Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Summary: The Shogun of Shima has heard tell of an arashitora—a thunder tiger—that miraculously remains the last of its kind. The Shogun wants this arashitora for himself, to ride into battle and defeat the gaijin hordes. He sends his best hunters out to capture the beast (which may or may not actually exist). Sixteen-year-old Yukiko’s father is one of the hunters, and she is along for the ride. But when she sees the thunder tiger, she wonders if the Shogun really deserves such a majestic creature.
My thoughts: Stormdancer is YA, I guess, but it reads more like adult fiction—it focuses heavily on description and less on dialogue, and its tone is mature. I think this is great: Stormdancer will definitely prove a challenge to younger readers, but it’s a good one. The book is so innovative that it will surely be on must-reads like because of its concept alone. What’s even better is that the writing is rock solid, so Kristoff doesn’t just use the concept to carry the book—the concept of “Japanese steampunk” is merely the launching pad. Above all, Stormdancer is a tale of friendship and loyalty; it’s about a girl finally opening her eyes to the realities of the world in which she lives.
Stormdancer is the kind of story that takes a little while to win over your heart, but once it does, you’re infatuated. The characters are carefully developed in a way that, by the end of the book, makes you feel as if you know them personally. Yukiko and her thunder tiger steal the show with their banter and breathtaking bond. The thunder tiger itself is no mere companion—he holds his own as a character.
Part of what makes Stormdancer feel adult—or perhaps what gives it crossover appeal—is the fact that despite having a sixteen-year-old female protagonist, it has many adult characters that are key to the story. I like this choice because it makes the novel feel grounded: in feudal Japan, the world is run by adults, not teenagers. While Yukiko is special, she is still a child, and Kristoff acknowledges this in a realistic manner.
If you like adventure—if you’re eager to be swept away into a foreign land—then Stormdancer is the book for you. Jay Kristoff’s debut novel is nothing less than enchanting.
For those who like: Japan, adventure, historical settings
Find the author at JayKristoff.com.
Comment question: Japanese steampunk – what are your thoughts on this exciting and unusual creation? Does Stormdancer sound like your kind of book?