Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War, #1
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books 
Number of Pages: 336
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

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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.

The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun 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 Shōgun is death.

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 Shōgun’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.
“Dying is easy. Anyone can throw themselves onto the pyre and rest a happy martyr. Enduring the suffering that comes with sacrifice is the real test.”
If you're a regular user of Goodreads, and you read young adult, odds are you've heard of the book that's been having people all over the book blogging - and young adult reading - community raving, and waiting in agony of its release. That book, of course, being Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. I'm not going to lie: despite the glowing five star reviews from friends of mine, and the fact that pretty much all of Goodreads is highly anticipating this book, I never really was. I don't know why, but the synopsis just did nothing for me, and I had a feeling that, despite all of the rave reviews, I just wouldn't like this book. However, when I saw it on NetGalley, I decided that I might as well request it, and if I'm accepted, I'll give it a shot, and if I'm not, no worries. Let me just take the time right now to say that I am very happy I took the chance and requested this book on NetGalley.

In a dying and polluted land, Kitsune Yukiko (otherwise known as just Yukiko), and her father, Masaru, are given a command from the Shōgun of Shima, Yoritomo, to look for an ancient beast known as the arashitora. All throughout Shima, arashitoras are thought to be extinct, and the quest to go and find one is seemingly impossible, but, following the orders of the Shōgun, Yukiko and her father embark on this quest. Unbeknownst to the public, Yukiko retains a special ability to communicate with animals via telepathy. However, as Yukiko and her father's way of transportation breaks down, the quest has suddenly gone awry, and Yukiko is left alone, befriending an arashitora named Buruu. The longer Yukiko is left in this barren world with Buruu, the more she finds out about secrets withheld from her for her whole life: secrets that can change said life forever.

Stormdancer and I got off to a pretty bumpy start, and I found myself soon bored by the incredibly detailed everything, and I didn't have a clue as to most of what was going on throughout the first quarter of the novel, because terms I did not know were being thrown around like wildfire, with hardly any explanation as to what those terms mean. Eventually, with my friends Google and context, I was able to unravel the meaning of the terms, which made way for an entirely enjoyable read afterwards. (And also, there's a glossary in the back of the book, but for me, it would have been too much of a pain to go back and forth from the glossary to my current page on my Kindle.)

Upon reading the first few pages of Stormdancer, the first thing I noticed was the extremely captivating writing (and, of course, the immense amount of detail). As well as that, it's quite clear, given the world building provided, that Kristoff has done his research and that he definitely knows what he's talking about. And, of course, it's also quite clear that he has an immeasurable amount of talent as a writer.

The central characters in Stormdancer are well developed, flawed, and likable, but unfortunately, I never felt that I had a real connection to them. Sure, I cared about what would have happened to them throughout the novel, but honestly, to me, they were just characters. I love it when I have the feeling that the characters I'm reading about are more than just characters. I love it when I feel like the characters I'm reading about are real people; so real that I can reach through the pages and hug them, and I hate to say that I didn't feel that when reading Stormdancer.

As well as my lack of a connection with the characters, I also didn't feel any connection to the romance between Yukiko and Kin, and quite possibly an extra participant to vie for Yukiko's love, Hiro, the boy with the sea green eyes. To me, the romance just felt completely unnecessary to the plot, and the (view spoiler)[sex scene between Yukiko and Hiro (hide spoiler)] felt completely out of place in the midst of what was going on at the time.

However, despite my problems with the overly detailed descriptions, the lack of a connection with the characters, and the same for the romance, I found Stormdancer to be an original and stunningly written debut, and I eagerly anticipate the next book in The Lotus War series, as well as any future projects Kristoff has planned.


  1. I have this one coming up for the blog tour and I am so freaking scared of it. The raving about this one is intense, it's like it's the second coming. Going into a book with really high expectations always ends badly for me, so I am happy your review brings the expectations down a notch. I hope I feel a bit more of a connection to the MC than you did. It's great that even though there were things that bothered you, you still enjoyed it overall. Great review Blythe!

  2. Thanks, Jenni! I really hope you like this book! Yeah, so far this book has gotten mostly five star reviews (it's a rarity to see less than that on my news feed, honestly). Since I finished it, I started reading the five star reviews and they all seem to have a connection with the MC and pretty much everyone else, so it seems I'm also one of the few who lacks a connection with that characters. Again, I really hope you like this book and have a reading experience with it that is similar to how most people's experiences with this book are. :)

  3. Blythe, once again, an excellent review! I was surprised, I admit, to see the 3.5 star rating, but after reading your thoughts, I understand why. Stormadancer is probably one of THE most hyped books of 2012 and I've always been wary of hyped books.

    My favorite part of your review was the following comment: "Eventually, with my friends Google and context, I was able to unravel the meaning of the terms, which made way for an entirely enjoyable read afterwards." LOL. Thanks for the heads-up on this aspect of the book. I hate it when I don't understand what's going on.

    Also, "boo" to not really becoming emotionally involved with the characters. I'm a really character-driven reader and love to feel that they're real. Who knows? Maybe I'll disagree with you on this point.

    Anyway, enough rambling! :-) So glad that you finally read this and that you enjoyed it overall! <3

  4. Thank you, Katie! Yeah, I'm definitely a black sheep with my 3.5 star rating, and I am a bit surprised by the glowing reviews considering there is a hint of a love triangle, and some other little flaws, but I still liked it. I went into this book extremely intimidated by it, because it seems like absolutely everyone loves this book. And yeah, the Japanese terms and names confused me quite a few times, and I often lost track of who was who and what was going on, but it became a bit easier later on. If you manage to maintain an ARC, I can't wait to see what you think of it, Katie!

  5. Wow, I think this one of the first under 4 star ratings of this book I've seen. That's not a bad thing don't get me wrong, I loved you're honest review about this. I feel like everyone just fell in love with this book so it's good to read a review that's different to the others I've read. But I'm hoping that even with my high expectations and the hype surrounding this one that I'll enjoy it.
    Great review, I'm a new follower and glad I found your blog :)

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