The first in an epic new fantasy series, introducing an unforgettable new heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan.
A Dying Land
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
An Impossible Quest
The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shogun to capture a thunder tiger - a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shogun is death.
A Hidden Gift
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shogun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.
©2012 Jay Kristoff (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
I read this book in print before buying the audio version, and enjoyed it immensely. Granted, it's not perfect, as it is the author's first book, but it was entertaining. Yes, the story does start to drag a bit about 3/4 of the way through, but not so much that I lost interest. Yes, the author does borrow elements from Chinese culture, not just Japanese. Yes, the author does perhaps use elements of the language incorrectly. But remember that this is a fantasy story, and as such does not need to be grounded in reality.
Jennifer Ikeda does an excellent job of the narration. At first, I was a bit concerned about her not being able to differentiate between characters well, but manages that well as I was never confused about who was speaking. She conveys their emotions just as well, and I think she is the perfect voice for Yukiko.
Overall, it's not perfect. But it was definitely worth the listen. It kept me absorbed and entertained, and I look forward to Book Two.
I think you should buy it and give it a chance.
I've been away for a couple months due to a VERY hectic travel schedule, but I'm back to do a number of reviews, and I'll begin here.
Whenever a good writer, both new or seasoned, takes up the challenging task of creating a genre'-bending scifi and quasi-fantasy novel or series, and does so successfully, it's a beauty to behold. But, it CAN also be a MESS. We're talking dangerous waters. Slippery slopes. Career-ruining mistakes. We've all read and listened to such disasters.
Not worries here. This is a great listen, and it's not only designed well, it's WRITTEN well. Be prepared to be absorbed in this enjoyable listen, and overlook the minor errors to get the most out of the experience.
It's often so easy to look at an audiobook cover, title or brief description, and write off the author and his or her work as a "typical genre'" read/listen. BE CAREFUL. You do that here, and you've missed out. Kristoff offers great prose, solid character creation, excellent fight scenes (I will NOT say much on this to give anything away, except that the sky battles are astounding!), and very successful delivery of steampunk with strong eastern influence. It's a sweet refreshing mix, unlike the tirade of Steampunk writing that is so landlocked within it's own genre'.
As to the narrator, meh. Good, but not a Roy D. Some may not agree with this, but that's fine. I expect GREAT narration to enhance my experience. There are other better female and male choice I would have chosen, but the narrator didn't detract from the story.
If you've followed any of my previous reviews, I offer no spoilers, no elaborate details, no free reads on plots. Am I being intentionally vague? You BET. Doing differently only takes away from the initial listening experience. Let's get over that, and move along,
Keep in mind, dear Audible listener, that book listening is very much like a having a meal on the town: You can go where you usually go, and choose a meal of which you're comfortable. You get what you expect. Ho hum.
You can reach out a bit, and try that Oriental place around the corner that you didn't know was there. It may not have the glossy front or the valet parking you're used to, but you can discover a great cuisine that you'd never enjoyed if you'd not taken the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. You expand your culinary tastes, and are better for it. And suddenly, a whole new world opens up to you. Steampunk is a fantastic genre' IF written with an original style and storyline, and that definitely happens here.
This audiobook will surprise you, take you on a new journey, and possibly expand your listening taste for the unusual and surprising.
I look forward to more from this author, and will definitely make the choice to listen to his next in the series!
Oops! I've talked too much, and the waiter is here waiting for my order, so I'd better speak up!
"I'll take the Katana with a side order of Steampunk please!"
The description of everything is excellent, but it takes a while for the story to get going.
If they dont mind slow stories I would recommend this book.
Interesting world setting.
The beginning was excessively slow do to the over abundance of description.
Great Narrator. I would highly recommend her for future listeners.
The conflict between the Father and Daughter was particularly well done.
Stormdancer had two great things going for it: alternative universe Japan and steampunk. And if you had never been introduced to either of those worlds, then you likely would have been fascinated by the 'wealth' (read: truckload) of info dumping done to describe them. But as a long time Otaku and steampunk aficionado, I'm not impressed by the mythology or worldbuilding any more - I know it already. I want a great story first, not tell and never show. But it was all tell and I was bored to tears by this simplistic plot.
Plot: selfish jerk of a Shogun wants to show he's powerful and orders his chief beastmaster to go capture a griffin. Beastmaster and daughter (main character, Yukiko) set out on what is a hopeless task but they run into one. Griffin escapes, Yukiko uses her 'demon' powers to communicate and placate beast, they return to main City, and set out to kill evil emperor Shogun.
Right off the bat, the pace was slow, with lots of descriptions and info dumps, and the characters were very flat. There was so much loving descriptions going on about the world that it was almost annoying to have characters in that pretty place. I loved the entire concept of Lotus plants powering a steampunk type of world. And there were some great chances to really interject horror elements into the plots - demons and sacrifices and ritual deaths. But the author never stayed with the story and kind of meandered through the plot so he could show off his knowledge. This was a book that felt 600 pages long - I kept stopping and it was nearly impossible to want to return to the drudgery of endless mythology descriptions, Japanese history descriptions, societal ranking descriptions, blah blah. Especially since I was so well aware of it already anyway.
I know many will rail against how the author has portrayed Japan; but hey, it is an alternate universe. I don't mind the way he set it up at all and was fascinated by the things that were NOT authentic Japanese history. But the characters really need to live and breathe in that world and no one in the story did that. Everyone talked the same, acted the same, in very simplistic manners. There really was no subtlety or subterfuge, complexities or nuances. And that's where the story really started to drag with me. If the speaker wasn't named, it could have been ANY character that was speaking, male or female. The Achilles heel of this book was the lack of action and pace.
I listened to the Audible version and the author did a decent job, though there were some irritating tics in there. But she made it easy to differentiate between the different characters, giving them much more personality than the writer did.
I'm a big fan of Whispersync! My favorite genre is fantasy, YA and adult, but I'll occasionally listen to/read NA romance or space opera.
I'll be honest, I'm prejudiced against male authors writing female protagonists. I often find the heroines too pragmatic cold and emotionless (there are exceptions, Brandon Sanderson is a good example of an author that writes wonderful women, and there are many more). This, and the fact that this book has very mixed reviews had me hesitating to buy it since it first came out...Boy, was I being silly.
I could describe this audio book and its author in one word: Genius.
The world building is rich, complex, and original. The characters are developed to the point where you feel a close personal connection with each. While the basic story-line is not the most original I've ever listened to, there were so many original aspects it made up for this (to be honest, I loved the storyline so, so much). The only thing was the book started off a little slow, it took until Yukiko and her griffin "met" (I use this term very loosely) to really suck me in.
Basically, finds like this is why I love audio books :)
If your only exposure to Japanese culture has been dubbed English anime, you might actually enjoy this. If you have any more experience than that, this book is PAINFUL.
As someone who has lived in Japan for several years and who speaks Japanese, let me echo some of the problems with this book:
Inappropriate use of Japanese. Obviously, from their use of the Japanese words they are not native speakers of Japanese. My best guess is this is a group of Chinese English speakers who took over Japan a couple of hundred years before. Why Chinese? Because they keep using the distinctly Chinese word "aiya!" (which should actually be ayo - 啊哟） whenever anything goes wrong. If they were speaking Japanese they would say "mou",（もう！） "dou shiyou"（どうしよう？） or "nanjya kore?"（何じゃこれ？, "tamaranai!" （たまらない！） etc depending on the situation.
The author also misuses "hai"（はい） and "sama"（様） so badly it's embarrassing. Hai means Yes, and cannot be used as a question like in English. Instead you say "deshou" （でしょう）to indicate asking for confirmation.
"Sama" is NEVER used by itself. It must be connected to a name or title. If you don't know someone's name you call them by whatever you know - title, race, whatever, but never by itself.
There are times in which they explain a person's mouth movement as they say a word and it's clear they're speaking English. For example is says someone's mouth formed a single-syllable word: "No." But there is NO single syllable negative word in Japanese. "iie"（いいえ）, "iya"（いや） are both two syllables.
Other times they'll say something like "It's a kami, a spirit".（神） But if they were actually speaking Japanese they would be saying "kami desu, kami desu" （神です。神です。）which means "it's a spirit, a spirit." Which is idiotic because you're repeating yourself all the time.
Another example. "Go see the kyoudai." She replies,"What's a kyoudai?" What? Really? How could she not know that it means "sibling"? It's a basic word in Japanese. 兄弟。
So obviously, these people don't actually understand Japanese. They only use Japanese as we would a foreign word, as we do with Spanish when we say "I'll have a burrito." We don't know the etymology of the word, we just memorize it. I estimate it would take a few hundred years after wiping out the Japanese for another culture to have taken over their customs and clothing while losing lost of the language. Either all of that, or the author just didn't do his research and wrote a mess of a novel. I think it's the latter.
These problems enough throw you out of the story, but they're not all. The book is a plodding read, with way too much unnecessary description. It takes forever to get going and then the relationship between Yukiko and the thunder tiger just literally happens overnight. Unbelievable.
Then the rest of the book basically just follows the standard cliche format, dragging out the ending which should come about 5 hours before then end, using every trope imaginable. Also, this might be thought to be a YA book, but the intensely rough language is a definite bar to that category.
So in summary, how this book got published is truly a mystery to me. I'm not sure who would want to read it. There are so many great authors that have to work so hard and so long and may never get noticed or picked up. There is no excuse for publishing rubbish like this.
I had never read anything by this author before. A steampunk medieval Japanese fantasy story. Wow !
I'm the literary scholar or English major. I just like what I read. but I think you will enjoy this too.
Getting into the story is hard. The first few chapters are difficult to understand, but once you get into it you don't want to stop.
I'm not a reader so I listened to it and I finished it in 3 days. Great story would strongly recommend.
The world is polluted and it is only getting worse. The Shogun Yoritomo rules with an iron fist, taking whatever pleases him. The Lotus Guild holds sway via their knowledge of mechanics and running the empire’s many machines. The black lotus pollutes land and people alike, choking out the wild places, tainting air and water, and providing a temporary, poisoned escape from reality to those who smoke it. Yukiko, a 16 year old young woman, is of the Fox clan and has a special gift, one that she must keep secret. Her father was once a mighty hunter and the Shogun has not forgotten his past feats. He is sent on a hunt to bring the Shogun a live thunder tiger. However, one hasn’t been seen in so long some now believe they were only ever myths.
Honestly, it took me about 4 hours to get into this book. I’m really not sure why. This book has so many things that I love about fantasy in general and steampunk/dieselpunk in particular. It did take me a while to get attached to Yukiko, our main character. Nevertheless, once I became caught up in the story, I did not want to put it down. In fact, there were some moments towards the end where a few tears (just a few!) might have been jerked out of me. If you’ve been waffling about whether or not to give this book a try, then I definitely recommend it. Just be prepared to let the story gain momentum.
First, this world is not quite like anything else I have come across. I know the description says it is steampunk but the Lotus Guild’s tech relies much more on petroleum products than on steam power. But many of the literary elements of a good steampunk are there – we have an airship (highly flammable!), a guild that is pretty darn secretive about their tech, and goggles. Can’t have a good steampunk-like tale without goggles. On top of the tech, we have a feudal Japan-like setting. There’s plenty of Japanese vocabulary and cultural references throughout the book. There’s a series of islands too, though this book focuses on Shima. No matter what sub-genre you stick this fantastical world in, make sure to also label it ‘Awesome!’.
We don’t meet the thunder tiger, Buruu, until perhaps 3 hours in. He and Yukiko do not start off as friends. Indeed, far from it. In fact, their meeting and subsequent need to survive together is rather harrowing. Yukiko has a secret power that only her father knows about which is the ability to Ken with animals – basically mindspeak with them. The point where Yukiko and Buruu start working together was when the story really started for me and I became fully engaged. I really enjoyed the sometimes banter between the two. Also, Buruu has a rather distinct personality and pretty much only 1 way to solve problems – kill it! He’s not one for thinking about consequences. Yukiko has to be the one to do that for the both of them and that forces her to grow as a character.
Yukiko started off as a pretty self-sufficient yet angry teenager. Her father is often drunk on lotus smoke and Yukiko has to fend for herself most of the time. This is a pretty standard character set up and perhaps that is one of the reasons I was slow to come to enjoy this book. Once she and Buruu end up lost together in the last remaining Shima wilderness, things change. Yukiko is no longer raging (internally or externally) at her neglectful father. She now has a purpose, albeit a small one of mere survival. That blossoms into a larger purpose once she meets some unexpected folks. One revelation after another leaves Yukiko hardened into a focused individual who has one goal in mind. The Shogun should be worried.
Yukiko also has another unexpected ally – Shin. He’s a young guildsman who was badly injured. Through his eyes we learn some awful secrets about the Guild and their purposes. Shin, like so many others, didn’t have a choice about whether or not to be in the Lotus Guild. However, once fully indoctrinated, it is nearly impossible to leave. The Guild is responsible for much of the environmental pollution, the slavery and continued attempt to conquer new lands, and the lotus smoke that both intoxicates and poisons the users. In short, they have much to answer for.
Once the story picked up for me, I quite enjoyed the plot. There’s plenty of well-written fight scenes that had me holding my breath. Also, there is deception, intrigue, and a touch of romance. Yukiko’s and Buruu’s friendship continues to grow. In fact, there was this intense scene where we learn just how fond Buruu has become of his young mistress. Ah! I was worried for our main characters at that moment. The plot has a few twists, most of which revolve around revelations of the past. As Yukiko learns more about the Shogun’s past ill deeds, the more she focuses on him as the evil-doer and the easier it is to forgive her father.
I’m very glad that I stuck with this book. I came to love the main characters and to care about the land and what will become of its people. While the ending (which was most excellent) closed the story arc for this book, it also left us nicely set up for book 2. I’m definitely looking forward to more tales of Yukiko and Buruu!
I received this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Narration: Jennifer Ikeda was most excellent in her performance of this book! She had a great voice for Yukiko and her fluid Japanese accent for many of the Japanese words and names really added to the flavor of the book. I totally loved her voice for Buruu. She really managed to capture the tone of an angry thunder tiger! There were plenty of emotions in this book and Ikeda did a great job of imparting those to the character voices.
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