From the Publisher
Praise for Stormdancer
Named one of Kirkus Reviews’ best Teen Books of 2012
“Kristoff’s imaginative debut, the first in a series, presents the feudal, dystopian Shima Empire, a menacing Japanese-inspired setting… The innovative setting, fast-moving plot, vivid descriptions, and thrilling action scenes make this a refreshing addition to the steampunk canon.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Soars higher than the arashitora Kristoff writes about; superb.” –Kirkus, starred review
“With its geisha girls in gas masks and canvas blimps spewing black exhaust as they chug across the sky, Stormdancer paints a vivid picture of a decrepit, steampunk Japan. It's startling to witness a country that so reveres nature presented in such an environmentally compromised position, as it is in the kickoff to Jay Kristoff's "The Lotus War" series. But it's this inventive juxtaposition that makes Stormdancer such a thrilling addition to the increasingly tired yet continuously expanding dystopian scene…. [A] fast-paced, fantastical adventure [that] is sharp as a Shogun's sword.” –The LA Times
"What's that? You say you've got a Japanese Steampunk novel with mythic creatures, civil unrest, and a strong female protagonist? I'm afraid I missed everything you said after "Japanese Steampunk." That's all I really needed to hear." –Patrick Rothfuss, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear
"With airships, demons, and lashings of revolutionary swordplay, this chi-fueled vision of a steampunk feudal Japan will blow your split-toed socks off." –Scott Westerfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Leviathan
"Jay Kristoff pushes the steampunk genre exactly where it needs to go, away from Victorian London's over-trodden lanes and into the great wide world. With its rocketing action, eccentric and convincing characters, and deep immersion in heroic Japanese culture, Stormdancer slammed my head into an updated vision of the great chanbara films of Kurosawa and Kobayashi. I'll be waiting for more from Mr. Kristoff." —K.W. Jeter, author of The Kingdom of Shadows
“Set in a complex and richly imagined world, Stormdancer draws on inspirations as widespread as epic fantasy, steampunk, and Japanese mythology, effortlessly piecing them together into an alternate history that is as vibrant as it is disturbing. Yukiko is an admirable heroine, made of compassion and courage, but it's the remarkable friendship forged between Yukiko and the majestic thunder tiger, Buruu, that readers will find truly unforgettable. In this breathtaking debut fantasy, Kristoff has given us an adventure teeming with impossible quests and betrayals, rebellion and murder, jealousy and harbored secrets. I eagerly look forward to seeing where his imagination takes us next.” –Marissa Meyer, New York Times bestselling author of Cinder
"Jay Kristoff's Yukiko and her indomitable thunder tiger's entertaining adventures have just sent steampunk gloriously Asian." Stephen Hunt, internationally bestselling author of The Kingdom Beyond the Sea
"Kristoff's debut is a lyrical triumph of chainsaw swords and thunder tigers that steampunk fans and mythology buffs will devour." –Kevin Hearne, author of The Iron Druid Chronicles
“Stormdancer is an intoxicating joyride into steampunklandia with a magical dose of mythology, the supernatural, violence, dystopian themes, and a top-notch brassy heroine who rivals Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games. Yes, I did say that!” –Huffington Post
“…the plot takes off when the mythical arashitora (literally ‘stormtiger’) forms a strong bond with the heroine, Yukiko. Her relationship with the griffin-like creature is especially poignant in light of the personal losses she reveals as the story unfolds… it’s the bonds of family and friendship that feel the truest, with heartwrenching effect.”-Romantic Times
“Japanese Steampunk unafraid to engage with the dark side of the subgenre. The Lotus must bloom!” –SF Signal
“If you enjoy rich detail and sensual writing, you’ll dig it…. Bristling with energy and enthusiasm, this is the start of what should be a deservedly popular series.” –Library Journal
“Think Lassie, if Kurosawa had been the director and Lassie had been three tons of angry mythical demon-shredding sass bent on pushing Timmy down the well… A colorful cast of supporting characters and thoughtful plotting add further to Stormdancer's appeal, but, really, Kristoff has the reader at "girl meets griffin." The captivating backdrop, graceful prose and army of mechanized samurai are all just added bonuses.” –Shelf Awareness
“Compelling characters—particularly Yukiko, the Arashitora Buruu, and the artificer Kin—a strong environmental message, and a thrilling battle setting the stage for the sequel. Offer this to fans of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy or Philip Reeve’s Hungry City Chronicles.” Booklist
“A steampunk fantasy with richly drawn mythical creatures and a tough female protagonist…. Packed full of surprising twists and turns, nonstop action, and intense dialogue.” –School Library Journal
Kristoff’s imaginative debut, the first in a series, presents the feudal, dystopian Shima Empire, a menacing Japanese-inspired setting in which “the lotus must bloom” even though it turns all it touches into a toxic wasteland. Blood lotus seeds produce the fuel that powers sky ships, but the plant’s roots render the soil barren, and the fuel’s noxious exhaust fumes slowly poison those too poor to afford mechanized breathing masks. Power lies in the hands of the corrupt, fanatical Lotus Guild and Yoritomo-no-miya, the mad, one-dimensionally evil shogun. During an impossible quest ordered by Yoritomo, 16-year-old Kitsune Yukiko is stranded in the country’s last wilderness with Buruu, a furious griffin maimed by Yukiko’s father. The two band together to survive, facing demons from the underworld and, in an exhilarating climax, the might of the empire itself. The innovative setting, fast-moving plot, vivid descriptions, and thrilling action scenes make this a refreshing addition to the steampunk canon. Agent: Matt Bialer, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Sept.)
VOYA - Bethany Martin
Yukiko's father is the Black Fox of Shima, the shogun's master hunter. However, the cultivation of Blood Lotus to fuel the empire's technology has left the land desolate and killed most wildlife. After a drug-induced vision, the shogun orders Yukiko, her father, and the other court hunters to find and a capture a thunder tiger, a griffin-like creature that has been extinct for generations. Failure means certain death. Against all odds, the hunters find and capture a thunder tiger, but when their airship crashes, Yukiko finds herself alone with the injured and angry creature. Trying to locate her father, she stumbles across a group of legendary rebels and must face the truth about the shogun's reign. Political intrigue is the strongest element of this steampunk novel set in feudal Japan. Readers will find many parallels with today, including climate change and the rule of the privileged class. Yukiko is a strong female character, willing to both make and take responsibility for her own decisions. Her relationships, particularly with her father, are well developed and will ring true with teens. Maps and a glossary aid in understanding unfamiliar landscapes and vocabulary. This book is the first in a series and will please readers of steampunk and fantasy; it is a good choice for libraries where these genres are popular. Reviewer: Bethany Martin
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Set in feudal Japan, Stormdancer is a steampunk fantasy with richly drawn mythical creatures and a tough female protagonist. Yukiko and her father are sent to the hinterlands to capture a Thunder Tiger, which is rumored to exist there. Dogged by disaster from the start, Yukiko fights to take a stand against corrupt political systems and personal betrayal. Along the way, she discovers the truth behind her family history and dreams of redemption for herself, her homeland, and the crippled Griffin, with whom she makes an alliance. While this first book in the series paints a descriptive backdrop, casual readers may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of original terms and concepts they'll need to digest. The plot is similarly dense, packed full of surprising twists and turns, nonstop action, and intense dialogue. Committed readers will enjoy the original and genre-bending world that the author creates, but it will take time and effort.—Sunnie Sette, New Haven Public Library, CT
Debut author Kristoff's steampunk adventure whisks readers to a Japanese dystopia where some mythological beings still exist, a few people have fantastical gifts, and all people live under tyranny. Yukiko, 16, has an ability the shogun's guild would punish with death: She can commune with animals. In a unique society woven from Japanese culture and history and the author's ingenuity of mechanical invention and disease, living standards are rough; pollution and drug addiction proliferate under the rule of a corrupt shogun who seeks to win an admittedly nebulous war. When he commissions Yukiko's father to catch an elusive arashitora, a creature part-eagle and part-tiger, Yukiko's quest to survive becomes more challenging. Failure to find the arashitora means the end for Yukiko and her father. Indeed, death looms around every corner in this third-person adventure, as Yukiko meets defectors, rebels and others too scared to oppose the shogun. The book takes off in earnest when Yukiko meets an arashitora. She can communicate with it, and girl and beast grow through the bond they form in surprising and thoroughly convincing ways. Ultimately the fearsome pair takes on the regime, but not before Yukiko forays into the wilds of love. Soars higher than the arashitora Kristoff writes about; superb. (Steampunk. 12 & up)
Read an Excerpt
As the iron war club scythed toward her head, Yukiko couldn’t help wishing she’d listened to her father.
She rolled aside as her cover was smashed to kindling, azalea petals drifting over the oni’s shoulders like perfumed snowflakes. The demon loomed above her, twelve feet high, all iron-tipped tusks and long, jagged fingernails. Stinking of open graves and burning hair, skin of polished midnight blue, eyes like funeral candles bathing the forest with guttering light. The club in its hands was twice as long as Yukiko was tall. One direct hit, and she would never see the samurai with the sea-green eyes again.
“Well, that’s clever,” she chided herself, “thinking about boys at a time like this.”
A spit-soaked roar pushed her hard in the chest, scattering a cloud of sparrows from the temple ruins at her back. Lightning licked the clouds, bathing the whole scene in fleeting, brilliant white: the endless wilds, the stranded sixteen-year-old girl, and the pit demon poised to cave in her skull.
Yukiko turned and ran.
Trees stretched in every direction, a steaming snarl of roots and undergrowth, stinking of green rot. Branches whipped her face and tore her clothes, rain and sweat slicked her skin. She touched the fox tattoo sleeving her right arm, tracing its nine tails in prayer. The demon behind her bellowed as she slipped away, over root and under branch, deeper into the suffocating heat.
She screamed for her father. For Kasumi or Akihito. For anybody.
And nobody came.
The trees erupted and toppled in front of her, cleft to the heartwood by an enormous ten-span sword. Another oni appeared through the shower of falling green, tombstone mask for a face, lips pierced with rusted iron rings. Yukiko dived sideways as the great sword swept overhead, clipping her braid. Strands of long, black hair drifted down to the dead leaves.
She was rolling to her feet when the oni snatched her up, quicker than flies, its awful grip making her cry out. She could read the blasphemous kanji symbols carved on its necklace, feel the heat gleaming from its flesh. The first oni arrived, bellowing in delight. Her captor opened its jaws, a black maggot tongue lolling between its teeth.
She drew her tanto and stabbed the demon’s hand, burying six inches of folded steel to the hilt. Blood sprayed, black and boiling where it touched her skin. The oni roared and hurled her against a nearby cedar. Her skull cracked against the trunk and she crashed earthward, rag-doll limp, the bloody knife skittering from her grip. Darkness reached up to smother her and she desperately clawed it away.
Not like this.
The first demon’s laughter reminded her of screaming children, burning on Guild pyres in the Market Square. Its wounded comrade growled in a dark, backward tongue, stalking forward and raising its sword to end her. Lightning glinted on the blade’s edge, time slowing to a crawl as the blow began to fall. Yukiko thought of her father again, wishing for all the world she’d done what she’d been told for just once in her life.
Thunder cracked overhead. A white shape burst from the undergrowth and landed on the oni’s back; a flurry of razors, broken blue sparks and beating wings. The demon shrieked as the beast tore into its shoulders, ripping mouthfuls of flesh with a blood-slick beak.
The first oni growled, swinging its war club in a broad, hissing arc. Their attacker sprang into the air, tiny whirlwinds of falling leaves and snow-white petals dancing in time to the thrashing of its wings. The demon’s tetsubo slammed across its comrade’s shoulders. Bone splintered under the war club’s impact, the oni’s spine shattering like dark, wet glass. It crumpled to the ground, its last breath spattered in steaming black across Yukiko’s terrified face.
The beast landed off-balance, digging bloodstained claws into the earth.
The oni glanced at its companion’s corpse, shifting the war club from one hand to the other. Howling a challenge, it lifted the weapon and charged. The pair collided, beast and demon, crashing earthward and tumbling about in a flurry of feathers, petals and screams.
Yukiko wiped at the sticky black in her eyes, tried to blink away her concussion. She could make out blurry shapes rolling in the fallen leaves, dark splashes staining the white azalea blossoms. She heard a crunch, a choking gurgle, and then a vast, empty silence.
She blinked into the gloom, pulse throbbing behind her eyes.
The beast emerged from the shadows, feathers stained black with blood. It stalked toward her and lowered its head, growl building in its throat. Yukiko groped toward her tanto, pawing through the muck and sodden leaves for the blade as her eyesight dimmed. The darkness beckoned, arms open wide, promising an end to all of her fear. To be with her brother again. To leave this dying island and its poisoned sky behind. To lie down and finally sleep after a decade of hiding who and what she was.
She closed her eyes and wished she were safe and warm at home, nestled in her blankets, the air tinged blue-black with the smoke from her father’s pipe. The beast opened its beak and roared, a hurricane scream swallowing the light and memories.
Darkness fell completely.
Copyright © 2012 by Jay Kristoff