Book Review – Stormdancer (The Lotus War #1) by Jay Kristoff

I’m gonna be straight up with you, OK? Because I respect you, and I don’t want you to waste your time. If you don’t like,

A. Steampunk

B. Japan

C. Ninjas

D. Griffins

or E. Fun

you probably won’t like Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. But honestly, even if you don’t like steampunk…there’s still a REALLY good chance that you will love Stormdancer.

Probably the sweetest cover ever.

One girl and a griffin against an empire.

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shõgun, they fear that their lives are over – everyone knows what happens to those who fail the Lord of the Shima Isles. But the mission proves less impossible and more deadly than anyone expects. Soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. Although she can hear his thoughts, and saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. Yet trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and the beast soon discover a bond that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on collapse. A toxic fuel is choking the land, the machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure, and the Shõgun cares for nothing but his own dominion. Authority has always made Yukiko, but her world changes when she meets Kin, a young man with secrets, and the rebel Kagé cabal. She learns the horrifying extent of the Shõgun’s crimes, both against her country and her family.

Returning to the city, Yukiko is determined to make the Shõgun pay – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

As I said, this book leans heavily on what are typically seen as steampunk tropes. I mean it’s got them all; goggles, airships, industrialization, chainsaw katana…

You never let me down, Google.

Ok, so it’s safer to say that it takes those tropes as a jumping off point, as the rest of the book is full of both original ideas and riffs on classic steampunk tropes.


Quote of the Day – 2.28.15

“I am not scared of bad people, of wicked evildoers, of monsters and creatures of the night. The people who scare me are the ones who are certain of their own rightness. The ones who know how to behave, and what their neighbors need to do to be on the side of the good.”
― Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

Book Review – City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

A common complaint leveled at fantasy (fairly or not) is that magic, as typically conceived, becomes a get-out-of-a-plot-hole-free card. You know, the wizard suddenly reveals, at the last second, that he has the magical stone that defeats the Evil Bad Guy, but just didn’t reveal it until now.

Or, for example, Eagles that show up just long enough to get the heroes out of danger, but not, you know, flying them all the way to their destination. Just saying.

I am not the first to make this point.

I’ve never felt that this was as big a deal as it was made out to be, as most authors I know of took pains to ensure that their magic systems were either costly enough, dangerous enough, or unpredictable enough that they would not operate this way.

But when it comes to gods (real, legitimate, smiting, named gods) in fantasy, how do those power dynamics work? What does it mean, or look like, when an all-powerful being intervenes in history? How is their power manifested?

What happen when they die?

Well, two recent books have addressed these questions for me more fully over the past year. The first, Three Parts Dead (The Craft Sequence #1) by Max Gladstone, I reviewed recently. And the second is City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett.

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

Imagine if, in our world, Britiain had colonized India, brutally exploiting the population for it’s own gain…hang on…I’ve just been informed that Britain did precisely that.

So, imagine if, instead of the British Empire simply believing that they had God on their side, they actually did have God on their side.

Gods, actually. In the plural.

Quote of the Day – 2.26.15

“The Hmong have a phrase, hais cuaj txub kaum txub, which means “to speak of all kinds of things.” It is often used at the beginning of an oral narrative as a way of reminding the listeners that the world is full of things that may not seem to be connected but actually are; that no event occurs in isolation; that you can miss a lot by sticking to the point; and that the storyteller is likely to be rather long-winded.”

― Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

9 Bestiaries for the Budding Nerdy Mind

I’m going to admit something here, because it’s a safe space…

I am addicted to bestiaries.

A Google search for “book addict” does not disappoint.

OK, not really addicted, per se.

BUT, I have loved them since I was very little. Few things did more to pique my interest in the fantastic than page after page of bizarre, terrifying, fascinating creatures. I’d like to share a few of them with you, specifically the ones that I am enjoying with my daughters, along with a few that I either do not own, or would like to read.

(As a side note, I will be avoiding D&D Monster Manual-style books. Not because they aren’t interesting (they are), but because they are largely out of my realm of expertise. And if you are even remotely interested in reading a D&D Monster Manual, this list probably isn’t for you. You’re doing fine on your own.)