Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When the Shogun demands someone bring him an arashitora (griffin), a group of adventurers gos on an airship voyage to capture the beast, long thought to be extinct. The airship goes down and a girl named Yukiko befriends the captured arashitora. Can the two of them be reunited with Yukiko's friends and overthrow the Shogun?

I received this ARC from the fine folks at St. Martin's. It's freeness does not diminish its awesomeness.

Not too long ago, I got an email asking if I wanted to give Stormdancer a try. Once I read the phrases "steampunk feudal Japan" and "free," I was sold.

Stormdancer takes place in a fantasy version of feudal Japan, one with an environment fouled by the blood lotus, a plant that blights the land but has many beneficial properties, like being smoked or turned into a super-fuel. Thus, the island nation of Shima has an impressive empire, ruled by mad and cruel Shogun.

Yukiko, the heroine, is the daughter of an aging hero Masaru, The Black Fox, and a yokai, one of the people touched by the spirits. The Yokai are relentlessly hunted by The Lotus Guild, armored machine-men who keep the Shima technology moving forward.

If I had one gripe about the book, it's that it takes a little while for the main plot to kick off. To be fair, though, there is a ton of worldbuilding that needs to be done before then. Anyway, once Yukiko meets the arashitora, the book grabs on tight and doesn't let go. I found myself getting really attached to the characters and probably would have went into seclusion if Buruu had died. The relationship between Buruu and Yukiko was my favorite part of the book.

You know how most steampunk seems to be Paranormal Romance with some gears and brass added on? Stormdancer is not one of those. This book is jam packed with interesting concepts, like the Iron Samurai, the Lotus Guild, ninja cells with agents hidden everywhere, yokai, the list goes on and on. Still skeptical? Two words: chainsaw katana.

The ending was poignant yet satisfying. If one were so inclined, one could read this book and not read the subsequent volumes and be satisfied. I'll be continuing, though. Stormdancer is the most original science fiction/fantasy novel I've read in a long time. Five easy stars.

Note: I did a blog interview with Jay Kristoff here. He's a hilarious guy so buy his book.

Also on Goodreads

Black Feathers

Black Feathers (Black Dawn, #1)Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a time much like ours, the world is falling apart and Gordon Black is on the run for reasons he doesn't completely understand. In the far future, a girl named Megan Maurice finds herself chosen to learn the Crowman's story. Is the Crowman the world's savior or its destroyer? And what is the connection between Gordon and the Crowman?

Wow. If I knew how great this book was going to be when I bought it, I wouldn't have let it linger on my to-read pile for so long.

Black Feathers tells two stories, one featuring Gordon Black in a world that's quickly going to hell in a hand basket because economic and environmental collapse and another featuring Megan Maurice in a world that's almost medieval in tech level, centuries after the events in Gordon's tale. There's a lot going on so I don't want to give too much away.

Gordon is on the run from The Ward, a bunch of heavies that have risen up and taken over when things started going south. The Ward are slowly gaining power and fear Gordon for reasons he is initially unaware of. Megan has been selected to be a Keeper, someone who learns and tells the Crowman's tale and has special nature-priest abilities.

Gordon and Megan are both compelling characters. Gordon's loss drives him toward a destiny he isn't very sure of and Megan's role as the next Keeper helps fill in some of the gaps in Gordon's tale and hint at things to come.

The two settings are well developed. The Black Dawn, the near future of Gordon's time, is all too believable with food shortages and martial law. Megan's time, the Bright Day, is a simpler time of people living in harmony with nature in the ruins of the past. Megan's time reminds me of the world of Gathering Blue while Gordon's, although nearly the present, definitely has a dystopian feel.

The book has a strong ecological message: If you don't treat the Earth well, she's going to settle your hash. With the two young adult protagonists, this could be classified as a YA book but it lacks the tedious love triangles and teen angst so I can see why it isn't marketed as such.

If I had to gripe about one thing it would be that I have to wait for the concluding volume in the series, The Book of the Crowman, to see how things shape up.

Nothing like a really good book to make you see how crappy a lot of the things you read are. Five stars!

Also on Goodreads