Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Summary from GoodReads
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?
Do you know the song "Big in Japan" by Alphaville? Well if you could combine the song, steampunk and everything in the Japanese history, then you would have "Stormdancer". As the very first book Mr. Kristoff wrote before the success of ILLUMINAE and Nevernight, I really hoped to have the chance to read this one.
The story takes place in Japan, somewhere between 18th-19th century if I had to guess, but the country is nothing you are expecting to see. The lands are polluted, the shogun is ruling with the help of the Lotus Guild (more like they are ruling) and the sky is no longer blue because of the pollution.
In this land Yukiko and her father, along with a group of elite hunters, receive a mission from the shogun who wants to add in his collection a thunder-tiger. When the trip goes wrong, Yukiko and the thunder-tiger will combine their powers for more than surviving.
First of all we have the world-building. Jay Kristoff manages to bring to life everything; from the traditional clothes of the Japanese civilization to the buildings, weapons and the wild-life of the mountains. Yukiko and Buduu form a unique bond and many times I found myself laughing with their conversations.
The secondary characters are also interesting, especially Kin. I love the guy, even if he is a brainwashed fool, but he proves himself in an amazing way. The love interest? If I could wield a katana, probably I'd cut his head off.
But the story does not stay only to the characters. In its core it's a message about enviromental polution, how people tend to forget their own myths and legends and how many times the ruling power uses propaganda in order to achieve its purposes.
Also another interesting part was the mention of the kaijin, the foreigners with the white skin and the strange eyes, who are portayed as monsters who might like eating babies. Does that ring any bells to you? Think about the reaction of the white men when they met people of another color for the first time.
I have high hopes for this series and while I'm still reading the second book I can't stop recommending this one. I can only hope that Yukiko and Buddu will find their peace in the end of the series.
About the author: