This review should have been out over a month ago. Over. A. Month. Ago. In fact, I had written up my first draft and was about to publish it. Then I thought a bit more about the book. Did I really love it as much as I thought I did? Was it really a 4.5 read? It took me +1 month to realize that no, I didn't love it as much as I thought. No, it was not as amazing as I thought. No, I will not publish my first draft. I am very conflicted about my feeling towards Stormdancer.
This book has been one of the most anticipated books on GR. I haven't seen such a mass waiting for a book in all my time on GR (7 months) - not even for Throne of Glass. I'm pretty sure most of it came from the fact that Jay Kristoff is such an awesome guy (read his review of Stormdancer here). The fact that there were a dozen giveaways for the book hosted on all the popular blogs. Everyone, including my self, was counting down to September 18th.
I was extremely lucky to have entered a beta reader form back in April or May. I had in fact forgotten about the fact that I had entered it (I had entered every giveaway for the book :P). On an uneventful day in July, I received an email saying I had been accepted into the beta reading! I ran around the house screaming, only stopping to tell my mom (who was a bit shocked) that I had got accepted!
I came into the book expecting to finish it in a few days. It took me around two weeks to finish it. There are two main reasons why.
1). The prose.
2). The plot.
The beginning of the review will be separated in the prose and the plot. Then, I will continue on with the characters. This review will be extremely long and I will give away a (minor) few spoilers. Read with caution.
I love beautiful proses. Proses which make you sigh while reading (and secretly plot to make the author give you writing lessons). Jay Kristoff can write. Very well in fact. But, when you get bogged down in wonderful, amazing writing, you lose grip on what is actually happening. I had to read everything aloud (which was really awkward at times) just to figure out what the hell is happening! I was lucky to read 2 percent of the book in 30 - 45 minutes (just to give you an idea of how fast of a reader I am, I can easily read 100+ pages in 1.25 hours.)
THe first 10 - 20% was all descriptions. All of it. What happened during that time? The main character went downtown to get some food and find her father. Honestly, is that actually necessary for the story? I like the world building in books, in fact it's very necessary for a book. World building is one of the reasons I never like Hunger Games (one of the minor ones). But, to devote the beginning of your story to building the world and detailing every little thing. that is very excessive.
Six men sat in a semi-circle around the low table of the gambling house, their cushions torn from some abandoned motor-rickshaw. The walls were rice-paper, painted with the figures of exotic women and even more exotic animals: fat panda, fierce leopards, and other extinct beasts, Low light flickered in the overhead globes. A sound box sat above the bar; crafted out of dull gray tin, its speaker cans connected to the main unit with frayed spools of copper wiring. Guild-approved music spilled from its innards; the thing wavering notes of shakuhachi flutes, accompanied by the clicking beat of wooden percussion. The growl of a struggling generator could be heard somewhere downstairs. Fat black lotusflies swarmed among the rafters.
Each man had stripped to his waist in the sweltering heat, displaying a myriad of irezumi - tattoos - in all colors of the rainbow. A few of the players were Tiger clansmen, sporting ink from the hands of minor artisans that marked them as men of moderate means. Two others at the table had no kami spirits marked on their flesh at all, just simple patterns of koi fish, geisha girls, and wildflowers that singled them out as low-born.
-Location 116 of 4796 • 2% of ARC
That was beautiful writing, amazing writing. Can't you just feel the heat, hear the music? But, the book was filled with these. I could see everything nicely, but I couldn't see what was happening because I found myself skimming the descriptions and not reading some of the very important parts of the book.
Another problem I had with the book was I know nothing of Japanese culture. What is a shakuhachi flute? Many of the words felt like they were unnecessarily put in, because does the average reader know these words? I didn't think so.
If you're still reading, congratulations. You get a cookie! Not actually, I ate the cookie, but you get the idea of a cookie!
If you wanted me to make an outline of everything that happened in the book, I couldn't. Even after I got used to the prose, I can't tell you what happened. I still don't really get the ending. And what's with the green-eyed boy? I found myself lost very often, having to read the same pages over and over again until I finally understood. The info dumping was atrocious, and I wonder how no one has seemed to mention it. My eyes clouded over every time someone said "Let me tell you a story..." I like having basis on the past of a fantasy people but I don't want to know everything about it in one book.
Once I finished the book I had three thoughts. One was "This was bad ass!". Two was "JAY KRISTOFF, COME TO THE MIDWEST SO I CAN MEET YOU!" Three was"Wait, what happened just now?" I still don't know what happened. The plot just rushed around - one moment here, one moment there. I found it hard to keep track of everything that was going on in the book. The beginning I read twice so I have a good idea of what happened there. The best part of the book had to be the parts where Buruu and Yukiko got to know each other. When the Guild boy came in, it went down hill.
The romance was weak. It mainly consisted off dreams, sighing, kissing, and some sex (it is an adult book). That's it. I really wish that Mr. Kristoff had excluded it from the book. It was one of the most emotionless romances I had ever read. It beats the Katniss/Peetagale (their names are interchangeable and Katniss' feelings change depending on the page) romance of the Hunger Games.
Characters (or the fangirl part of the review):
Yukiko was an awesome, ninja/steampunk heroine. Steampunk ninja with a chain katana.
She did ride a thunder-tiger (griffon) who happens to be the sweetest thing ever (Shipping Yukiko/Buruu - I admit nothing). She was intelligent, yet still a young girl. She still relied on her father (this book did not have the missing parent syndrome), but it's not like she couldn't handle a demon or two.
Buruu was the most adorable (though I wouldn't survive saying it too his face) griffin ever. He is ever loyal to Yukiko, has a sharp wit, and a penchant for calling people insects. I just wanted to hug him. And I will never forgive Mr. Kristoff for the ending, the only big part which I remember sadly. :( He was sweet, caring, loyal, loving, funny, and I think Kristoff must have known a griffin because he can't be fake!
The other characters were wonderfully fleshed out and I couldn't find one which I felt I didn't know (save for the green-eyed boy and the other love interest). Even characters who appeared very briefly seemed really and tangible. I connected very well with them and feel like characters were Mr. Kristoff's strength.
I am very conflicted about the book. In one way, the book was amazing, one of the best reads this year. In another way, it's mediocre. It's not amazing, not bad. I hope I made it clear that I do not hate the book. In fact, I liked it. It's just in hindsight, I saw that I never really liked the book. Stormdancer did not meet the hype. It's not terrible but it doesn't deserve all the 5 star reviews.