Stormdancer (The Lotus Wars #1)

Title: Stormdancer

Author: Jay Kristoff

Yukiko’s father is the Shogan’s Master of the Hunt, so when the Shogun decides he wants a probably-died-out-decades-ago thunder tiger (arashitora), her father has no choice but to obey. But the arashitora is no legend, and soon Yukiko will be forced to choose where her loyalties lie.

The story takes place in a fantastical world drawing much from Japan (and a bit from some other Asian cultures), in a steampunk era where polluting machines that run on “chi” (lotus fuel) have clogged up so much that the world itself is dying. The Shogun and the Lotus Guild control everything, although they’re each other’s enemies as well as allies.

I liked the active language throughout the book, and the detailed descriptions. It does mean, though, that the beginning takes a long time to get to the actual events listed on the book description. The depictions of the smog and pollutants particularly felt a bit overdone, as it left me wondering how most of the city survives with apparently no fresh water.

I did very much enjoy Buruu, the thunder tiger (gryphon!). Once he showed up, the plot picks up, and he’s got an amusingly direct view on most of Yukiko’s problems (with typically short and violent solutions). I liked how the link between Yukiko and Buruu played out during battles, and how it begins affecting both of them more than they would have expected. I liked his body language, and his lightning-feathers. And I liked how both he and the oni point to the fact that the mythology Yukiko has heard about may be more truth than myth (with hopefully more fun creatures to come).

There were a few things that did bug me, though. The biggest was a scene where Yukiko is bathing, and the reader is invited to oogle her along with the boys who are spying on her, as her naked body gets far too much description. I would have much preferred her incriminating tattoo to have been revealed in some other way, as this scene has no purpose other than titillation. I was also puzzled why a particular samurai who is not stated to be a half-blood had green eyes, as everyone seems to be physically identical to Japanese people otherwise. And as other reviews have stated, the usage of some Japanese words was not correct (or ways English words were described when the context implies they should be speaking Japanese, when those English descriptions fail to line up with how the Japanese phrase would be said).

That said, I still enjoyed the story overall. I am curious to see where Yukiko and Buruu go next and will probably track down the sequel sooner or later. I rate this book Recommended.

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