word exist for Griffin in Japanese. Japanese don't have Griffin's mythology. Griffins is from western mythology. Japanese call Griffins as グリフィン. Plus, Griffins isn't even a tiger.

All this lazy worldbuilding is giving me hives..


I think someone just ctrl-replace all "yes" in the novel with "hai", which brings up to awkward stunted phrases in a sentence. And this happened every chapters.

"....Hai, great Lord."
"Enough for one day, hai?"
"Hai, great Lord."
"It is a gift, hai."
"Hai," it said.
"The solitude is pleasant, hai?"
"I can get into the trees, hai."
"Hai," Yukiko nodded. "Aiya" Daichi shook his head.
"Hai, sama."
"You will tell it to behave, hai"
"Hai, Lady"

Oh God....

"Hai" it's actually ハイツ. Ha-i-tsu (silent つ). Thats why normally in literature we wrote it as "Hait" and if you listen to people saying Yes in japanese, you'll hear it as "Hait" too.

In manga, characters often say hai with prolonged i (イ).... example: haiiiiiiii! aka "ハイイイイイイイイイ!".

Interesting trivia, Hai is actually "Hi/Hello" in Malay. when I see, "Hai, sama", I actually think "Hai, sama-sama." (Hi, you're welcome).

So, I can't help but finding them *above quotes* as funny. In weird situations. In serious scenes.

Funny, how in this scene, Dean is in a Japanese game show

News to everyone, saying such thing alone is considered as stunted and unconvincing so thats why people have polite sentences like "kudasai", "oneigaishimasu", "desuka" etc at the end of a word. That's why the excessive politeness dialogues in some translated manga. That's Asian for you. Respect.

And now, let's start with the suffix. There's "chan", "san" and "sama". However, these are suffix. It NEVER mean ANYTHING on their own. You don't call people with "sama".

We call them with their first or last name included.

Like Mr Hayao Miyazaki with Miyazaki-san or Miyazaki-sama or Hayao-chan.

Sama is not something you replace on the word "sir".

So if a Shogunate wanted you to find a griffin, instead of you say "Hai, my lord. It will be so.", this is what normal translated subtitled movie response, "Certainly, my lord. We will do as you commanded it".

Simple as it is and even if someone read it in Japanese, it won't be deviating so much in English and it does add to your word count.


Also, when you say 'Asian-inspired' and did a lengthy descriptive details copied from a Japanese dictionary. It wasn't that hard to open up an international chat room and ask whether "Aiya" is a Japanese expression.

In case everyone didn't notice it, China and Japan is still in murky situation. A Mainland Chinese person certainly wouldn't think a Japanese would use Chinese expressions on things. Naturally.

Besides, there's THOUSANDS of expression of frustration and distress that you can use in Japanese..... どうして???

Another problematic thing that point out the inability for the author to even look up on internet. "too much at stake to allow a few missing pandas to get in the way of production quotas." Are pandas native in Japan? uh..????

....nope. Even I have second thought about putting pandas anywhere in my writing.... because...

Just don't.


And here's another thing that made me frown.

"....armies to war overseas against the round-eye gaijin."
"But if the Doctown gaijin had misgivings about the treatment of their countrymen,"
"the gaijin barbarians across the seas to my will"
"Brilliant blue, like a gaijin's eyes"
shipload of gaijin"
"enslave gaijin"
"Taken from a gaijin castle."
"the gaijin will quail before you."
"The gaijin must be broken"

oh God.... is this a way to create some racist remark or something.

'Gaijin'-ism dated before the european imperialism for outsiders like unfamiliar strangers. Gaijins can also be Asians like Korean, Chinese, Thai, Malay, Indian, Bangladeshi, Indonesian and etc. If you actually google
Gaijin, its not just mean round-eye white foreigner. As if some of us Asians doesn't have our own perception on racial prejudices toward the rest of the continent.. what made this book necessary to hate all westies?

Seriously, if its mentioned ONCE. It won't be an issue. Alas, its a descriptive novel and randomly it just have to pop up to create an ominous realistic steampunk atmosphere fueling Asians as backward elitist society. Its not wrong. They used to be those crazed folks with the perceptions that they are the better Asia and their emperor are God. That's why they invade from the north and want to exterminate a population in this country. In the history, they are the Daleks of my country. But that doesn't mean I couldn't read subtleties or be empathic with them post-WWII nor does it necessitate me to have my own pprejudices on them or their literature.

Its poorly done.

And Asians generally dont label people with the shape of their eyes. There are 566 words on eyes in this book on eyes alone and a bunch of it is "round-eyes".

If you're in my country, we have every single types of eyes shapes. "Round-eyes" is not a curse nor a derogatory compound word. Horikita Maki and a lot of Japanese have natural round eyes. They lived near Russia for heaven sakes, that a lot of genetic mixing to stereotype a nation due to some hereditary epicanthal folds.

Not sure if a foreigner felt its necessary to include such thing to look like its authentically Asian. Its not.

If it doesn't add anything to the story. Just don't add it.

BTW, why cant the dialogues be like a normal conversation without these streotyped Asianized-movie-talking-english-trying-to-sound-asian thing. Its a story where everyone speak japanese to each other. The dialogues shouldn't be this weird hybrid of bad Asian dubbed movies.

I'm not sure about general reviewers think but all of these is maddening distracting. I'm insanely weirded out with this over abundance of unnecessary things to be seen as 'Asian-inspired'.

Characterization and Romance

Kitsune Yukiko - I really wanted to like her but I find her bland as a girl with a sword and very basic archetypal. Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is much more likable than Yukiko. You don't add a sword to a girl and expect me to buy that she's awesome strong character. Her character description is very basic and unimaginative. I can't even find myself enjoying her journey to the end of the book

From the description of a strong and sword-weilding character, I was expecting this

instead of this

What character progression? Seriously. She's classic Mary-Sue.

Arashitora/Buruu - I'm quite disturbed by Buruu's dialogues and the use oof CAPITALIZED WORDS IN EVERY SCENE. My eyes went wide to capture those words

His first scene on the ship and the forest part is the only bright part of this novel, but to the end of this book, I'm still not impressed because his characterization jumped from Agressive to Sympathetic in the middle of the book.

He became a pet character like pokemon characters. Its like Ash/Satoshi just captured a fierce legendary creature after a long fight and then once pokeballed they become best friends.


Kin and Hiro - The infamous love triangle. Actually, I never see a love triangle because I'm still working out with the bulk of the descriptiveness to detect the existence of one but I get Kin's plot but when Hiro came into the story, it goes out of the spectrum with Yukiko's motivation. She kept jumping into conclusion, make friends, get into trouble but I never see the sense of adding a romantic storyline in a story thats basically wasn't about a romantic storyline. Its being forced into this book and I hate it.

There's no build up in Yukiko and Hiro relationship nor 'sensuous' attraction (and all these descriptives about the eyes and how beautiful Yukiko is doesn't count!) and then suddenly they're willing to sleep with each other when they basically don't know each other! Relationship is about trust.

That's not how you build epic romance! In fact its a waste of space in this novel. Since the Stormdancer is supposed to be a serial so why couldn't it be prolonged into a cliffhanger for the next novel? Build up the attraction or something.


The novel is a classic war against drugs, addiction, natural environment, technological advancement, cultural regression and governmental oppression. But it is very black and white in some expect and some scenes are quite preaching.

Yes, shogunate and bushido code is oppressive and brain-washing with loyalties and such but so is fascism, political mania, scientific mania, hollywood idolatry and etc. But these things are not a 'black and white' thing that you just venture head on without thinking about it for a moment.

Trying to be superficial about everything will weaken the plot. And there's a lot of plot-holes in this book.

There's a lot of ronin stories out there especially tales and legends. Why not base on that? Oh wait, the author don't research nor do anything for believability. Why I even bother?

If you read history book, you'll notice everything is dystopian. If this book highly depended on wikipedia for its terms then everyone should know Sakoku (鎖国, "locked country") in 17th century Japan. There's a lot of interesting things happening in the era which this novel can be based on especially Battle of Sekigahara.

I get the V for Vandetta vibes but it's very predictable and redundant and nothing original. I never get why others made a reference about Eon and Eona, well, this book is nothing similar to Eon especially with the coup d'état scenes.


For a couple of weeks trying to get into this book, I was completely exhausted by the attempts and the facepalming my face had to endure.

For me, the lack of authenticities and the author's inability to make a convincing world building made the book difficult for me.

The character and dialogue are sparsely entertaining even with lengthy details on descriptives which made the book read like it was a filler-fest. I do read richly descriptive books but I do expect the writing to be balanced or complex enough to be engaging.

I wouldn't be so certain that a fan of Japanese Steampunk would love this novel with the obvious errors and ignorant attitude to Japanese culture. There are probably abundance of steampunk historical fiction of any form in the market and Stormdancer is probably a glance through to avid Japanese otaku readers.

I really don't feel the story is engaging as I wanted to. I might not consider the continuation or recommendation unless these major language inconsistencies is fixed since it does disturbed my reading but the book as a whole is quite standalone on its own for me to sum up my feelings on the story.


And this is not a do-not-finish review. I do not meant to be snarky or such but well, this is my honesty. I spend my time reading and I provide my own opinion.

I gave my own reason why this book is troublesome to me and its major enough and unforgivable that I had lay down my reasons and I do explain it and such.

Even if I didn't do it. Others will.

I don't need to be agreeable to everything that everyone push me. Nor I am in that subset of group that live in a bubble that hate every debut authors in existence.

I don't people please. I do reviews from my own reading of every single goddamn pages of it.

And finally, you know if a chocolate ice-cream is piped wrongly, it would look like this.

Don't ever make chocolate ice-cream analogies with negative reviews. Just don't.


This ARC review of Stormdancer is supplied by the publisher St Martin Press via Netgalley. The novel will be published on 18 September 2012.
Profile Image for katie ❀.
120 reviews479 followers
April 14, 2021
rating problematic books one star is a form of self-care all in itself.
Profile Image for Alexis Lee.
64 reviews55 followers
September 12, 2012
[Made some major edits - Oh, and read the end of the review, please. :)]

I read the words:
"Japanese steampunk"
and lost my mind. I knew I had to read this book like, NowOMGholyshiznits. So I did. And now I'm torn, because the words "Japanese Steampunk" deserve five stars for even existing, but the book...not so much.

The blurb sounded fantastic - all the elements I could ever want in a steampunk story (Or even any genre kind of story). I went through lots and lots of rave enthusiastic reviews. Also, need I mention - JAPANESE. STEAMPUNK. (And, OMG, chainsaw. Katana!??! THUNDERTIGERS?!?! SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.)

I expected so, so much from this story, and perhaps that's why it failed to deliver what I was looking for. While I was reading, all I could think about was how oddly detached I was from the characters. I felt nothing for the heroine and even less for her father/love interest(s). The only character I actually liked was Buruu, and possibly Lady Aisha, and even that was a very tentative, fleeting sort of 'like'. The character development was minimal and, well, soggy at best - I know its there, but it wasn't good enough. Not by a longshot. Everyone is 2-dimensional and flat. Flat like steamrolled flat; there is literally no depth to these characters.

Also, the prose and writing style was WAY TOO overdone.
Of course, there were some good lines in there, like and some pretty descriptions - but most of the time, there was just too much description, which made it very hard to follow. World building went on forever, and ever, and ever, and ever. It was unnecessary, to say the least.
Usage of Japanese terms and language was overdone and added to the confusion, because they weren't woven in properly. [Here I would like to note, 'aiyah!' is not a Japanese exclamation. I'm annoyed, because its what we Malaysians use. :D Singaporeans do, too - but I have never, ever, ever heard a Japanese say anything the least bit similar to 'aiyah!']

But! Those are just things I felt uncomfortable with in the book - There are some things about this book that just outright didn't cut it for me.

1. For a novel which claims to be a Japanese steampunk [and the distinction is important,] there is very little authentic Japanese or (even Oriental/Asian) feel to this story. You can't just fling Japanese words around and market it as a Japanese story. That's not how it works, and it really doesn't work here. This is most obvious in the way the characters interact with each other. There is something distinctly un-Japanese about how they address or relate to one another, and in their actions towards each other. Perhaps its different for other readers, but I see it very clearly, and it bothers me.

*Edit: No, seems like I'm not alone with this. Kindly refer to other scathing but sadly true one-star/two-star reviews which point out just how badly the Japanese language/grammar is murdered in this novel, because they cover all the glaring mistakes that I noticed in the writing. And there are some hugeass glaring ones. I feel the need to reiterate this point: don't. Overuse. The. Japanese. Terms! (I reread a first few chapters in the hope my opinion would improve....nope, if anything, it got worse). They were almost always unnecessary and got really annoying to sift through. I ended up assuming/imagining what every Japanese term meant in my head because I couldn't be bothered to google. Even worse, the terms that I did know were a result of many long hours spent watching anime and reading manga - I can't even begin to imagine how the readers who never indulge in the pastime get through the insane amount of Japanese word-dropping that goes on.

I notice the author has three chapters up for previews. Read THAT, and you'll begin to understand what I mean.

**Also, thought I'd give you some examples of what I mean by culturally not Japanese (or even Asian):
Take the father-daugther relationship. Yukiko was outright rude and whiny to her father in public at the beginning of the story. That is *so* not the way it works - rude is one thing, public is another. I know I once got disciplined in public for being rude to my dad - and Yukiko throws a tantrum instead. Oh boy. This may seem like a little thing, but the whole novel consists of odd non-Asian moments like this.
And that bit where she was allowed to just walk away after downright insulting the group of adults smoking whatever flower it was?

2. I also did not fully buy into the friendship/bond between Buruu and Yukiko. Certainly it was adorable - but it was unbelievable. I simply had to compare it to the Toothless-Hiccup relationship in How To Train Your Dragon because there are many similarities in the circumstances, but the similarity ends there. The Toothless-Hiccup relationship took lots of time and effort, and there was a slow, obvious forming of a lasting bond of trust that was ultimately rewarding and touching for both characters. Not so much in the Yukiko-Buruu bond. It happened too quickly, even with Yukiko's ability to - one moment, they severely mistrusted each other and the next, they were the I-love-you dynamic brother sister fighting duo? No. I have to say that I was looking forward to their character and relationship development the most, and so it was in this aspect that I was the most disappointed.

3. You want a romance aspect to your novel? Fine with me, I'd prefer it, in fact. However, the romance within this novel was so badly written that I think it even detracted from the dramatic tension a little bit. Yukiko is at her worst when her romance scenes are written, and I honestly hate the Not so much the because I think he's okay, but the .
InstaLove rears its ugly head YET again; I loathe it, and its like Kristoff can't be bothered to even attempt to write it well. Yunno, I *have* read instances of good InstaLove. They're rare like unicorns, but they exist. This was not one of those instances, plus it comes with miserable and unneeded Love Triangle! trope. No. Stop, please, I beg you. This kind of thing ruins a story, and its not like it needed any further ruination after all the weak characterization and plot that goes on.

I'm annoyed with this novel, because I really, really want to like it - but I don't. Its nothing special, and I've read so many better ones. The one star you see is just the star that I have to accord on account of the words "Japanese Steampunk". I can't give anything higher than that, because it simply wouldn't be true.
*Edit: Yep, so I waver between two stars and one star a lot. After some contemplation, one star it is - I've read far worse books, as much as this one sucks. I wish for negative stars, but Goodreads just isn't accommodating like that....

The ending, of all things, just reads like a failed attempt at the dramatic tension that happens in Hunger Games or similar dystopian novels. Sorry, but not even close.

Still, I'm sure I'll pick up the next book in the series just to discover what happens. I'll hate myself for doing it, but I probably will. Hopefully, author-sama [dear author, note: PROPER use of suffix -sama !!!! ] will take some Japanese culture and language classes before he starts working on the sequel. It's wishful thinking, but I'm willing to give this Japanese steampunk thing another go. Just because it's Japanese. And steampunk.

In lieu of a recent interview of Kristoff's that I have been linked to - I've got some rage to vent. Some extreme, extreme rage. Why? Look:

GR is a public forum, but it’s a place where people put their personal opinion out for the world to see. If your opinion differs, the solution is simple: write your own frackin’ review. If you’re an author and you’re getting bent out of shape about someone trashing your book, the solution is also simple: stop reading bad reviews.

No single 1 star review ever sunk a book. And as amazing as chocolate ice-cream is, and as baffling to you as the thought might be, there are some people in the world who do not like chocolate ice cream. You don’t have to hang out with them, or talk with them or deal with them in any way. Just stick with the folks who like chocolate and it’s all good.

Even if the person is eating chocolate ice-cream and screaming “Oh god, this martini sucks” – just DON’T. It’s not worth it.

I have no words.

I was so angry, I had to compose myself before editing this review. Oh, and, that's ONE STAR OFF MY TWO STARS, THANKS.

Is THIS how you want to respond to negative reviews, Kristoff? SERIOUSLY? Look - you can't please everyone. That's for sure. I agree with you 100%. But we negative reviewers aren't putting your book down for shits and giggles. We are giving you honest-to-god constructive criticism in the sincere hopes that you improve your writing. Do forgive us if we seem a bit snarky, but we tell it as we see it.

Look, I gave you your due: I mentioned that I liked your premise. You thought about it, its fun and original, kudos to you. NOW IMPROVE. Its not like you've written the best book of the decade. You're not even close. Have you got anything to say about the points that I and the other reviewers have raised in regards to your writing?! Anything OTHER than "some people just don't like chocolate ice-cream!??!?!!?

Look: you don't have to respond to us or comment on our reviews. If you do, you'll find that we are both respectful and willing to discuss your book rationally with you, even tell you what you did *right* - but you certainly don't have to engage us. HOWEVER, please *respect* our reviews in return. We took the time to read your book, to analyze it, and write this review for it. We didn't do this mindlessly. Do you really think there's no basis to our criticism?!

Sorry. Your, and I quote, speshul snowflake response to negative reviews is just not cutting it for me. I've just lost most of my respect for you, and you've provoked me so much that I've reached the end of my rant but I'M STILL ANGRY.


Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,481 followers
August 25, 2016
The best way to describe this is a Japanese-Dystopian-Steampunk mashup I’m not sure if that makes it Dystopunkanies or Japasteamian or something else completely. Just to give you a little history most everything I know about Japanese culture I learned from Mulan. Which I have been corrected is Chinese and not Japanese so I know even less than I thought I did


So I’m not really versed in much of the Samuri culture or honor and can’t really tell you how well this follows any of that or if some of the story came from an interpretation of Japanese lore. What I can tell you is that this is about a Girl with a sword who went on a quest to find a hippogriff Thunder Tiger to give to the Emperor but found that doing the honorable thing might be the worst decision of her life.
“The thunder tiger looked at her like an avalanche looks at a butterfly.

There is lots of other stuff too like a world bound in poverty and sludge and addicted to a flower that either kills or addicts everything it touches. There is also a power struggle between the Emperor who has been fighting a war against the west and a conglomerate of people, the Guild, who dress completely in metallic suits various compartments for all your gadget needs that never let the world see the people underneath. The Guild controls everything about the Lotus flower that is controlling the entire populace and have a tendency to burn people at the stake that they find impure a.k.a magical.

It takes a little while for the story to pick up and get going. All the Japanese names and the world take some time to build up. There are flying ships and the city reminded me of something dirty and much like the times in the industrial revolution.

I didn’t really start to enjoy the story until Yukito (the Girl), Buruu (the Thunder Tiger) and Kin (reluctant member of the Guild) were separated from the rest of the group and started a journey of their own. Yukito and Buruu’s time together was especially interesting as she and the Thunder Tiger become friends.
Kin watched them mutely, wondering what passed between them. He couldn’t help but feel jealous of the beast, to know the inner workings of her mind and heart, to speak volumes without ever saying a word. What a strange thing for the Guild to want to exterminate. What a wonderful gift. To never be alone. To know the truth of another’s soul. Maybe that was why they were afraid. Truth in the Guild was a dangerous thing.

There is also some talk of honor since this is a story with Samuri in it. But I think that it is more a story of breaking away from traditions and choosing what is the honorable path for yourself.
“Without his oath, without his Lord, a samurai is nothing. Honesty. Respect. Loyalty. Honor. This is the code of the warrior. I am samurai before all, Yukiko. To wield the long and the short sword and to die. This is my purpose.”
“Someone once told me ‘To be a servant can be a noble thing, but only as noble as the master served.’”

Overall this is a great set up story. There were a few deaths that happened off page that I thought could have been more dramatic. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into this world, there were some horrific discoveries along the way I wasn’t expecting and a surprise at the end that I didn’t see coming. This reminded me a little of how I felt towards the end of Joe Ambercrombie’s Half a King
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,889 followers
September 3, 2012
4.5 stars
When I first felt myself being pulled into this story, I glanced down and saw the number 156 written at the bottom of the page. 156 pages of barely understandable, agonizingly slow and almost painfully dense prose - that’s what it took for me to start enjoying Stormdancer. But here’s the thing: now that I fully understand this book, I understand the necessity of such a beginning.
This is how the rain becomes a flood. One drop at a time.

There’s something mesmerizing and magical about a world well-built, and Kristoff’s is more detailed than most. As hard as it is to understand it at first, once you become a part of it, it is unlikely to ever let you go. It is a grim, filthy world, poisoned by blood lotus, a plant that kills the land it grows from and is used for everything from fuel to drugs. It is a world of stark contrasts – excessive wealth and excessive poverty, mythical creatures and technology. Not much in it can be described as beautiful, and yet, the beauty of it in its entirety is undeniable. It is reminiscent of the most intricate filigree work. Even if it doesn’t appeal to your personal taste, you must appreciate the skill that was necessary to create it.

And yet, in many ways, this stunning, complex world quickly becomes overshadowed by the characters. Each of them was created just like the world was – slowly, with much attention to details, in a million layers, some more important than others. Yukiko herself cannot be reduced to a one-sentence description, but what truly surprises me is that none of the characters can either. They are all so many things at once, their histories interconnected, their stories all somehow related. Hatred doesn’t sprout from nothing in Kristoff’s world. Everything has an explanation, everyone carries some trauma and hurt, and every single character has hidden motives.

Among them, the thunder tiger stands out as the most fascinating by far. I must confess I’d never given much thought to mythological creatures such as griffins, but seeing Buruu through Kristoff’s eyes made me realize how blind I’d been. He is truly a magnificent creature, powerful and fiercely intelligent, yet tender and caring toward Yukiko, his Stormdancer. The telepathic connection they share is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read about. Spending time in each other’s minds changes them both ever so subtly. The arashitora’s understanding of the human world increases, and she becomes slightly more explosive in nature. They call each other brother and sister because that’s what they truly are, and that’s how protective they are of each other.

The hindquarters of a white tiger, rippling muscle bound tight beneath the snow-white fur, slashed with thick bands of ebony. The broad wings, forelegs and head of a white eagle, proud and fierce; lightning reflected in amber irises and pupils of darkest black. It roared again, shaking the ship, cutting through the air like a katana in a swordsaint’s hands.

All good things come at a price and with Stormdancer, that price is your patience. Understanding the initial chapters or even caring about the characters won’t be easy at first, but if you persist, you will be heavily rewarded.

Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,206 followers
September 15, 2012

You wouldn’t believe how excited I was for this novel. The synopsis reads like someone looked into my head and took what I wanted to read and then wrote it.

Wait. Let me get my bearings because this “review” is going to be epic and rambling. Have a cupcake and some tea while you’re reading it. Ready? Okay.

Sometimes you come across books that you like absolutely and sometimes you come across books that you loathe absolutely. And if you are unlucky, you come across books that made you scream in utter frustration (true story) but also tickle your book-reading-bone (my bones are very talented) at the end. Writing reviews for the latter kind of books is very tricksy. You cannot eloquently state five different reasons the book sucks or doesn’t suck. You have to stare at the screen for ages (my eyes hurt) and then try to compose a written expression of your roiling feelings (roiling, I like that word, my feelings, they roil).

I had many expectations of Stormdancer and I feel that it could have met all of them had the novel not been so very verbose. Reading the first quarter was torturous and I’m not exaggerating here. I literally screamed at my Kindle because I was so frustrated. My frustration came from what seemed to me unnecessarily detailed description using terms that I am not familiar with about people who, while adding to the scenery no doubt, do not have any major importance in the narrative. (There is a glossary at the end but when you’re reading an e-copy, flipping to the back becomes complicated.) Every scene change is accompanied by lines and lines of dry description.

Before you tell me to snark off, let me tell you that I am well read. I have read lots of novels where the descriptions have been just as copious but there was a certain flow to them, a certain reason to them that I felt was lacking in this one. The author sacrifices plot and character development to scene description. The sad thing is, the descriptions are all well written and may have added more to the novel had they not been so plentiful. A fellow reader gave up on the novel because of this problem so I am certainly not alone with this problem.

The author sacrifices the momentum that is finally building to drive the story forward with yet more description and really, I was almost at the end of my endurance by then. Someone tell him that less is more! Another thing that bothers me about this novel is the fact that despite the almost indecent (hur) overuse of the word “lotus” we are never really told why this lotus is bad. What makes it so bad? Is it its chemical composition? Its mythical properties (of the evil kind) or what? There is a lot of talk about the war with the “gaijins” (foreigners or white people, I guess) but never really any explanation of the war and who the major players are (or perhaps there is and my oversaturated mind refused to absorb it). There are many gaijin slaves but they are flaunted in an off hand manner without any interaction or closer look. What is their purpose to the narrative besides changing things around and making the colonizer the slave for once? Is it to show the power of the country? Why are the gaijin slaves so plentiful? Are they prisoners of war or are they sold from their country of origin?

Another thing that bothered me so verrrrry much is the way “sama” is used in the novel. The glossary states that it a SUFFIX attached to a name or title to show respect to the person. However, most of the time in the novel, it is used as a noun. Like, “young sama.” Maybe it won’t bother anyone who is not familiar with Japanese but if you are familiar with the language it will be bug the heck out of you. Or maybe it's just me being picky. I don't know but it bothered me!

Now for the romance in the novel. It��s not going to win any awards any time soon. Not from me anyway. So, here’s the thing, as far as I know, Japanese people (you’ll have to forgive me for the assumption that the setting is a mythical Japan, all evidence points to that) do not have green eyes. Yet the samurai who features so prominently in Yukiko’s dream has green eyes. (She met him for half a minute and that was it, insta-lust, she didn’t even see his face, just his eyes and she was gone!) I initially got excited because hey, gaijin slave promenading as a samurai! Interesting stuff! Right? Wrong. No explanation given there but maybe it’s just me being extra picky on the details. Also, Hiro, he of the powerful green eyes, is the least developed character in the entire novel. I feel bad for him, I really do. All he did was move the plot forward.

Now that I have complained (almost) to my heart’s content, let me talk about the good things of the novel. The world building is not perfect but it is off to the right start. The character development is strong and I particularly like Buruu and the relationship he has with Yukiko. The dynamics between Kasumi, Akihito and Masaru was well written. The action sequences are well executed, tense and poised. You felt that you were there in the moment along with the characters. It was intense.

There are also scenes that are brilliantly and I mean brilliantly narrated. I mean, I can still call them up in exact detail with the atmosphere and the emotions intact. Kristoff creates a rich world with a complex and involved politics and history. I find his strongest points to be when he is narrating the action, when things are happening.

The gender politics in the novel was interesting until it wasn’t. Lady Aisha was given a motive and was, at one point, one of the most fascinating characters in the novel but it went nowhere. The Shogun was not well developed at all. I wouldn’t have minded that but since all the other characters were given such rich and complex characterization, the disparity was obvious and had to be noted.

Despite all my complaints, however, the book is not without its merits. It just may be that the writing style was not for me. All I can tell you for sure is that after 75% of the novel, the last 25% was the best part. No wait, that's not true. There are scenes within the descriptions that kept me reading. I can’t tell you to check it out or give it a pass because this is one novel you have to make your own mind about. However, I will definitely be checking out the second one in the series because even though this book wasn't perfect and it did make me scream at it, it also kept me intrigued enough to keep on reading till the end. Stormdancer is also very different from the typical YA fantasy in a good way.

Edit: So I read some interviews where the author admits that "Wikipedia was his go-to guy. I have been trying really hard not to think about cultural appropriation and all because that just makes me so angry, I lose reason and that's not a good thing. I thought that if Kristoff had written his book after careful research that set its perimeters beyond Wikipedia, that if the research was strong (I give you Zoe Marriott's Shadows on the Moon as comparison), it would be okay. But no. The fusion of all Asian cultures (as mentioned by others, Aiyah is used by others as an exclamation but not by the Japanese) and adding to the fact that the writing was sloppy in places where language (Japanese or English, if Yukiko is talking in Japanese, why do the syllables she mentions equal that of the English word?) just brings out the fact that the book is set where it is because of the novelty. Another reviewer mentioned how the actions of the characters in the novel are more Western and not reflective of Japanese (yes, even mythical Japan) values and family dynamics further shows Kristoff's lack of research. Obviously the rebuttal would be that it's a kids book, does it really matter? But it's a kids book that is being marketed to adults who are the majority of the buyers of these kids' books. Of course it matters.
Profile Image for shady boots.
500 reviews2,037 followers
May 2, 2015
Yup. This was definitely better the second time around.

I think the only real flaw in this book in my eyes was the insta-love and insta-sex part with that Hiro dude. It was just so rushed and cringeworthy. But perhaps Jay Kristoff just wanted to highlight that Yukiko was still young and slightly naive, that perhaps later on in the series she grows and learns from it. I dunno. Maybe it didn't bother others nearly as much as it bothered me, but at this point I just have absolutely zero tolerance for insta-love of any kind.

But yeah, that's about the only little flaw I can think of. This book was damn near perfect, and I can tell finishing this series is going to be a blast and a half.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,972 reviews850 followers
June 15, 2022
Elipsis : Técnica narrativa y cinematográfica que consiste en la supresión de algún acontecimiento dentro de la linealidad temporal del relato o la historia.

Vale, pues hago elipsis del primer 20% del libro, ni me refiero a él porque desmerece del resto del libro. Dejémoslo en que –supongo- era necesario para ponernos en contexto narrativo. Sigo.

Steampunk & Japón medieval & Young Adult (YA) & Fantasía & Medioambiente

Con el compendio de etiquetas de arriba os he resumido el libro. Si además añadimos que engancha cosa mala (última vez que os lo digo: omito ese primer 20%) nos encontramos con una novela que, si te interesan alguna de las etiquetas de arriba, vas a disfrutar. Cuantas más de la etiquetas te gusten, más te va a gustar la novela.

¿Y la novela de qué va?. Pues chica conoce chico ... o dos chicos … o dos chicos y un bicho (tranquis, no es novela porno). ¡Ah!, chica conoce sus poderes, y el mundo, y la maldad, y la economía sostenible, y todo ello se mezcla en la novela y la hace entretenida a veces y enormemente adictiva otras.

Los personajes : aprobado, sin nota, pero aprobado. Si a la pregunta “¿te gusta el YA?” has respondido que sí te van a encantar.

La historia : pues muy curiosa, sí señor. Me encantaría verla llevada al cine por esos de que el steampunk mezclado con el ambiente medieval tiene que ser un placer visual. Y con profunda reivindicación ecológica, que en este mundo en que vivimos merece la pena recordar de vez en cuando que tenemos que cuidar la roca esta que da vueltas y sobre la que respiramos.

Tengo que buscar cuándo Jay Kristoff conoció a [SPOILER] R.R.Martin[/SPOILER]. Porque le conoce, fijo.
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
488 reviews507 followers
January 23, 2020
Pues me ha gustado MUCHÍSIMO. Tenía miedo porque la expectación era alta, pero ha cumplido mis expectativas. Ya de entrada la premisa es impecable. Steampunk en el antiguo Japón feudal. El género se aleja un poco de lo victoriano, para meterse en un nuevo mundo, y para mí lo mezcla de una marea magistral. Dale Japón feudal, steampunk, una protagonista femenina fuerte y mitología japonesa a un amante de la cultura asiática como soy yo, y el éxito está asegurado.

Nuestra protagonista, Yukiko, pertenece al clan Kitsune (zorro), uno de los cuatros clanes que rigen este mundo. Junto con Kitsune tenemos Tora (tigre), Ryu (dragón) y Fushicho (fénix). Este Japón está devastado por la teconología. Los hombre del Gremio del loto, una organización religiosa que organiza todo el mundo, usa extraños recursos para obtener la energía necesaria. Y esto está consiguiendo que la ciudad esté muriendo por toda esta contaminación. Enfermedades, hambruna, extinción de animales... Para colmo, el nuevo Shogun o emperador Yoritomo, es un joven infantil y malcriado que desea hacer su voluntad cueste lo que cueste.

Creo que es una historia muy completa. Incluye muchas tramas, y todas van por diferentes lugares. Todas tienen cierta crítica de fondo, cosa que siempre da profundidad a estas historias. Me han gustado mucho los personajes, me enamoré mucho de Yukiko y Buruu y la amistad entre ellos. Y los secundarios como Kazumi, Michi o Kaori, o el mismo villano, Yoritomo, que me ha gustado y lo he odiado a partes iguales...

Su punto fuerte, claramente es la ambietación y toda la estética de la época, mezclada con todos estos avances tecnológicos impropios de la época. Tendré que investigar más el género.

Hubo un momento hacía el final, que pensé que se iba a estropear la historia con un triángulo amoroso típicamente juvenil que iba a marcar la trama y se convertiría en más de lo mismo. Pero, afortunadamente, hay un giro maravilloso que cortó esa idea rápido. Y me alegró muchísimo, la verdad. No soporto este tipo de triángulos en las novelas con toque juvenil.

En definitiva, lo he disfrutado un montón y pronto estaré con la segunda parte, Imperio.
Profile Image for Edward.
362 reviews916 followers
January 22, 2023
Jay Kristoff can really write an engaging book. Steampunk samurai? This was so much fun to read - I loved the characters, the mythology, the unique premise and of course, the animals. The pacing was also top notch.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,165 followers
August 16, 2012
“… I wanted to write a book with heart; a book about a friendship that bloomed despite all obstacles. A bond that would grow to become a thing of legend in this nation on the edge of ruin—a friendship that challenged the might of an empire." ~Jay Kristoff

In my opinion, to be a writer is not only one of the toughest tasks in the world, it is also the most courageous; for to be an author is to take on the challenge, not only of pouring yourself into a novel, but in reaching an audience and making them feel the heart and passion you put into a story as well. In all honesty, very few authors truly succeed in this - writing is hard, who said it wasn’t? Thus, I can count on one hand the number of authors who have really gone above and beyond, who have truly pulled me into their worlds, and made me weep, laugh, sob, and smile - all in the span of a few hours. Jay Kristoff, ladies and gentleman, is one of them. Yes, this debut author happens to be one of those few authors whose novel has truly impacted me, perhaps not in my life overall, but definitely in the few hours I spent reading it. While Stormdancer is, by no means, a perfect novel, it is a novel with creativity, originality, and most importantly, with heart. If that isn’t enough to constitute it as a masterpiece, then I don’t know what is.

I think the first thing that strikes you about Stormdancer, aside from its gorgeous cover, is the amount of research Kristoff obviously put into his novel. The futuristic Japan of Stormdancer contains many of the same cultural aspects of society, politics, and government that present-day Japan possesses which makes for an extremely authentic read. In Kristoff’s world, the land has been destroyed by the planting of lotuses, the skies are red with pollution, and Yoritomo, the power-hungry leader of this dying land, seeks a legendary thunder tiger. Griffins, what we would call a thunder tiger, are believed to be extinct, thus, Yoritomo’s request to Masaru, the best tracker in the kingdom, and his daughter, Yukiko, is believed to be impossible to fulfill and bring about certain death. Yet, against all odds, Masaru and Yukiko do find a thunder tiger and it is at that moment when Yukiko’s life slowly begins to change. When the lies she believed were truths are exposed and the enemies she believed were friends are revealed, Yukiko finally comes to accept her true destiny and challenge the might of her corrupt empire itself.

I’ll admit it - Stormdancer and I got off to a rocky start. While I soaked up the rich world-building in the first few chapters of the novel, I also found it to be rather cumbersome to read as it was bogged down by detailed descriptions of practically everything. Since I am an avid Dickens’ lover and tend to appreciate long-winded and descriptive writing, I was able to trudge through the first couple of pages until the real action began; yet, I think for a lot of readers, the beginning of this novel will be a real challenge. Nevertheless, the world-building is one to truly admire in this story. Kristoff has covered practically every aspect of his world, from social and cultural norms, to political and governmental conspiracies, and from the city mindset to that in the rural areas as well. It is a richly imagined and vividly real world that the reader is thrown into and I loved every minute I spent in it.

While Stormdancer is most certainly notable for its world-building and even its scintillating plot filled with politics and rebellion, it is the characters that really make it shine. Yukiko, our strong-willed heroine, is a unique and refreshing character to come across. I loved her maturity, her courage, her bravery, her strength to fight for what was right, and most importantly, her bond with Buruu, the thunder tiger. Theirs is truly a remarkable friendship and I found myself to be charmed by its slow development and moved by the heart and soul it contained. While Yukiko and Buruu are remarkable characters on their own, together they form an unbeatable team and often times, it seems as if they are one person. Yet, while their thoughts flow together seamlessly, it is easy to tell them apart by their distinct traits which I believe is a true testimony to Kristoff’s writing abilities.

While Yukiko and Buruu most definitely have the most interesting relationship in this novel, the most heart-warming one is that between Yukiko and her father, Masaru. I loved the manner in which this relationship evolved – it was complex, confusing, heart-breaking, yet truly impactful. I could feel all the conflicted emotions Yukiko felt towards her father in my own gut and felt such a strong pull towards the relationship between these two, perhaps because we all have fathers ourselves. Even Yukiko’s changing relationships with Masaru’s tracking friends, one of whom happens to be the woman he slept with while Yukiko’s mother was still alive, were very realistically written and developed. I also felt a strong bond towards Yukiko’s dead twin brother and I admired how wonderfully Yukiko herself had been shaped surrounding this grief. While she is initially a tough character to like, her relationships with others and her rocky past makes her a flawed character, but an understandable, relatable, lovable, and admirable one as well.

I fear this review is going to be a long-winded, but there is simply so much to love about this tale. I love the manner in which the political schemes played out in this story and especially Kristoff’s portrayal of women. Kristoff shows us that women, for all their beauty and charm, can be just as deadly and cunning behind the doors and decked in pretty dresses. I think he truly captured the female mentality and portrayed it in an extremely positive and strong-willed light. Even in his romance, Yukiko always seems to have the upper hand and remains to be unattached to her lover – for the most part at least. I suppose my only complaint with this was that I never really felt anything for the small romance in this novel, but then again, I don’t think we were meant to. Yukiko doesn’t need a man to define her and similarly, this novel doesn’t need a romance to define it. It is so much more than a love story, a friendship story, or even a political one. It is a blend of all these ideas and even more than that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Stormdancer has heart. It makes you feel for the relationships and friendships that are inside. It makes you hate the villains who are clever, cunning, and cruel – deadly combinations for sure. It makes you feel the fire of revenge, the cooling rain of friendship, and the wondrous feeling of loyalty. In fact, reading Stormdancer is so much like being Yukiko and living in her world that it is hard to catch your bearings when it is over. While it does have its flaws and I am sure many readers will find more faults with it than I have, I love Stormdancer for its originality, creativity, and for its ability to immerse me in a world with characters I can connect with. Furthermore, Stormdancer contains many subtle themes that blossom as the novel continues and while its ending isn’t a cliffhanger, it leaves you yearning for more. In every sense of the word, Stormdancer is a true literary wonder and an amazing novel masterpiece.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for shanghao.
265 reviews96 followers
October 25, 2012
Lengthy not-exactly-a-review parody.

Snowchild & Blue*: Telepathic Conversations
*a.k.a. the ones (in my imagination) roped in to act out the roles of Yukiko and Buruu respectively in Stormdancer.

::SESSION ONE:: Blue on Buruu, hai.

Snowchild (S)
: Greetings, Blue-san.
Blue (B): Hello again. What a book that had been.

S: You don't say, sama.
B: Just stop with that sama/-hai?/hai, sama blasphemy already.

S: Apologies, Blue-san. I can't quite yet shrug the habit after being a character in that book for too long.
B: Do not assault my ears, please. Is it not enough that I was portrayed as some creature that allows itself to be named by humans? You know, there was this phrase where you were intentionally downplaying our 'connection' by describing me to the enemy as 'no smarter than a dog'.

S: Oh, what of it?
B: Well that was exactly how I felt I was treated, like some pet or 'friend' that humans can control! PAH. It seems K-san does not quite grasp that we, heavenly creatures, do not operate by the codes of Lassie, as they call it in the West. I can see the fantasy here, humans taming some divine beasts by virtue of some special powers. The pet culture is something foreign to one such as myself, if you pardon the pun.

Befriending a special, chosen human being, maybe, but then again I stress, we come with our own names, given by our creators, or elders. Contrary to what others might think, something like Raijin's sons would not be nameless creatures waiting to be named by humans. And after their old pet at that.

Seeing that K-san likes manga, let me show you some reference from Naruto on how a mythical beast thinks:

Another thing. The notion that 'monkey-child' is an insult is absurd if you see it from my point of view. Because you see, our kind would naturally regard both human beings and mere beasts beneath us, the offsprings of Raijin. In the context of the story human beings are even more despicable because of their behaviour with all those lotus fumes. If I were to insult you, I would use human over monkey. Unless, of course, you are taking the point of view of a human being who regards 'monkeys' a species beneath.

S: I know; do forgive these gaijin authors. Some though might argue that it's okay to tinker around with Japanese culture in these ways because this (Japan-inspired) book is fantasy.
B: LOOK. I am not an uptight guardian of Japanese culture (in any case, a griffin is not something out of Asian mythology; surprise, I am a foreigner too! If anything, it is admirable for foreigners to take up other cultures, I think). Some things you can 'tweak', as you say. Some things, you give respect where it belongs. Although, I do admit, respect can be subjective, and that is where it gets murky.

Which leads us back to the hai/sama issue. Say, if sama used singularly can be interpreted as a title instead of an honorific in the story, then consider those who even have a slight inkling of its real-world usage (and this is an existing term in the real world, not something made up; so it does impact people) - whichever character uses it the way you did would come across to such readers as caricaturish, if not ridiculous. If not for us characters, nor the culture, at least give some respect for these readers; just my two kouka.

::SESSION TWO:: Snowchild (and Blue, again) on Yukiko, and descriptions

: Speaking of respect...I think I've just about blown it as Yukiko.
B: AH. SPEAK NO MORE. A fighting protagonist who cannot do a decent fighting scene without a man or me helping her? A 'strong heroine' who runs to bed with her 'crush' to 'make her forget all the pain'? But you know, for all that, I still like you. You played Yukiko in a way that she is not as annoying as most other YA heroines.

Even though it was still, in essence, how I think most modern teens would behave; admittedly, the setting was 'feudal steampunk Japan(-inspired)'. This Yukiko, she was in the wrong setting and era ahead of her time and no one raised an eyebrow. So, take heart.

S: It's her, not me. And the male gaze present every time a female character comes into the picture? It makes it a little harder for me to be anything other than a beautiful, alluring vixen (Yukiko's surname is Fox, too. Like Megan Fox, but Japanese). Right, that Hiro. Let me defend myself. Again that's just Yukiko, not me. If it were me, my first instinct on seeing those eyes would've been, 'Huh, a gaijin Iron Samurai?' or 'What weird eyes, he a youkai-kin?' It's not like I've never seen green eyes before, right? The gaijin slaves were all over Kigen City.
B: For the record. SEA-GREEN, LIKE JADE.

S: How could I forget? My gratitudes for reminding me. Oh THE DESCRIPTIONS! I was barely keeping my eyelids open during the early scenes from all the excessive description.

I thought it might be necessary for good world building, but the style of the writing was not helping the cause, I'd say. A pity, because I really like Kigen's overall oriental-ish steampunk look and feel. It might've been better if more perspectives, or plot-linked events, were used to describe
Shima rather than just turning into words what seemed like the handycam recordings of a ninja stalker. Wait, ninjas would've recorded more interesting stuff like how to spot hiding ninjas instead of how people's eyes look like polished steel or a gazillion ways in which sea-green eyes could be described visually.

In short, the visual concept is worthy of praise, we just need to train the cameraman and the storyboard director well.


::SESSION THREE:: Snowchild & Blue discuss Plot and Characters

: A tighter storyboard would do much good. Had already memorised all my lines while counting the pages before my first appearance. In my mind: GET ON WITH THE PLOT. GET TO THE STORY! (I was in fact dozing when the ship crew spotted me, which was why they managed to hit me with the tranquilizers and caught me)
S: I'd say though, the plot itself, although largely predictable, was quite engaging when trimmed of the superfluous documentary. The characters, too, although a tad cliche and simplified, weren't irritating once you get past their 'Aiya' and 'Hai, sama'; their personalities had distinct, if underdeveloped, flavours (Yoritomo in particular, could've been a villain with a purpose instead of a villain with a goal).

The Lotus War itself was mostly brushed over, but perhaps for YA, this would suffice.


B: I see. To be frank, I am fond of the character Masaru, even taking into account what he did to me (a scene that was written well, in my opinion). He was always there during the important events (me too, but I cannot pick myself) and the scenes, if a little too melodramatic (HUMANS, TYPICAL), always revealed a little something about the man and his personality. His parts at least did not come across as cumbersome, in that sense.
S: Thank you, Blue-san. You're always acting mean, but aren't you the softie.

S: In a way, isn't it so with this book? I'd thought it's Japanese steampunk before I realised it's not quite so. The author must've thought he'd done his best before we realised he could do better.

That is why, even though I don't find the seeming lack of due respect from the author OK, there is also the chance that he is merely unaware of people's opinions, and expectations.

But if he is to earn respect, from detractors or not, I am of the opinion that he'd do well to learn from his own characters.

Yoritomo:, not to live in one's own world and not consider the dissent of the masses.
Aisha: expose yourself to the realities of the world, and be able to discern the good from the bad of the world you create; and have her courage, even if it meant going against your most dear, to say 'no' to what is not alright.

And from
Masaru, learn that, sacrifices have to be made, so that it will all be worth it 'FOR SOMETHING GREATER'.



OMAKE ++EXTRAS++ You-know-what-I-mean (Images from Naruto )

*Sharingan Punishments fit for Stormdancer
*For the benefit of those who don't have an idea of what Sharingan is and don't want to be bombarded with images, I've hidden them. The technique names here should be familiar to those who've read Stormdancer....
Profile Image for Braiden.
359 reviews205 followers
August 15, 2012
Dying is easy. Anyone can throw themselves onto the pyre and rest a happy martyr. Enduring the suffering that comes with sacrifice is the real test.

Stormdancer is a richly detailed Japanese-inspired, steampunk fantasy, with splendidly real characters and a gripping plot that will keep you in its claws until the very last page. Jay Kristoff has written a debut like no other; I’m craving to return and venture across his wonderfully imagined Shima Isles and uncover more about The Lotus War with Yukiko and the arashitora – thunder-tiger – Buruu. You’ll be rereading Stormdancer before you’re even finished – and that’s the truth! Fans of Alison Goodman and Christopher Paolini will have another favourite to bow down to.

「何?」’What?’ you say.

And so I continue to sell Stormdancer to you by bedazzling you with my words and judgements (though I’m pretty sure you have already been sold on the premise and the covers). I am sure Benzaiten is looking down on me, making sure that I write this review the best I can with dedication and passion while venerating Jay and his debut Stormdancer. Jay Kristoff: The Newest Shinto Deity.

Yoritomo-no-miya, Seii Taishogun of the Shima Isles, woke up one morning and demanded a griffin. And yet thunder-tigers are extinct are they not, like the giant sea dragons and the yokai beasts? Extinct from the lotus fumes that poison the land? But when a Lord has a dream, a vision, it’s always precisely accurate isn’t it?

‘I have seen myself riding amongst the thunderclaps astride a great arashitora, leading my armies to war overseas against the round-eye gaijin hordes. Like the Stormdancers of legend. A vision sent from mighty Hachiman, the God of War himself.’

Masaru, leader of the Kitsune (Fox) Clan and the hunt master, is ordered to go find and capture a thunder-tiger; even he believes they are alive no more. His daughter Yukiko journeys along with him. With determination and strength they capture an arashitora, but it all goes terribly wrong when their skyship sets aflame and hurtles to the ground. And what Yukiko does sets the wheels of this complex story in motion.

I’m struggling to find the right words to perfectly detail everything I loved about Stormdancer – even with Benzaiten, Shinto Goddess of words and “everything that flows” watching down on me. Not even saying, ‘I disliked not one thing!’ will be sufficient enough.

There are many stars in Stormdancer, but the main one is our heroine Yuikiko. There’s not one thing wrong with her… as in: she is totally flawed and real – as are all the characters. She yearns for answers when things don’t look right. And although she hates her father for his drinking problems and blames him for leaving her mother as well as practically everything that goes wrong, she still longs for the day to be reunited with him when they separate from the skyship disaster, even if he’s dead. She has a past that haunts her, a past that has made her stronger and ever more determined to make things right in every domain possible: on a personal level as well as for all things living. Her tenacity is one to admire. Then you get to her friendship with the arashitora, in which she names Buruu after her long gone dog.

She remembered the wolf coming down from the mountain with a belly full of hunger, so many winters ago. She remembered the friend who rose to defend her, to save her life without having ever been asked. The sense of safety she felt when he was nearby. Her protector. Her brother.
Her friend.
’Then I will call you Buruu.’

This relationship is important and it’s the most real relationship between man and beast that I have ever come across, far more superior – in my eyes – than Eragon and Sapphira. You long for a relationship like it, regardless if it involves an animal or not. The connection between Yukiko and Buruu is unique: at first Buruu talks short and sharp, in single words or concrete nouns like all toddlers do in their earlier times. But as the story goes on and Yukiko and Buruu grow and mature together, his speech becomes more logically complex as well as Yukiko receiving primal and bestial thoughts from Buruu, as if they were one. At first their interaction is wounded due to moments that occur on the skyship. Yet there was one special moment when they’re in a cave trying to get some rest that begins the bond between the two – and it is awww-worthy to the nth degree.

Occasionally, he would glance over at her and watch her curled in her miserable little knot, shivering uncontrollably. … At last, he drew one great, deep breath and sighed; a bellows that sent the dry leaves skittering across the cave floor. Yukiko watched as he wordlessly lifted his wing, inviting her closer. She blinked and stared for a long moment, meeting the even gaze of those bottomless eyes. Crawling across the stone, she snuggled down beside him, wrapped in the tremendous heat radiating from his body. He folded his wing about her, a blanket of down and sweet warmth tinged with the scent of lightning, the smell of blood. She could hear his heartbeat beneath inches of pale, velvet fur.
’Thank you, Buruu.’

Isn’t that just so effing adorable and touching? I wish there were arashitora’s at the pet store. I would so purchase one no matter the price just so that I could have this same moment that Yukiko had. And with this bond comes an extra pair of eyes and sense when it comes to Yukiko’s feelings and affection towards the two love interests: Kin, a Lotus Guildsman/Artificer, and Hiro, an Iron Samurai with ’sea-green eyes.’ I fell completely in love with both relationships: one is slow to evolve and develop, with that “one” being timid to express his feelings, and the other is quite the opposite – both as real as any relationship in reality. You will not be able to choose between the two; it’s fact.

I forgot to mention: Buruu even gets a chapter to himself. YES! How incredibly awesome is that?

Don’t want to say much on him, but Yoritoro is such a twisted villain that you are going to love and despise at the same time. One of the greatest villains I have come across in YA or not (Stormdancer is being published by an adult imprint (Thomas Dunne Books) in the US).

The Shima Isles, The Shima Imperium and The Lotus Guild are all characters in and of themselves. They create the setting: the red skies, the lotus-covered land that goes on and on and on, the smoky atmosphere, and the smell and taste of 血 (chi – ‘blood’ in Japanese) and 鉄 (tetsu – iron) in the air. You have the oppressed population, victims to the “toxic” fumes of the lotus, and the ones doing the oppressing, the Guildsman and higher citizens who wear the robotic suits to protect themselves every second. Such a spectacular demonstration of an imbalance of power in society. I can go on and on and on about the setting and the Japanese culture and inclusion of the Shinto Deities which is richly detailed, but you should just experience Jay’s words and imagination yourself. Knowing that I have two more books, two more times to be thrown into this world, I am beyond euphoric – maybe we can demand for more stories in this world. Stormdancer is up their with my absolute favourite fantasies; I prefer this over Eragon (although Inheritance Cycle is not one of my absolute favourites). There’s so much action and adventure that you’ll not want it to stop for fear that it will be the last moment in the book. First-class read with first-class and compelling writing.

Something I like very very very much is that THERE IS NO CLIFFHANGER! It is a well-rounded individual book that so happens to have two books to follow continuing Yukiko and Buruu’s legacy. Stormdancer concludes with a fist to the air – literally. It is resolved and I respect Jay highly for doing this. I loathe cliffhangers (well not if they’re done properly and are necessary). Jay’s picture has now been plastered to my wall so that every morning when I wake up I can flatten up against the wall and pretend to be giving him a great big bear-hug. Or a peck on the forehead.

I am sure there is a lot more quotes and details I can include in this review, but have I bedazzled you enough yet? I could keep on going but I’m aching all over – I’m having so much fun writing this review. I want to say EVERYTHING! But there’s still three more months to go until Stormdancer is published and I want you to experience the sheer wonder of it as much as I did. Looking forward to hearing all your thoughts on Stormdancer and hopefully we can together get on our knees until the sequential books come out. So while I wait, I will be happily rereading and marking every page from beginning to end like a passionate English or Literature student at school. Jay what have you made of me????


You do not want to not read this book. It’s the next best thing, sure to be a NYT Bestseller!

To visit the review on my blog please go here.
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
774 reviews515 followers
January 22, 2016
"Yamaguchi Hiroyuki, who rested agura-style in front of a too warm kotatsu, enjoyed a cup of fragrant genmaicha with a plate of fresh kusamochi from a wagashiya at Higashi-Bashi and took a secret sip of shirozake in between, while reading the less shocking parts of the shimbun to his wataire-clad okusan Miyuki, who was supposed to fold the last Hinamatsuri origami, but nervously fingered a fertility omamori from the neighborhood jinja instead. If she did not conceive this very month there was nothing left but harakiri. 'Shou ga nai', she wispered to herself with a soft sigh reminiscent of the maiko she once had been."
Huh? No, this paragraph was certainly not extracted from Jay Kristoff's debut novel Stormdancer, but it could be, for I jumbled together a paragraph that made the same exaggerated use of japanese nouns in a slightly clumsy attempt to create a kind of asian atmosphere. I was really peeved by the vocabulary overload, which even had characters answering with "Hai" instead of simply "Yes", but in the end there were all in all more aspects in the story that I enjoyed, adored or felt comfortably familiar with than those I disliked. I will try to point out both and I will explain why I would in fact recommend to pick up the book along the way.

What I liked ...
* First of all: The cover. No, not that bland one one by Tor. It reminds me too much of the cover of Takashi Matsuoka's Cloud of Sparrows. I mean the gorgeous red and black one that shows a griffin, lotus-poisoned air, a sexy, young-enough-looking heroine and even a nine-tailed-fox tattoo on her arm. I really appreciate it, when publishers invest in creating a cover that actually reflects the story in detail.
. . .
* The abundance of action and gore.
* The author's decision not to shy away from including sex in his plot. A lot of writers do so to appease those strange people who continue to pretend that sex is something not belonging into a normal teenager's life – both fictional and real. That really drives me bonkers from time to time. How refreshing to see a heroine who does not treat losing her virginity like a matter of life and death.
* Several strong and extremely likable female characters – even in previously unexpected places.
* The initially fragile, but later indestructible, Eragon-Saphira-style, exclusive bond between the paranormally gifted kick-ass heroine and the rare, conflicted and highly intelligent mythical creature thrown into her company. Who would not love Yukiko's "taming" of the proud and bristling griffin Buuru and their later mutual come-what-may trust in each other?
* That under the disguise of a brutal, slightly romantic, steampunk fantasy set in an alternative Japan a highly relevant, thought-provoking environmental fairytale is genially smuggled onto many reading lists, which reminds me on the one hand of Hayao Miyazaki's masterworks Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke in a very positive way and on the other hand presses a hand-mirror reflecting our own planet-destructing behavior against our greedy noses. I am going to elaborate:
- In Princess Mononoke the fierce Lady Eboshi runs a settlement that produces coal from cut-down forest trees to melt ironsand, which is needed to create firearms. The firearms are meant to kill the giant animal-gods protecting the forest and its inhabitants from human exploitation. Lady Eboshi is willing to sacrifice the forest and the magical creatures living there in order for her country's economy to flourish. She actually cares for her workers, but she doesn't see the connection between the mysterious illness many of the men are inflicted with and the destruction of the woods. The imperial hunters want the deer-god's head and they will receive it. In Stormdancer the ruthless ruler and a fanatic group called the Guild have considerably "bettered" the country's economic and political standing by forcing the farmers to grow lotus on their fields, a plant that fuels the various high-tech steampunk machines, appliances, weapons and airships, leads to addiction when consumed in the form of tea or smoke and unfortunately permanently poisons the air around it and the soil it is grown in. To highlight his power the monarch sends out his recently idle hunters to catch the very last magical beast, that had been spotted in one of the rare regions still untouched by the destructive effect of lotus production.
- The easily influenced population in want of lotus money reminded me in turn of the Valley-of-the-Wind people in Nausicaä, who eagerly burn down each trace of fungus that reaches their fields, have to wear breathing masks when leaving their wind-filled haven and hold the Omu, huge insects roaming the supposedly deadly fungus forests, responsible for the actually man-made environmental catastrophe. Animal-loving Nausicaae finds out the truth, connects with the gentle Omus and deals with a steampunky, neighboring country threatening to invade the small paradise with their scifi airships. Oh, I can easily imagine Stormdancer turning into a Miyazaki animation film. The plot, the beast and the girl would be perfect.
- But what is even more important – and worth a whole rating star for me – is the adaptability to our own present situation: The looming climate problem is evident, but it gets shoved again and again into a dusty backgroud corner to be dealt with later, because shortsightedly securing the immediate want and comfort and well-being of a handful of still thriving countries always gets prioritized. We destroy species after species and their habitats, we squirrel away radioactive time-bombs all over the planet, we make money at war, we figuratively design prettier breathing masks to avoid the stench of our own exhaust and we diplomatically close our eyes, when countries on the rise want to try their hands at high-impact beginners' mistakes, too. We do not import foreign slaves to do the dirty work in front of our doors like the Stormdancer's Emperor does, we prefer putting the factories themselves into far away countries, so we don't have to watch those people slaving away under unhealthy, inhuman conditions, and we can buy another cheap or not so cheap pair of of hip new jeans, while they have to decide between buying a daily bowl of rice or sending a kid to school. I am really grateful to Mr. Kristoff for writing a story that takes place in the midst of a barely stoppable destruction. The only other comparable example I have read so far was Firestorm by David Klass. Most young adult post-apocalyptic novels are – like the label says – set up in a time after an environmental collaps, after the wounded planet rebelled against being treated like something disposable. And usually the teenaged protagonists are handed the broken pieces and try to make the best of it: Living underwater, surviving a draught, contructing a dome ... They play the role of the innocent victim. We – like Yukiko – are not victims, we are doing the deed right now.
* The "normal" fantasy plot parts. I had high expectations for the book to be completely different from everything else I have read, but it is certainly not. A lot of plot elements are very familiar, standard fare, really. But for those of us - like me - who usually enjoy high fantasy, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
* The ending.

What I disliked ...
* The above mentioned vocabulary overload. Glossary or no glossary, all the unnecessary Japanese made reading the first chapters at least extremely exhausting. In fact, it seemed to me like complete lists of traditional japanese weaponry and clothing were put next to the author's computer with the goal to cross off each of them eventually. A lot of concepts could have also been expressed by a simple English word and an unfamiliar, exotic vibe would still have been the outcome. A good example is in my opinion the fantasy debut City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster. The robes, the fans, the customs, the nomads ... everything was pretty visual, excitingly unfamiliar and special, but I couldn't pinpoint the setting to a single country. There were chinese, japanese and arabic elements and things I believe that were purely fiction. But no glossary and no inbuilt explanation was needed. I could understand it all. I hope that the final version of Stormdancer drops the occasional "Hai", uses plain English for things like jackets, trousers and knives and at least deletes American leanwords like sararimen (salary men).
* The lack of world building in the midst of all the elaborate description. For example, I did not get a proper impression of the tree-house village (in comparison Yelena's first visit in the hidden jungle-city complete with floating bridges and braided furniture in Magic Study has burned itself into my memory), I was puzzled by ensuite bathrooms in the imperial palace, I would like to know more about the lotus business and how it facilitates warfare and I needed to dissect several scenes to finally understand Buuru's outer appearance.
* Inconsistencies like love-interest Hiro, a green-eyed foreigner with a japanese name serving the nationalist, exclusive Guild and being a trusted servant of the Emperor in spite of obviously not being from "Shima".
* The love triangle.
* The very forseeable twists and turns on the way to the plot's climax.
* The insignificance of Lady Aisha's role. She showed so much promise and surprise and then ...
* The missing romance. There was lust and sex and a heroine lost in rather detached dreams of glowing green eyes, but there was nothing to make my heart flutter. I do not ask for an increase of boy-girl-scenes, but for those already there being more intense, more palatable.

I am afraid, this is getting unbearably long. Anyway, I am very grateful for the chance to read the book pre-publication and I recommend it in spite of the above mentioned obstacles, which might scare away a considerable number of potential fans before the story's lotus fumes have begun to lure them in.
Profile Image for Maria V. Snyder.
Author 82 books16.9k followers
July 11, 2019
After all the SF, this is a good epic fantasy set in Japan (or a place that is very much like Japan) as the gods and culture are all similar to Japanese ancient gods and culture. I like that the story uses the Japanese pantheon - a unique aspect for fantasy. There is also some "Steampunk" aspects, but it's more "Lotuspunk" as the main fuel for this world is from the lotus plant. And it's a dirty, polluting fuel, that turns the sky red and if you don't have a good respirator over your face, you can die of "black lung." Interesting world and culture and characters. I think the world building is wonderful, but a bit...repetitive. Yes, I know it's polluted. Yes, I'm aware of what will happen if they find out what the main protagonist can really do. etc... I started skimming over the details after a while.

I picked this up because of the title - Stormdancer - I have Stormdancers in my Glass series of books and wanted to see if they were similar - they're not. And also because it was written by Jay Kristoff - I enjoyed the Illuminate series very much and wanted to see what he did with a solo fantasy book. He did a good job!
October 4, 2017
Blog review:

This totally took me by surprise!

For some reason when I started reading this I thought it was set in a post apocalyptic Japan and that after the world fell people went back to the old religions and beliefs and started living menial lives again. I mean the polluted atmosphere of the Shima isles made me lean on the sci-fi side. But further into the book I realized it was set in a fantasy world. Which only made the novel richer and even more enjoyable!

I'm no expert on Japanese customs..... (even though I've been to Japan 4 times now and it was AWESOME!) ahem so like I was saying other people have claimed that the Japanese used in this book was incorrect which I can't comment on as I'm no expert. But despite that the book has a very realistic and authentic feel and the descriptions are so rich it made me feel like I was there with the characters. Other people have also been annoyed by the world building saying it was too over descriptive but that's one of the things I loved so much about this book! I can't say enough times how much I love mythology and learning about other cultures and religions, history, travelling and different settings has always fascinated me. I also like to see a high fantasy novel set in a different culture apart from the stereotypical medieval Europe based high fantasies (I mean don't get me wrong I like them too I just feel they're used too much).

I would seriously recommend this series to anyone who wants a different high fantasy and likes lots of action and detailed settings.
Profile Image for Mpauli.
157 reviews458 followers
December 31, 2015
This book is a very interesting mix. It offers a lot for lovers of YA fantasy as it has all the typical ingredients. We have Yukiko, a teenage female protagonist, who finds a friend in a mythical creature. In this case it isn't a dragon, it's a griffin.
We also have two love interests for her, but fortunately the tiny romance part just complements the well-rounded adventure story, without being a distraction from what is important.
What sets the book truly apart from a lot of similar tales is the very interesting worldbuilding. Jay Kristoff's world is filled with a mixture of japanese mythology and steampunk elements. People who like the style of animes like Full Metal Alchemist will instantly love this world.
In regards to underlying themes the book isn't very subtle. It's pretty clear where Jay Kristoff stands when it come to current issues like global warming or our dwindling resources.
Overall the book was a very enjoyable read that YA readers will love and adult readers will find entertaining.
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