Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
PanMacmillan, 2012. ISBN 978 0230762886.
(Ages: 12+) Highly recommended. Fantasy. Yukiko, the daughter of the hunt master, has to come to terms with personal and physical demons in this refreshingly different fantasy. Jay Kristoff has created a world based on the Japan of the Shoguns called Shima but also created layers of difference, especially with the technology based on the Blood Lotus, which is used to fuel the machinery of the Shogunate but also used as a narcotic to subdue and pacify the populace.
When Shogun Yoritomo hears about the sighting of an Arashitora, or thunder tiger, a mythical creature half eagle half tiger he must have it brought to him so it can be tamed and he can ride it like the heroes of legend. Masaru the blood lotus addled hunt master is summoned to undertake the task. He is still a capable hunter, but the cultivation of the blood lotus has poisoned the land and increasing demand has meant the ruin of the environment. There has been very little to hunt in Shima's recent history. Loyalty to the Shogun means Masaru and Yukiko have little choice but to obey in a quest they see as impossible. No one believes there are any storm tigers left.
The Lotus Guild which has control of the production of lotus fuel or chi and distribute inochi fertilizer which is made from the bodies of prisoners. They are a powerful force in Shima they control the technology and religion of the country and they do this with zealous fervor.
The quest to capture the Arashitora does not go to plan. The sky-ship cannot cope with the wild weather they encounter and it crashes in the last of the virgin forest in all of Shima. It is a fight to survive for Yukiko and the guild member who crashes with her. But they discover some allies one of them the Ashitora itself with which Yukiko can communicate by thought.
Stormdancer is a great read especially for the fantasy fan, but anyone can appreciate the well paced story which twists and turns through some 430 pages, but its no hard slog and worth the effort. There are many messages in the book the most obvious being environmental, but there is the message about drug use and corruption of power.
This is is one of those books hotly contested in a global auction and planned to be simultaneously released world wide. A steam punk novel by Australian author, Jay Kristoff, this is the first in a new series called The Lotus Wars.