Review: “Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff

Title: “Stormdancer”

Author: Jay Kristoff

Genre: YA, alternate history, steampunk, fantasy, AWESOME

Publication Date: September 18, 2012 (Thomas Dunne/Macmillan – North America)

Source: NetGalley Review Copy/Publisher ARC

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.


Review: Okay, so I’m going to break my own protocol here and start this review all in caps: “STORMDANCER” DESERVES ALL THE STARS.


It’s seriously one of the best YA fantasy books I’ve read in the past decade. I try not to go overboard and flail like this over a book, but…I just can’t help it. While I had very minor issues with this book (linguistically speaking), otherwise, I don’t think I can gush and flail enough. “Stormdancer” is breathtakingly beautiful, dangerous, and utterly seductive – AND it puts other adult novels that are in the high fantasy/steampunk/alternate history genre to shame.

Okay, so to the minor issue I had with the book: linguistics. If you read the book, you’ll notice the word “sama” is used as “lord”. Let me fix this for you guys: indeed, in Japanese, “-sama” is used as a suffix when referring to someone drastically above you on the social ladder – like a lord/lady/prince/etc. But the correct word would really depend on how far up the person is up on the ladder. If the person really is a lord or lady, you’d probably use the term “goshuujin (one’s lord/mistress)” when addressing them/talking about them, OR add the suffix “-dono” to their name. “Sama” by itself is a word, but it doesn’t, by itself, mean “lord/mistress”. I would have been a bit less disgruntled in the linguistics department had Kristoff just used “my lord” in English, and “yes?” instead of “hai?” (because that’s wrong, too). Yukiko and the Kitsune clan would probably just stick to normal formal verb endings (-san, etc) unless it were the prince they were talking to (because they’re just too ‘low class’ in the linguistic education department to do otherwise – and I won’t even go into that).

End rant. But that’s really a small matter and I’m INSANELY picky when it comes to correct language use, so…yeah. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel but it did bug me a bit and I had to get that out of me. I will admit that I was tickled over his names for the rivers (Maiden, Pure, White), and I liked how Kristoff explained why he named the rivers thus.

But in all other aspects, this novel is absolutely gorgeous and soars just like Buruu in a storm. The characters are woven seamlessly back into the world and because they’re so intricately interconnected, makes the entire experience even more pleasurable – the worldbuilding, too, is top notch, because Kristoff figured out how to connect all characters, even the ones we see the least, back to the dying land of Shima. It’s so good it’s almost disturbing that this is his debut – he has the hand of a master in the genre already with his first book. I can see why Patrick Rothfuss blurbed the book – it’s that damned good.

There was no part of this book that was slow or that dragged – I literally read it in one sitting. And then I flipped back to the first page and wanted to read it again. It’s so absorbing that I had my phone on when reading it, and missed three calls because of it (and my phone was on “break your eardrums” loud). The setting is rich and while toxic, beautiful. Kristoff is ridiculously talented in the sensory imagery/language area, and I could really see everything he described. I smelled the horrid air, I felt the rain when I rode alongside Yukiko on Buruu, I tasted the food, I heard everything. The characters, even down to the least important cameo character, were very real and full, and the entire experience was almost surreal with all of this sensory fullness surrounding me.

I could go on and on about this one, but I won’t. Seriously, just do yourself a favor and get a copy when it hits stores on September 18th in North America from St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan. Its place on my best of 2012 so far list is very well-deserved indeed and yes, it really is that good.


4 thoughts on “Review: “Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 17 | birth of a new witch.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s