Monday, September 16, 2013
Book Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
I discovered this book when another author retweeted one of Jay's tweets where he mentioned chainsaw Katanas. I thought "Chainsaw katanas? How can you not?"
I love the intro he's got left as a review of his own book on good reads. You gotta read it, it's awesome: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/269307847 Go read it, I'll wait.
And then when you're done that, watch the book trailer. I seriously have never seen a book trailer that actually made me want to read a book until this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mei6yRz7pTU
Okay, so I was already invested. Female main character who kicks ass, Japanese inspired secondary world steampunk setting, with chainsaw katanas and airships - I'm sold. It may even be more dieselpunk than steapunk - the fuel they use is "Chi," harvested from the Blood Lotus, and there's no specific description of the engines, but I couldn't imagine the chainsaw katanas running on anything but an internal combustion engine.
What I wasn't expecting was that the book would be hitting all my hot buttons. It's actually a dystopian setting, and I love dystopias. It's about an oppressed people struggling against an elite wealthy class. And lastly, there's the griffin - the Arashitora, a being that belongs in the sky, and his love of flying, well, being a pilot, lets just say I couldn't help but smile and think "Yeah, I know."
I read reviews before reading it, talking about how the Yukiko-Buruu dynamic was magical, and it's really hard to pin down what it is that makes it so. It's just somehow very real and very foreign at the same time. I've read plenty of person-forms-magical-bond-with-supernatural-creature books, and I think this one does it better than any I've ever read.
The world Kristoff takes us into is vivid, and interesting to the point that I didn't have trouble getting through even the parts that were just introductions to the world. The pacing of the action is slow at the beginning, but that's typical of secondary world stories with a lot of worldbuilding to do, but the author keeps the story moving at a steady pace despite that, even in the beginning.
I really identified with the main character being so angry with her father for the decisions he's made, and over her mother leaving them. Having come from a broken home myself, I get it, and there's not a lot of fantasy out there that deals with the frustration my generation feels with the bad decisions our parents have made, and the way our parents have failed us.
The thing I love the most about the whole thing though, is the social commentary. It's a scathing allegory of the current economic state of the world. The country being bled dry by corporations, the warmongering government, the success of both dependent on taking advantage of poor people of third world countries. The control over the media, suppressing information as they please, and religious zealots attacking minorities. All the while their own people cower in fear, unwilling to take action to change. I won't spoil anything, but as the story goes on and you find out what goes into making the fertilizer for the Blood Lotus, the allegory becomes even more brilliantly poignant.
If you like bustles and tea parties, think books should be for entertainment only and not a soapbox for political statement (some people feel this way - I don't get it) and abhor foul language, this is not the book for you. However, if you like kick-ass heroines who swear, political intrigue, dystopias, political social commentary, Japanese culture, and lots of action, this book was fracking awesome. It's been a while since I've finished a book this quickly. Ten Cylinders.