Category Archives: Book
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Publisher: St Martins Press/Tor UK
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 336 (Hardback)
Release Date: 1st September 2012 (Australia), September 13 (UK), September 28 (US)
Source: Jay Kristoff
5 STARS!(but only because I cant give it more)
A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium is verging on the brink of environmental collapse; decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshippers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, land choked with toxic pollution, wildlife ravaged by mass extinctions.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of the imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary beast, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows thunder tigers have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a hidden gift that would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.
Hi there fellow bookworms.
I’m at a loss for words. Honestly I am. I’m utterly flabbergasted. How can we live in a world when pulled to publish fan fiction and middle-aged mum wet dreams can be on international best seller lists and books like… this. This gem. This pure and perfect example of exactly what steampunk could and fucking should be, are only just being picked up. It does not compute. I literally cannot comprehend it.
I just want to say one thing before I get into the meat of this review. This is YA. And it is the single very best example of that market that I have had the privilege, nay; the pleasure, to read. Jay, you’ve not only made a friend of me through our interactions. You have also made a fan out of me in your work. Thank you for this. This treasure.
The first thing that I noticed when I picked up this book was that it was evident that Mr Kristoff had spent an inordinate amount of time in researching Japanese feudal society and the body of a presupposed shogunate, and how they would work. This makes the world building all the more believable because the caste system is right. The references to bushido are right. This is a plethora of wealth that proves the argument of so many readers out there, that audience age is not anathema to quality.
Now Stormdancer starts off being a fairly methodical fantasy yarn, you get your characters, you get your world, you get your quest… on a fucking air-ship. Cue my first man reaction and roar of “FUCKING YES, YOU FUCKING AUSSIE BEAUTY” when I come across an homage that had my inner lit nerd doing naughty things to himself. And then the pop-culture flavours and inspirations came flowing, thick and fast. We have 40k, we have Dune, we have War of the Worlds, we have V for Vendetta, I even got a hint of Watchmen… The list goes on.
And I know some of you will be scratching your head muttering “But Archer… you hate when an author draws inspiration from works like that.” And normally, my dearly demented reader, you would be right. Normally I would be headdesking hard because the author didn’t make those flavours believable in their world. They normally feel tacky and cheap. But woven into the narrative and the growth of the characters here is a message that all revolutionaries hold dear to their hearts. A person can die, but an idea: an idea is immortal.
The MC is a teenaged girl by the name of Kitsune Yukiko. Let me be frank, we see Yuki grow in this book. We are introduced to her as a fledgling tough girl and 300 and some pages later we see her emerge transformed, butterfly-like, into fully-fledged badass. Her… brother-in-arms, for lack of a better term, comes in the fur, feather and blood spilling awesomeness of a wild arashitora, a griffin, known as Buruu. I fell in love with this sky bound feline instantly. His descriptions are enough to make you long for the days of legend when these creatures were born unto the world amid tales of wonder.
Yet as the cast of characters grew I found that I loved each of them equally, in their own ways. Masaru, Yuki’s father, for his perseverance in the shadow of betrayal, Akihito for his blind faith and loyalty to his brethren, Kasumi for her endeavours to be a mother figure to Yuki and Kin for his hero worship of Yuki and his realisation that his order aren’t at all what they seem.
But be warned. Mr Kristoff doesn’t do “and they all lived happily ever after. The End.” What he does is use this book as a springboard to something bigger, something better. The promise of revolution, betrayal, rebirth, revelation and death are all in the air at the end of his tome. And I am waiting with bated breath for the sequel that I know he hasn’t finished yet. And for that…
I hate you Jay, with the fury of a thousand Oni marching, in the dark, for your hide. And failing that, because to be perfectly honest I don’t have a thousand Oni… With the manic rage of a desperate fan with a razor waiting by the sink to shave your beard off until you provide me a sequel!…
Ahem… Sorry about that… That was weird.
Look, I’m not gonna lie. I loved this book. I want to do naughty things with it. It is that perfect an example of what this genre could be if authors pulled their thumbs out of their arses. It’s beautiful, brutal, bloody, all sharp corners with a blood red canvas. It’s soft curves and scents of the orient. It’s love. It’s hate. It’s rage. It’s growth. It’s life. It’s death…
Well, hello once again dear readers!
That’s right, 3 posts in 3 days… I’m on a roll haha.
Today I am doing a request, from the lovely Kara over at Great Imaginations blog. Now Kara asked “ I still have such a long way to go though, and I was wondering, since you and Lissa are such huge fans, could you perhaps put together a list for me of 10 fantasy books I just HAVE to read?” And I thought… Why the hell not?
So, without further ado, here is my all time top 10 fantasy must reads! (will contain series and singular titles and are in no particular order except the top 3)
10 – The Lord of The Rings
Yes, this is obvious. Yes, this is the dawn of all the bad’s and the lions share of the uglies which I wrote about yesterday. But there is no denying… it’s a master piece of fantasy writing. I know that not everyone who picks up this tome will finish it, I mean fuck, there are shorter wars. But it is the origin of Dobby, of Orcs, of the premise of a Dark Lord… Of everything that we take for granted in Fantasy today. Tolkien made this genre what we know it as today, and I do not say that lightly, but he did.
9- The Discworld Series
Yes, I mean all of them. Yes, in their recommended orders as several separate series that overlap. Come on I couldn’t write this list and not include the Disc. It is the ultimate in Epic series of satirical fantasy. It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s at times revoltingly complex, it’s dry, it’s sarcastic. It is one of the perfect series to escape into. And let’s be perfectly honest, if we agree that Tolkien made fantasy what it is today, then Pratchett perfected it.
8- The Old Kingdom Trilogy
Ah, this trilogy. I have such fond memories. This was the first series that I read that actually had a kick-ass female protagonist in a fantasy world. Garth Nix is possibly now one of the best known Australian authors in the world, and with good reason. His series takes dark themes and puts bells on them. Quite literally. Necromantic arts, zombies, a demonic moggie, a disreputable dog, two worlds, one wall… and have I mentioned the violence yet? The battles are understated yet fit perfectly with the narrative of the tale. It is most certainly not for people with a fear of the shambling dead… But it is a must read.
7 – Orcs
This series is, in my opinion, FAWKING AWESOME! Lets take everything we know about fantasy and… turn it around, put a nappy on it and then put it up for adoption because it changes everything. This is not a family friendly yarn. This is a tale filled with entrails, blood, brains and boobies (I’m male, they matter). What do we think of when we think of Orcs? Most people think the ugly feckers from number 10 who are the minions of the darkness… but what about the story through their eyes? They’re just soldiers, they just follow orders… Or do they? What if the Orcs… were the heroes?
6 – American Gods
Now here we get into the realm of Urban Fantasy. And to be perfectly frank… Some pretty surreal Urban Fantasy at that. This book presupposes that all of the gods from the old world, y’know… Odin and his pals… exist. And that they are not gone, they are just trying to survive in a world of new gods to worship. We follow a fella named Shadow as he goes about encountering these gods. The good, the bad and the demented. And there is a lot of demented weirdness here. But it is very thought provoking too.
5 – The Codex Alera
Lets go back to High Fantasy for a few minutes… But lets not go back to a medieval world… Lets look at things from a more Roman perspective… That Is exactly what Jim Butcher did with this series. We are in a Roman inspired world. With elemental creatures called furies living in a symbiotic manner with Humans. This is a fantasy that is heavy with political machinations but it is all balanced out with some amazing battle scenes that leave, from what I’ve heard, a lot of readers besides me breathless.
4 – Artemis Fowl
This is an Irish Urban Fantasy for younger readers and it’s funny as hell. It is, for all intents and purposes “Die Hard with Fairies”. A criminally genius child, a flatulent kleptomaniac dwarf, a fairy police officer with a score to settle and something to prove and a paranoid nerd of a centaur? What more could you ask for? Oh you want run-ins with Demons, the Russian Mob, an American billionaire criminal and an Elven psychopath? Then this is definitely something you will chortle your way through, and the kids will love it too.
3 – His Dark Materials
This is quite possibly one of the most grown up YA series ever written… Bar none. This is a tale of many worlds, many peoples, and 2 very special children. It deals with very serious themes. Growing up, religion, philosophy, free thought, free will, good, evil, indifference, apathy… As such God (or the lack thereof) is mentioned and that of course means that the Church… in all their wisdom and all their immense pull… tried to ban it. Which of course made me re-read it and fall in love with it all over again… I’m not fickle, honest.
2 – The Dresden Files
I know, it was bound to happen and this series is very much tied with what will be my number 1 for the title “ZOMG THEYS SO GOOD I NEEDZ MOAR NAOW!” These are by fay the crème of the crop of Urban Fantasy (Yes Ms. Kennedy, I know that number 2 was piss poor, but the rest of them more than make up for that in my opinion). I love the pop-culture references, the quasi-philosophy, the sarcasm, the neo-noir storytelling and stylings… This is very much Dirty Harry… Potter…
Which is a very convenient segue into…
1 – Harry Potter
That’s right. Harry-IamthechosenoneandonlyIcankillthedarklord-Potter is my number 1. I regret nothing. I grew up reading this bay boy of a series. I am one of the Harry Potter Generation and a proud Gryffindor on Pottermore. Come at me, bro. This series, is by far the single best selling series written for children, why? Because adults can, and very much do, enjoy it too. This book should be bigger than a bible. The themes and messages of strength, unity and loyalty are superb. These books have defined the childhood for an entire generation and that is more than impressive. It’s historic.
There we have it… My top 10. That was way harder than I was expecting. There are so many good books to choose from… and some of them aren’t even on sale yet! I had to really rack my brains… and now I think I may need to re-read some of these… desperately.
I know full well that some people will disagree with me but I don’t care, if you want to give fantasy a taste… then definitely try at least some of these. But I am curious. What are your top 10 must reads in this genre? Or any genre? Care to share some or all of them here?
Tuesday May 29
Well, hello there once again fellow bookwormy type people. And first of all let me open up with a warning.
I will not be using spoiler alerts. If you don’t know the story of Harry Potter by now, then you really have been living under a rock.
If you do not like Harry Potter… I am warning you… Go elsewhere because you won’t like my review. I love this series. I first read this book when I was 11 years old and I regret nothing.
NOT. ONE. SINGLE. THING.
As for the myriad people out there who will undoubtedly be scratching their heads muttering “I thought the title was Sorcerers Stone”… No. Just no. That is all.
Now shall we get started? I think I have all of that out of my system. I went into this with rose tinted glasses shall we say. But I quite quickly removed them and set the fandanna aside too. And then, for the first time in at least 5 years… I re-read Harry’s journey from Muggle to Wizard. And it has stood the test of time.
This is the book series that, without shadow of doubt, was the brightest part of my childhood reading. I know it’s not perfect but I don’t care because it’s enjoyable. The characters are so well rounded and lovable it’s painful to actually put the book down. Honestly I cannot fault this book. I will be re-reading the rest over time. But right now please… It’s all J.K. and nothing hurts.
I’ll write more when I come down from this nostalgia high and can think clearly.
Friday June 1 2012
Ok I think that I have sufficiently come down from the high of nostalgia that this book and the series it spawned gave me.
I am no longer an eleven-year-old running around in a dressing gown pretending the wooden spoon that I stole from my mother is a magic wand. I am a 7feet tall hairy bloke with a beard and two wands. One a replica prop and the other a Kymera (Don’t judge me). And I have to say that, by no means is this book perfect (fellow Potterheads don’t kill me, I have a point to make). There are a few sections that could be padded out a little bit so that they don’t need as much explanation later. There are a few points where the wording could be better (yes I know I’m on the ropes here but please, I pray you, bear with me). But in the grand scheme of things does that really matter?
When a series has sold (as of June 2011) approximately 450 million copies do a few little errors in the first of the series matter? Do they hell. What matters, like with most books (I say most because there are some where the errors detract so much it renders them unreadable), is the emotive connection. The manner in which the reader, in this instance me, is drawn into the world created by the author. OK yes, there will be those of you out there who will say that there are obvious comparisons between this and Lord of the Rings. Yeah? And? So what? Do these parallels detract from the sense of wonder at Harry’s world? Does it make you, if you’re a fan, want Hogwarts to exist any less?
I don’t need to review this book, it’s been done to death. It’s loved, it’s hated, it’s been attacked by the church for having a gay headmaster and worshipping false gods. It’s been built up in the castles of the mind that are childhood memories by billions of readers worldwide. I’m not going to sway anyone’s opinion and I know this.
But I also know that this is a tremendously fun read. And the storyline has such power, wonder and above all hope in it, that I can’t help but be transported back to good times in my past.
That is the magic of nostalgia. And for me…
That is the magic of Harry Potter.
And with that, I will leave you with one thing, and one thing only…