Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

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Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The good news? This is Japanese steampunk as written by an Aussie: fast, exciting, thoughtful/thought provoking and allegorically intelligent whilst peppered with a wry sense of humour. The bad news? It's only 352 pages long.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: September 2012
Publisher: Tor
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0230759015

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Warrior Masaru has raised his daughter, Yukiko, alone since his wife left. Yukiko is now 16; a feat more due latterly to her own strength and resourcefulness than his care. For since his wife's departure, Masaru has gone to pieces, addicted to gambling and the narcotic effects of lotus smoke. The days when he was the legendary Black Fox are behind him which is a shame as the Shogun (not a man known for calm reasoning or lack of ferocity) has a mission for them. Masaru, Yukiko and an entourage must hunt and capture the legendary thundertiger. But they're extinct aren't they? Well, no, they aren't as Yukiko discovers when the hunt goes terribly wrong and she's left alone with just a thundertiger for company. She fights to find a way home, learning as she goes the full extent to which the Shogun has worked against the good of the nation in general and her family in particular. And the thundertiger? Let's just say he's had his wings clipped and he's not happy about it.

Australian debut author Jay Kristoff left advertising for all the right reasons, despite being rather good at it but within his expertise lies a problem. I have a word limit that'd be easily spent just raving about the Youtube trailer, the book's author blurb and the author's website. Ergo, to save time, we'll assume you've seen or are going to see these and I'll move on to the book.

Stormdancer world is a skilfully created dystopia, aligning with ours in some ways. It cannot exist without the lotus, used as a narcotic drug, a medicine and an omnipotent fuel. Yet it pollutes the ground, deleting entire ecosystems and dependant life forms. Wars are even fought over it. (Talking of wars, the Shogun's army recruiters' advertisement tag line is 'Be the best you can be.' Getting sounds-familiar-goosebumps yet?)

Indeed, Jay Kristoff's world-creation is jaw-droppingly good (including a very informative glossary at the end). It's not an era known for tolerance as 'Purifiers' roam the country, looking for the alternatively gifted in order to cremate them with integral blow torches. Also the Shogun is protected by Iron Samurai; half-man/half-machine almost like Japanese cybermen, with chainsaw swords and ships fly through air. (There is some gore but not extensive so the mediumly and hardly squeamish should be fine.)

If you'd rather look beyond the scenery, stripping the plot to its skimpies, you'll find a coming of age story: a girl, fighting her way home through danger whilst learning more and pitting herself against an evil empire. Although, when the book has been dressed in such a way that you're thrown into frequent, thick and fast imagination-seizing action, why look at the skimpies? 'So apart from thrilling action sequences and enthralling world building, what else is there?' you ask. 'Well-drawn characters!' I reply.

Yukiko is such a 16 year old girl: feisty, jumping to conclusions rather than listening to reason and not slow to notice man beauty. Her father is a definite product of his past, wanting to do the right thing despite being honour-bound to a tyrant and living in fear of Yukiko's gift putting her on the wrong end of a blow torch. (You can see why an addiction to lotus smoke would be preferable to real life.) My only reservation is that Masaru seems to gain superhuman strength at one point, despite being malnourished and dehydrated due to… err… circumstances. However, tell me that he's adrenaline-driven by his reason for fighting and I'll believe you. The thundertiger himself? He's a scene stealer albeit the sort of scene stealer that tears flesh through armour with a half-hearted swipe.

The thrills and action comes with a sobering thought for those willing to listen: whilst we have the strength and ability to make a fist we've the strength and ability to fight wrong in the world. Trite? Possibly. True? Definitely. It also gives us something to think about whilst we eagerly await the second instalment, due Autumn 2013. I should have calmed down a little by then.

A special thank you to Tor for sending us a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this and fancy some more rollicking steampunk with a wry edge (albeit more occidentally based), then we suggest Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway.

Buy Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff at

Buy Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff at


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