Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.
But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.
Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she's determined to do something about it.
Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?
Stormdancer was one of my most anticipated reads of the year (just look at that cover), and I was so thrilled to find that it lived up to that expectation. Yukiko is awesome, but Kristoff's writing is the true hero of the novel. It brings the story to life with vivid attention to detail, throwing into high relief a fantasy world that is atmospheric and full of surprises.
I think one of the great things about Stormdancer is that it has such a wide appeal. It will undoubtedly find an audience amongst those who love action and humour, but it also has a lot to offer those who appreciate the development of romance and friendships. The few (minor) problems I had come down to taste, and didn’t detract much from what was overall a very enjoyable reading experience.
Stormdancer had all the things I look for in a fantasy novel – badass heroine, realistic world building and a good combination of light and dark moments. Also, kudos go to Kristoff for tackling steampunk, a genre that I’ve seen botched so many times before. Simply put, a story like Yukiko’s was always going to be interesting, but it is Kristoff’s phenomenal writing that make it a truly great book.
Thank you to St Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a review galley.