Stormdancer (Lotus War)

Stormdancer  - Jay Kristoff Damn this seductively beautiful book cover. *sigh*Confused and worried about the yo-yo ratings given this by my friends, I was hoping my experience would fall closer to the positive end of the scale and since I decided to participate in a read-along with THT I gave it my best effort. And a challenging read it was. I dragged myself, kicking and screaming to page 80 whereupon I began the process of DNFing when I realised the griffin, much-loved by many reviewers, had entered the picture. One last chance was given for Stormdancer to win me over. Unnecessary animal cruelty sealed its fate.The insurmountable problems I experienced while reading Stormdancer:• Ignorance. I don't enjoy feeling stupid. Too many foreign words were introduced without explanation (some of which were repetitive). Later, I learned there was a GLOSSARY IN THE BACK. Reading the e-ARC, this was a bit of a problem. Rather than wasting time trying to figure out how to find it and refer to it in a timely manner or use Google I continued reading, hoping it wouldn't matter. IT DOES MATTER. DON'T READ THE EBOOK, read a hardcopy. To my dismay I found myself calculating how much Japanese culture, media and language I have consumed (I've watched Pokémon TV series and Studio Ghibli movies. Owned a Tamagotchi. Read and enjoyed Battle Royale and watched the movie. I'm aware of things like manga, animé, shibari and hentai.) because I understood just one word: katana. A sword. The rest...who knows what it said or meant because it went right over my head. • Authenticity was always going to be an issue being that the author is neither Japanese, and as far as I know, didn't spend considerable time in Japan. Artistic license is allowed and I definitely noticed non-Japanese references like the mention of pandas. I can't speak to how authentic Stormdancer is, but having recently read Across the Nightingale Floor, also by a Western author, I'm wary now of authors writing books set within histories and cultures they haven't immersed themselves in and admittedly know little about.• World-building. Wading through the info-dump, compounded by my ignorance of the language, consisting of detailed stories and myths I couldn't fathom or hope to remember, was nearly impossible to read. Real myths or part of Kristoff's fiction? Important to his story or not? I didn't know. The author certainly succeeded in convincing me I was an alien introduced to an entirely different world.• Slow pace. Very little happens in the 90 pages I read. I liked three of the scenes: the drunken gambling, the playful puppy and the childhood memory about the heroine's unusual ability to communicate with animals via telepathy. Golden nuggets of awesome in the writing of those scenes lured me into continuing. That, and the Guildsmen reminded me of Hellboy's Karl Ruprecht Kroenen. I'm not sure if that was intended or even an accurate interpretation, its just what I imagined from the description. Anyway, not much else happens between receiving orders from the Shogun to find and retrieve a griffin and actually stumbling upon one.• Unnecessary animal cruelty. If communicating with the creature was possible, why not give it an ultimatum -i.e. stop thrashing about which will cause us to crash our airship or we'll have to clip your wings, which is it? Such a simple step and one which would've preserved this mythical specimen, perhaps the only one of its kind left, to present to the Shogun in perfect condition. I hardly see the Shogun being able to ride the griffin into battle, as he wished to, now the poor creature's wings have been clipped.I desperately wanted to like this book for its uniqueness amongst other young adult novels, even adult ones, in not only setting a tale in a non-traditional (i.e. non-Western) place but going back to feudal times, adding steampunk and griffins -a tall order. With such lofty aspirations Stormdancer was either going to be award-winningly brilliant where we'd all be toasting Kristoff's genius, or quietly hoping to forget this overly ambitious experiment. Sadly, I'm in the latter camp. Sorry.***My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for the e-Arc in return for an honest review.***________________________________Tor's Cover Reveal for New Steampunk Novel Stormdancer. I'm in love with this cover.