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Four Stars: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Kristoff has blasted onto the fantasy scene with Stormdancer, a steampunk, japanese fantasy. Stormdancer tells the story of young Yukiko whose life has been filled with tragedy and a deadly secret. This secret, however, is just what she needs to befriend the legendary griffin she and her father are sent to hunt down by a corrupt emperor.

I started seeing reviews for Stormdancer a while ago, and quickly found Jay Kristoff’s blog because he is just a hilarious blogger. I’ve never been caught by the steampunk bug, and so I figured this could be a good book to ease into those waters. I had some pretty high expectations for Stormdancer due to all the hype and Kristoff’s obvious awesomeness, and it didn’t quite meet those expectations. I’m really looking forward to watching how Kristoff’s grows as a writer, however.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff Goodreads Amazon
Author: Jay Kristoff
Pages: 322  (hardcover) pages
Genre-ish: Japanese Steampunk Fantasy
Rating★★★★☆ – interesting premise and characters, flat delivery
Setting: Stormdancer occurs in a steampunk/fantasy world inspired by Japan, with balloon carried skyships and mechanized armor for the rich. The land has been horribly polluted by the overfarming of the only fuel source: chi. The sky is red, the rain black, the land dying, and yet the emperor and Guild do nothing to fix it. Legendary creatures such as naga, sea serpents and griffins are in living memory, but suspected to be completely extinct due to overhunting.
Premise: When the young emperor wakes up from a “vision” of him flying on a griffin against the armies his empire is waging war against, his greed compels him to have this impossible desire. He orders Yukiko and her father to go find this legend for him to ride. They set out on the suicide mission with a number of loyal companions, but soon crash into the last wilderness in the empire. However, before crashing, they see the legend in the flesh, and Yukiko is able to communicate with it….


  • First and foremost, I have never heard of a setting like in Stormdancer. The fresh ideas of the book fueled a lot of my interest in it, and Kristoff definitely delivers on awesome new ideas.
  • I love tattoos, so the idea of an entire culture being symbolized by the tattoos that people adorned themselves with was pretty darn awesome.
  • Anytime a strong female overcomes tragedy and can communicate with legendary animals, there will be awesomeness. The action scenes that Kristoff is able to write when Yukiko and Buruu fight alongside each other are stunning.


  • Let’s start with the subject of some very negative Goodreads reviews. Apparently Stormdancer fails on the Japanese culture thing, though I’m not enough of an expert to really know. If you are informed about Japanese culture, apparently this book might piss you off a lot.
  • On a similar note, all of the japanese terms sprinkled in lead to a headache for people not used to them. I had a very poor visualization of the characters throughout the book because I had trouble remembering what different outfits and weapons looked like. When writing for an English speaking audience, it’s usually best to avoid needing to constantly info dump just to keep your reader knowledgable about what you’re talking about.
  • The setting was super depressing. Due to all the pollution, everyone is dying of cancer, and I mean everyone. This is fine to start with if things get less depressing, but I was just never happy when reading Stormdancer because I was being constantly reminded how much everything sucks. This is certainly useful to drive tension and plot sometimes, but there needs to be resolution as the main characters make things better. Maybe there will be in the later books, but Stormdancer was less exciting to read than I had hoped.

While there are a number of things that make it clear that Kristoff is a new author, Stormdancer is still a very interesting book. The setting and ideas in it are captivating, and I hope that the rest of the trilogy improves on the flaws of the first book. I think people who like steampunk more than me will probably be more captivated by the various technologies, but apparently people with an interest in japanese culture cringed a lot while reading Stormdancer. Whether or not you like Stormdancer, though, I really think you should check out Kristoff’s blog because it is hilarious.

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Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – A


 Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

© 2012 – 2013, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. I really loved this one! The little Japanese things that probably weren’t accurate didn’t matter to me since I don’t know any different but also because this is a fantasy just based on Japanese culture and stuff I probably would have been able to excuse some of it anyway. Maybe I’m wrong though.
    The world was very dark and bleary, and it made it more depressing. That’s for sure!
    The info stuff dragged it down a bit but I was able to really picture everything SO well because of the descriptions so in the end it wasn’t really a negative. Maybe a few info dumps could have been better executed though…
    I loved Yukiko and LOVED Buruu! So glad you enjoyed it!

    • I agree that a fantasy world really should get some slack, and the Japanese stuff didn’t both me because I also simply don’t know any better. It was mostly just how depressing the setting was that kept the book from 5 stars for me, but this makes me really hopeful for the rest of the trilogy. The world has to get better as Yukiko and Buruu go save it right?? I’m thinking that the final book is going to be a 5 stars for me, and I’m so freaking excited!!!!

  2. I really don’t like steampunk but I want to read this book so bad. So many people love it and Jay really is hilarious. But I fear I will have the same problems with it as you.

    • Yeah, have you read any other steampunk? I just don’t know enough about the genre to know if this was a typical book or not…

  3. I have heard a lot of mixed reviews of this book..the cover is intriguing though!

    • Me too! I had thought it was going to be all positive, and then I looked on goodreads and was like, wow, guess a lot of people don’t like it! I have to say from reading Kristoff’s blog that he really comes off as a fun guy, but evidently the book needed more polish for some of the target audience to receive it better. I have to say I bought it partially because the cover is so freaking pretty!

  4. Yeah, I’m by no means an expert on Japanese culture, and even I was seeing that Stormdancer somewhat fails on the language and culture scene (like i noticed the stand-alone “sama” thing Bibliotropic pointed out). I couldn’t get into this book overall, but I liked Yukiko as a heroine and the mythic aspects… and yes, the tattoos were very cool. I want some cool kitsune tattoos! Great review– sorry this one didn’t quite live up to your expectations.

    • I also had trouble getting into the book, despite the elements that I mention really liking and wanting to like. Oh well, there are two more guaranteed, so maybe they’ll get better! Thanks for stopping by :D

  5. I had this one from Netgalley but unfortunately it expired…I had planned on buying a copy for myself but I think I’ll just snag this one from the library instead. I don’t know a lot about Japanese culture, despite my love of manga, so I doubt that I get too pissed off about that but it does sound kind of depressing. Though I’m really intrigued by how the tattoos fit in.

    • Wait, they expire?? I know so little about Netgalley. Is that only for ARCs? I have to say, the tattoos and griffin definitely helped the story a lot for me. One of the reasons I bought it, though, is because I’m afraid it won’t be at my library. I hope it shows up at yours! Otherwise if you are in central Michigan ever, you can borrow my copy!

  6. I plan to read this one even though I know full well that it’s going to annoy the crap out of me. I’m no expert on Japanese culture and the language, but I know enough to wince at some of what I read just while flicking through the pages at a bookstore one day. Especially because the mistakes I saw the author make were not ones that were difficult to avoid (like “sama” not being a standalone word; it’s an honourific, attached to the end of names, and doing a 30 second search online would have told him that). But I still want to read it, to see if there’s any redeeming value at all to it.

    Even if I end up wincing at every second page…

    • Yeah, I was really surprised at the range of reception, and that his editors didn’t try to fix all of that ya know?? We live in a culture that is pretty inundated with manga and a love of Japanese culture that I don’t see how the publishers thought readers wouldn’t notice, haha. Weird, but in any case, I loved the griffin!

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