Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: September 18, 2012
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Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.
But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.
Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she's determined to do something about it.
Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?
I actually read this book quite some time ago, but sometimes when books are this incredimazing I get all tongue-tied and literally have no idea what to say. Jesus, that sounds cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason. I mean, seriously. So whatever. Anyway, I actually made up a word to describe this book, so obviously I loved it. (Dude, check out the rating. That rating? That is EARNED only by the most worthy books.) Essentially, this book just kind of blew my breath away. It's absolutely phenomenal. Spectacular. Marvelous. And of course, incredimazing. I could totally do this all day, but, you know, I won't. Let me get a little more in detail.
Yukiki is our strong and badass heroine. I absolutely have a girl crush on her. Let's not lie here. I can relate to her on so many levels. She's constantly at odds with her father. She's more than a little rebellious and she's definitely courageous. She understands limits and that some things cannot be done. I like that she isn't overly impulsive, and sometimes she can do what she needs to even when she'd rather not. Also, I really liked her character arc. It's very subtle at first, but once I noticed it it wars impossible to ignore. The way she changes unfolds in layers. Yukiko also, for all her strengths, can be vulnerable just like anyone else. She gets upset and she breaks down and she needs comforting and she makes mistakes.
Can we please just take a moment to respect Buruu's general awesomeness and badassery? Okay, great. Buruu comes onto the scene with a bang. During a thunderstorm. There's lightnings, and this nameless, mystical thunder creature suddenly appears in the sky. Though captured, he cannot be tamed. Yet as his bond with Yukiki grows, something changes in him. At first he's much more animalistic. Primal. An eye for an eye. But slowly, he begins to understand more of the world around him. He begins to understand love. And I felt very much like he could have just as easily been a human character if not for his fantasticalness. That's probably one of my favorite things about him. I have a lot of favorite things about him.
There are totally other badass characters, and even some awesometacularly horrible ones, but I'm not going to write about them right now. That certainly doesn't mean that I can't add things about them inn the future.
Something a lot of people don't know about me is that I'm actually half-Japanese. I don't look very Asian (I think I do at least a little) and the white last name throws people off. I also have an immense interest in Japanese history and actually wrote my extended essay for IB on the subject. 3996 words, which obviously pales in comparison to this book. Also, I'm totally not being modest here. But my randomness has a point—I'm no history buff, but I'm still knowledgable in Japanese history. And besides the fantastical and steampunkianal (I don't think that's a word…but oh well!) elements, the historical accuracy of this book is VERY impressive. I feel the need to point that out. Obviously this was well-researched, which just made it so much more enjoyable as a whole.
So, the world-building. It's set in historical, feudal Japan. That much is perfectly clear. But it's a steampunk version of Japan with fantasy elements. I mean, I honestly don't think you can get any more awesome than that. Loved the aspects of fantasy involved, and the aspects of steampunk involved, and the blending of both elements together to create something wholly unique. For example, chainsaw katanas. Chain. Saw. Katanas. That is like, epic level of epic awesomeness Level: Epic. I sound like a total fangirl right now, but at the same time I kind of am, so it works out.
I mean, I have never ever read anything even vaguely like this. It was enthralling. And it was by no means a shallow story. That's another thing about this novel. Everything about it is so very gorgeous and complex. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Secrets hide behind the simplest of exteriors, and sometimes friends can be found in unusual places. I was kept guessing until the very end. There's really no way of knowing anything for sure. Even what we see can deceive us.
Everything about this book just blew me away in a good way. It constantly surprised me. Really, I wasn't sure where this book was going to go. There were what seemed like millions of possible directions. I loved the suspense and intensity this created. It kept me eagerly reading on late at night, dying to know what was going to happen next, if someone was going to die, or just what kind of drama was going on. Yes, Jay doesn't forget to include the simpler things. He apparently doesn't overlook anything.
I mean, seriously, just everything about this plot blew me away. It almost did so literally. I just…I mean…argh, I usually do not get this tongue-tied. But I just cannot even express how fantastic this book truly was. Obviously you should just ignore my ramblings and go buy it already.
Romance played somewhat of a larger role in this novel than I expected, and it is all very complex. There's unrequited love. There's deception. There's lust. There're epic conglomerations of it all. (I spelled conglomeration correctly on the first try.) And I love the realism in that. Most of you know that I am romantic to a fault. Yet I can appreciate romance ending in disaster, too. There's something about the drama of it all that appeals to me, and I was surprised but thrilled by the direction the romance went in. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what's next.
I am allowed to point out what absolutely lovely writing Jay had, yes? Stormdancer uses third person POV. It's the limited form, but at different times different characters will narrate and lend us their voices. Mostly, it's Yukiki telling the story, but there are others who give us a different POV, let us see things through their eyes. I loved seeing the same problem viewed from so many different angles, and seeing the change in characters both in their owns heads and the thoughts of others. Also, the description, the world-building, the dialogue—sparkling and glittering and gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful.
Wow. Like, wow. There is so much of this that I didn't see coming. Betrayal, love, truth, lies…all of it comes into play. It's all important. Some of the truths revealing are devastating and changed the entire course of the novel. I never expected half of the things that happened to happened. And I expected to be thrown off, and I was still thrown off. I'm pretty sure that is the definition of brilliance. It just captured the spirit of the novel in a few pages. You could read the ending by itself and be hypnotized by its beauty. (Don't.) I was satisfied but the way this ended—but I can tell that the Lotus War has only barely begun, and I'm desperate to know what comes next.
If you're not convinced by this point that this book is one of the most incredimazing things that I have ever read in my life 1) you are the world's worst cynic and 2) you are a liar. I loved, loved, LOVED this book. As soon as I finished it I was tempted to turn back to the first page and read it again. If you haven't read it yet, I envy you your first reading of it. And duh, I totally recommend this book. In fact, if you haven't read it yet, go and buy it right now. Right. Now. You will thank me for this. This book just…ahhh. It made me so happy and warm and fuzzy inside. If it was legal to marry books I would totally marry this book. (Along with like a hundred others, but don't tell it that.) Kisses to this book, and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequels!
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