Author: Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War
Released: September 1st 2012
Publisher: Tor UK
Hardback, 451 pages
When I first felt myself being pulled into this story, I glanced down and saw the number 156 written at the bottom of the page. 156 pages of barely understandable, agonizingly slow and almost painfully dense prose - that’s what it took for me to start enjoying Stormdancer. But here’s the thing: now that I fully understand this book, I understand the necessity of such a beginning.
This is how the rain becomes a flood. One drop at a time.There’s something mesmerizing and magical about a world well-built, and Kristoff’s is more detailed than most. As hard as it is to understand it at first, once you become a part of it, it is unlikely to ever let you go. It is a grim, filthy world, poisoned by blood lotus, a plant that kills the land it grows from and is used for everything from fuel to drugs. It is a world of stark contrasts – excessive wealth and excessive poverty, mythical creatures and technology. Not much in it can be described as beautiful, and yet, the beauty of it in its entirety is undeniable. It is reminiscent of the most intricate filigree work. Even if it doesn’t appeal to your personal taste, you must appreciate the skill that was necessary to create it.
And yet, in many ways, this stunning, complex world quickly becomes overshadowed by the characters. Each of them was created just like the world was – slowly, with much attention to details, in a million layers, some more important than others. Yukiko herself cannot be reduced to a one-sentence description, but what truly surprises me is that none of the characters can. They are all so many things at once, their histories interconnected, their stories all somehow related. Hatred doesn’t sprout from nothing in Kristoff’s world. Everything has an explanation, everyone carries some trauma and hurt, and every single character has hidden motives.
Among them, the thunder tiger stands out as the most fascinating by far. I must confess I’d never given much thought to mythological creatures such as griffins, but seeing Buruu through Kristoff’s eyes made me realize how blind I’d been. He is truly a magnificent creature, powerful and fiercely intelligent, yet tender and caring toward Yukiko, his Stormdancer. The telepathic connection they share is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read about. Spending time in each other’s minds changes them both ever so subtly. The arashitora’s understanding of the human world increases, and she becomes slightly more explosive in nature. They call each other brother and sister because that’s what they truly are, and that’s how protective they are of each other.
The hindquarters of a white tiger, rippling muscle bound tight beneath the snow-white fur, slashed with thick bands of ebony. The broad wings, forelegs and head of a white eagle, proud and fierce; lightning reflected in amber irises and pupils of darkest black. It roared again, shaking the ship, cutting through the air like a katana in a swordsaint’s hands.
All good things come at a price and with Stormdancer, that price is your patience. Understanding the initial chapters or even caring about the characters won’t be easy at first, but if you persist, you will be heavily rewarded.