Stormdancer (book, Jay Kristoff, 2012)
From SFX 226.
Author: Jay Kristoff
Girl meets griffin.
In the Empire of Shima, Yukiko and her father are asked by Shogun Yoritomo to venture into the mountains and capture a thunder tiger – a griffin. The trouble is, griffins are supposed to be extinct, wiped out by pollution from the islands’ lotus-based industries. But Yukiko and her dad actually find the beast, and she finds herself walking the path to revolution.
It’s with the background to this steampunk-tinged epic fantasy that Kristoff wins. Large parts of Shima have been borrowed entire from feudal Japanese history, and the story is all the better for it, as the world has a certain solidity missing from your usual cultural-grab bag mash-up. It’s not a straight transfer; there’s plenty of originality here in the technology, and how this tech rubs up against Japanese mythology is what makes Stormdancer so interesting.
The story is marginally less successful. Yukiko is billed as a “strong female protagonist”, a term that seems to mean “young girl wrestling with her feelings as she figures out what’s best to do”. But Yukiko is a convincing example of this modern archetype, and her supporting cast are nicely nuanced. The griffin, Buruu steers well clear of simply being a special horse, and the rich relationship between girl and monster defines the core of the novel.
The story takes a while to get into gear, but when it does, there’s plenty going on – intrigue, action, and towards the end a series of twists and setbacks that pile on the tension.
Did you know?
Jay Kristoff refers to himself as a literary giant, that’s because he’s 6’ 7” tall.