Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)


Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)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.



21 comments:

  1. As you know, this book was a DNF for me. Patience is not something I am known for, unfortunately. I definitely appreciated the skilled writing and world-building, but I just wasn't interested enough to continue in the end. I'm glad it turned out to be a good read for you, Maja! Your review definitely makes me wish I had liked it more. Beautifully written as always. :)

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  2. I love this cover! That first quote is beautiful, and, since I've been told I'm a very patient person ;0, I will definitely be giving this one a try. Wonderful review!

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  3. Good to know about the patience thing upfront, if I know things are going to take a while to progress and I'm prepared for it, it usually doesn't bother me. I love the sound of this world and Buruu in particular, he sounds like such a fantastic character and I'm intrigued by his telepathic connection to Yukiko. Looking forward to giving this book a try Maja!

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  4. This looks amazing! I love it how you post the beautiful quotes within the review, it makes the book so much more anticipating :) I am not very patient, but I have really enjoyed some books ending's by waiting for the slow beginning. Thanks for the warning! Great review! :)

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  5. I'm not sure if I'll give this book a chance. It sounds interesting but a slow beginning really makes it hard for me to want to continue to read. But I'm glad you enjoyed it! Great review :)

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  6. I've seen mixed reviews on this one and it seems that a lot of them have the same issues with the writing is so detailed. Glad to see you enjoyed this Maja despite the slow start. I'll start this one later this week. Hope I enjoyed this too. Brilliant review. :)

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  7. YESSSSS! :D This. Review. Maja, your reviews always make my day, but THIS ONE! I am SO glad you enjoyed this! It did have a slow start, but I totally agree that we are rewarded by the incredible characters, outstanding plot, and overall original ideas, not to mention the execution. Gosh, I am so, so, SO happy you liked this! I know you were a little worried/skeptical about it, so I'm glad it worked out for you! I think this is easily one of my favorite reviews of yours, so amazing job! :)

    ~Keertana
    Ivy Book Bindings

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  8. Well, you definitely convinced me to try this again. I read the first few pages and then set it aside a few weeks ago (although I didn't hate it at all - it just didn't grab me). I don't mind stories that take a while to develop. Sometimes I like that even better than ones that grab me right away. Plus, everything you describe here sounds really interesting. I know that the thunder tiger appears to be half eagle and communicates telepathically but...it could sort of count as a talking cat, right? ;)

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    1. Sort of... although nothing's better than a talking, chess-playing cat with opera binoculars around its neck. :D

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  9. Well I am willing to wade through slow painstaking world building to get to the goods. I am always complaining about poor world building so I know I will love that this does an excellent job. A thunder tiger sounds super cool! I have this scheduled soon. I am looking forward to it. Been in a bit of a slump, need something girl. I am also readng Death and the Girl next Door!

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  10. Love the last line of your review. Thanks for that. Will definitely be picking it up!

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  11. what a wonderful review. I'll admit I wasn't so excited after reading a few chapters, but now I know I MUST continue. Thanks. :) I'm now really wanting to dive into it again.

    ashelynn @ gypsy book reviews.

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  12. 156 pages?!! Wow, I'm going to have to be really patient. We'll see how this goes for me. Excellent review Maja. :)

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  13. I had a similar reaction to "Seraphina" which I ultimately ended up really enjoying. I don't mind the slow pace and intricate world building as long as there is a pay off at the end. Thanks for letting us know that was your main problem upfront. Now I know what to expect when I pick this one up.

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  14. Wow, I've heard very similar things to your review! Heavy but beautiful prose. Slow-paced, but important. I'll definitely be trying hard to persist my way through it, but I can't wait to see what kind of story I get out of it! You write beautiful reviews! :)

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  15. I completely agree with you everything you said! I LOVED this book. <3 Probably one of my favs of the year so far. Great review! :D

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  16. Glad to see that after a slow start, this one really picked up for you and you enjoyed it. It's not a book that really appeals to me though, so I have no plans to pick it up at the moment. Fantastic review Maja :)

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  17. STORMDANCER! SQUEEEEEEEEEEE! I read it quite recently and really enjoyed it although I do agree with you on the slow start. It wasn't hooking in the beginning for me and I was quite struggling to get through the book but once the action starts, it just amazed me! Plus, I really love the Japanese-inspired steampunk world Jay has created in Stormdancer!

    Awesome review, Maja! ♥ So glad you enjoyed it!

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  18. EXACTLY! A lot of readers, I think, are going into this with the wrong expectations, since Stormdancer is being sold as steampunk, dystopian, even YA. While there are elements of those things, I think it is first and foremost an epic fantasy, and those take serious world building and have slow first chapters (or sometimes first books). I forgave Stormdancer for that because I read that genre. :-p

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  19. MAJA. This review is gorgeous. I've had the book sitting on my desk for a while but I was totally scared off by the DNFs. Then again, I didn't have any problems with Code Name Verity and a lot of people struggled with that one. Your review definitely makes me want to give this a try. Fantastic review.

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  20. I totally agree, Maja - this book starts off slow, really slow but I was happy that I persisted because I really enjoyed the relationship between Yukiko and Buruu and the way it all came together

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