Updated review - 28th September
I knew I wanted to read Stormdancer from the moment I first saw the cover, I can't even decide if I prefer the UK or US version - I actually want to buy both just so I can sit and stare at them! This is one of those books that had so much hype surrounding it that it had taken the blogosphere by storm well before it had even been released so I have to admit that I felt nervous when I first picked it up in case it didn't live up to my expectations. Then when I started reading it took me a long time to get into, Jay Kristoff has a beautifully descriptive writing style but I found the beginning particularly heavy going. This was probably because a lot of the Japanese terms used were so unfamiliar to me but I did find it off putting. In fact I got about 80 pages in and decided that the book just wasn't for me and gave up on it. Thankfully a few of my friends on Goodreads persuaded me to give it another try, they assured me that it was worth the effort of pushing through and that once the story clicked I would be hooked and am very happy to say that they were right.
By the time I'd got around 130 pages into the book I was well and truly addicted and I didn't want to put it down for a second. I don't give up on books often but once I do I never go back to them so Stormdancer was an unusual exception that turned into one of my favourite fantasy reads of the year so far. I don't want to go into too much detail regarding the storyline (there are plenty of other reviews out there that already do that) but I do want to tell you that this is a book that shouldn't be missed. It has something in there to appeal to fantasy fans of all ages - a futuristic dystopian world that is on the verge of apocalypse thanks to human pollution; a steampunk feel to it with airships, face masks and samurai with chainsaw katanas; a wonderful mixture of mythology and fantastic creatures and last but by no means least a collection of well drawn characters who you will come to both love and hate - sometimes at the same time!
The main character is sixteen year old Yukiko and the story follows her as she is sent along with her father on an impossible mission. They are tasked with capturing a griffin and bringing it back for the Shogun but everyone knows that griffins are long extinct. The Shogun will accept no failure though - they either bring back his prize or their lives are forefit. When they finally manage to capture a griffin Yukiko finds she has a bond with him that is stronger than anything she could have dreamed of. Without a doubt the griffin (also known as a thunder tiger) Buruu was my favourite character in the story, from the moment he flies onto the page I couldn't get enough of him. I loved the relationship that slowly develops between Buruu and Yukiko, separately they are great but put the two of them together and they become unforgettable. The way they influence each other through their psychic bond was wonderful to see and I adored the conversations between them.
Stormdancer may get off to a relatively slow start as we are introduced to the complex and detailed world that Jay Kristoff has created but once the pace picks up it quickly gains momentum and the action doesn't stop until the heart wrenching end. The author certainly isn't afraid to take risks with his characters and there were times I was genuinely terrified for Yukiko and Buruu's safety. It's been a long time since I was quite so captivated by a story and to say that Stormdancer is an impressive debut would be an understatement - my only complaint is that I now have to wait a year for the next instalment. I'm so relieved that I gave this book a second chance and I would urge anyone else who finds the beginning a bit heavy going to stick with it - I promise you it is more than worth the effort.Original Review posted at the beginning of September 2012:
I hate to give up on books but I started reading this one on the 2nd of August and it's now a month later and I'm still only around 100 pages in. I do think the story has a lot of potential, I have a feeling that once it gets going it will be a fantastic read but I'm just finding it so heavy going at the beginning that I can't face picking it up again (it has been on hold since about the 9th of August).
The writing is beautiful but it is so heavy on the description that I don't feel like anything has actually happened yet. I've seen so many positive reviews for the story and a lot of people have said that although it is slow to start it gets a lot better towards the end but at the moment I'm just not in the mood to slog my way through 400 pages to search for the good bits. I think I just have to accept that this book isn't for me, or possibly that I'm not in the right mood to read it.
I may well give it another chance in a couple of months and see if I get on with it better then but for now I'm afraid this is a Did Not Finish.