I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. Steampunk isn’t my thing, whether or not it’s got a flavor I don’t usually get in my fantasy. Steampunk with a Fantasy bent doesn’t help much because it’s still Steampunk.
But I’m trying to push boundaries in the fiction I read, to break out of molds, to see through different lenses than I’m used to seeing through. And I got a copy of this for Christmas in 2015 that’s been sitting on the shelf staring at me for quite a while now.
While reading, I found the book has other strikes against it.
It’s kind of info-dumpy for the first few chapters as the author tries to introduce us to the world. A slow start, it takes quite a while to get to the point where the story is actually moving.
I don’t speak much Japanese, but there are some misuses that appear to be just for flavor that even I pick up. Honorific suffixes that are used for titles instead, and the regular tossing in of Japanese words into otherwise English sentences just for flavour. You can get a lot from context, but there’s a glossary built into the book, just in case.
If I were more familiar with Japanese culture and history, there would probably be more to bother me, and I think that probably expands to other aspects of Asia borrowed and twisted a bit to fit into the world. There’s a lot of Asia out there, and it’s all part of the Empire, but we don’t see a lot of it directly, at least in this first book.
Stormdancer has a dystopian flavor and I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction (have I said that before?). Chi (the stand in for fossil fuels) is ruining the world in a lot of ways. In fact, more or less all of the evils in the world are laid at the feet of Chi and the Emperor.
Speaking of fossil fuels, the book comes across as a bit on the preachy side talking about environmentalism. Be subtle. Influence my thinking. Don’t smack me over the head.
Okay, enough negativity.
The story does have things going for it, and it’s those things that push me up from a 2-star rating. The heroine is a competent young woman who is able, and willing, to think and act for herself. She’s not thrilled with the society she lives in or her place in it and does try to act to change both. That she needs other characters to show her more of herself and the world than she’s been seeing to take some of those actions sometimes makes her a more rounded character.
And then there’s Buruu, the thunder tiger, the arashitora, a slightly modified and suped-up griffin created for the series. I like the character, the concept, and the relationship that builds between him and Yukiko.
Overall rating: 3 stars. A lot of problems balanced out by the two primary characters. For me, things work out that I enjoyed the story overall. It was fun, but those problems still exist, so I’m not too likely to read the rest of the series.by