Review and giveaway: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer is book one in The Lotus War trilogy, and is a 2012 debut release by Melbourne author Jay Kristoff. And we’re giving away a signed copy. Am I excited? You better believe it!

The story is set on the island Shima, which approximates feudal Japan—only with mythological creatures and steampunk technology. Chainsaw katanas! Airships! Samurai in automated mech suits! Woo!

But Shima is dying, choking on the pollution produced by that glorious steampunk tech. The country has an unhealthy fixation on the by-products of Blood Lotus; imagine a plant that has the fuel-producing benefits (and polluting side effects) of oil, combined with the intoxicating effects of opium. And then imagine the Lotus Guild, which is like a drug and oil cartel rolled together, with a dose of religious fanaticism…

Yeah. A little untidy.

The two beautiful covers for Stormdancer. I can't decide which I like more!

The two beautiful covers for Stormdancer. I can’t decide which I like more!

The main character is 16-year-old Yukiko of the Fox clan; she is daughter of Masaru, the Imperial Master of the Hunt. The Shogun tasks Masaru to capture an arashitora, or “thunder tiger”. These beasts are like griffins, only way cooler (I’d elaborate but I enjoyed the reveal too much to spoil it for others!). The arashitora are widely believed to be extinct, but Masaru and his companions—including his daughter—will be executed if they don’t find one, capture it and bring it back alive.

Tough gig.

The characters in Stormdancer are complex. I was going to say there’s no black and white, but that’s not entirely true. A few of the bad guys do seem to be unrelentingly black (one in particular I loved to hate) … but the good guys come in varying shades of grey. I love that moral complexity, the dilemmas the protagonists face, especially in a culture with a massive fixation on honour.

Even better than the characterisation is the prose. Take this, for example: “Lightening licked the clouds”. Or this: “The oni’s spine shattered like dark, wet glass.” And those are just from the first chapter!

Kristoff has said he doesn’t believe in happy endings, which I believe given what I’ve read so far. And he’s certainly not afraid of a gory fight, or of killing characters. Yukiko’s successes are definitely bittersweet. If you like Fantasy Lite (TM), with sunshine and butterflies, this may not be the book for you.

I don’t know a lot about feudal Japan (only what I’ve seen in a few animes) but still found the cultural references relatively easy to follow. The only bits I had problems with were some of the clothing and weapons; I could guess from the context what they were, but didn’t have a mental picture. However, Stormdancer has a glossary at the end of the book, which defines all of the Japanese words for you: swords, armour, clothing, societal castes etc. I just wish I’d known it was there before I finished the book! (Learn from my mistake, young Padawan.)

Book two, Kinslayer, will be out later in 2013.

Enter to WIN a copy of Stormdancer here! ==>  a Rafflecopter giveaway  <==

If our winner is in Australia, the copy of the book will be autographed by Jay. If the winner is from overseas, they will receive a copy but alas it won’t be signed. (The cost to fly Jay over there to sign it is somewhat prohibitive!) The competition closes at midnight AEST on Easter Sunday. Note that one of the possible ways to enter can be done daily…

AOaR_5star (3)

Jay Kristoff is 6’7 and has approximately 13870 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell. His blog is here.

Cassandra Page is an editor and writer who has only just discovered steampunk and loooooves it!  You can find her blog here.

This is Cassandra. Not Jay.

This is Cassandra. Not Jay.


  1. Thanks for this giveaway. Winning a signed copy would be a dream.
    And in answer to the giveaway question I would have to say Dragons. I just love them. They are so powerful and can fly and breath fire. Anyway, hope I win.



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