Hello, everyone, and welcome to a new feature on the blog – character interviews with characters from some of the hottest new books! Our inaugural interview today is with Yukiko from Jay Kristoff’s magnificent debut novel, “Stormdancer”.
There may be some spoilers after the jump, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now, let’s go into the world of Shima with Yukiko herself in her own words behind the jump!
USAGI: Yukiko-sama, thank you so very much for taking time out of your busy schedule for talking to me. Let’s get to our first question, shall we? So, now that you and Buruu have gotten used to each other, how are things going between the two of you?
YUKIKO: It feels… I don’t know. Something like a dream. Or more like I have been asleep my whole life and now I am finally awake. Sometimes when I sleep, I can feel myself flying. The wind in my feathers and the rain in my fur. And I know these are not my dreams, they belong to Buruu. But the strange thing is, they feel more real than any I’ve had before.
He is my strength when I have none of my own. He is my eyes when I find myself lost in the dark. Even as cold as it gets up here, he is there to keep me warm.
He is my brother. My family.
U: If you couldn’t be part of the Kitsune clan, which other clan would you want to be apart of?
Y: The Phoenix. Some people say they are snobbish, that all they care for is beauty. But Akihito is Phoenix clan, and he has always been there for me. He shows there can be beauty in the simplest things. In loyalty and friendship. His is an artistry of the heart, not the hands.
I wonder about the old clans – the ones lost in the fall of the old Empire. Hawk and Spider and Serpent and the rest. I wonder what they were like. What it was like to like in a nation with twenty-four clans, and not just four. But those days are long gone now.
U: Now that the war against the blood lotus has begun, what do you plan on doing next?
Y: I do not know. The people of Shima must have their eyes opened to the Guild’s cruelty, the damage that the blood lotus is doing to this land. But I have no idea how to do that. Daichi and Kaori say I must speak. I must become a figurehead, a flag for the people to march behind.
But Buruu says there is blood down that road. Blood like a river, in which thousands will drown. I do not want them to drown with my name on their lips.
Enough people have died already.
U: I agree. So, tell me one secret about you that no one else knows.
Y: Up here in the Iishi wilderness, the thoughts of the animals around me… sometimes they’re so loud, I can’t keep them out.
I am getting headaches. Terrible headaches.
They are getting worse…
U: Tell me one secret about Buruu that no one else knows, if you can. Without him trying to murder you. Or me. I like breathing and stuff, you know?
Y: He did something bad. In his past, before he came to Shima. I do not know what it was, but sometimes, I can feel it inside him. This guilt, swimming below his surface. Like a shadow. A stain that won’t wash away.
I want to ask him about it. But he is my brother. He will tell me when he is ready.
U: Now that you’re the Stormdancer, does that make you a mahou shoujo (a magical girl)?
Y: I’m not sure if I have some kind of magic. I’m not sure what you would call it. The Guild call people like me “Impure” and burn us alive. But I have never really met anyone with this gift – I call it a gift – and so I have no-one I can speak to, no-one I can ask about it. I am not sure if what is happening to me is normal. And Buruu knows nothing that will help me.
If this is magic, it seems a poor sort. But I will find the truth of it. After all, I have no other choice.
U: Who are the gaijin (foreigners) that are talked about so much in this book?
Y: They come from a country called Morcheba, across the Eastern Sea. My people have been fighting a war against them since before I was born. Every month on the wireless, we hear it will be over soon. But it never is.
I hear terrible tales about them – that they bathe in the blood of their enemies, that they eat children and go mad in battle. I have heard them called “skin-thieves” and “blood-drinkers”, but the only ones I have actually met are the gaijin who sell furs in Docktown. They didn’t seem to be drinking anyone’s blood or skinning any children – they just sell furs to us because we have no animals of our own to skin. That sounds like wisdom to me, not madness.
The Guild and the Shōgunate have lied to us for years about our world. It would not surprise me to learn we had been lied to about the gaijin too. I hope to learn the truth of it, one day.
U: Aside from the blood lotus killing everything, what’s one thing you would change if you were able to about Shima?
Y: The war against the gaijin. The fact we use them as slaves. I think it’s wrong – the idea of owning a person. There’s something so wrong with that it makes my chest hurt.
All we have is war. And the only way to break the cycle is to fight another one. It seems a cruel joke, does it not?
U: So, is it safe to say that the Shōgun and the entire current Shima regime is going down?
Y: I do not know what the future will bring. Only that there will be blood. But I will fight. We will fight, Buruu and I. If we die trying, at least we will have tried.
Better to die standing than live kneeling. And I have nothing left to lose.
U: Finally, do you have a message for the readers of “Stormdancer”? If so, what is it?
Y: Open your eyes. Open your mind. Then close the fingers on your hand.
U: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today, Yukiko! Give my best to Buruu! And remember, guys, “Stormdancer” is out now in North America, the UK, and Australia, so be sure to check it out! It’s seriously one of the most awesome books of the year – you really can’t afford to miss out on all of this awesome action!