During the Sydney book launch of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s novel Illuminae back in 2015 (oh so long ago), I was waiting very patiently to have my two shiny copies of Illuminae signed when I spotted Jay Kristoff’s first novel Stormdancer on an endcap, and I risked losing my place in line to swoop in and grab it. I’m super glad I did.
Before I get stuck into my own thoughts on the series, I’ve got to say how fantastically down to earth both Kaufman and Kristoff are (and here’s the academia side of me oozing through as it feels weird to call authors by their first names). The two have risen to stardom quite rapidly (for good reasons), yet they were happy to offer advice and encouragement to a wannabe author. Having received another agent rejection on New Years Eve, it’s their advice and own stories of rejection that have reinforced my own quivering walls of self-confidence and determination. Now back to the good stuff.
It didn’t take me long to devour Stormdancer, but I waited to write up this post until I’d read all three novels of the Lotus War series (my lovely signed copy of Stormdancer has currently been kidnapped and is being held hostage by a friend in Brisbane because apparently when you gush on about a book for as long as I did then I should expect such duplicity!). The second and third (hefty) novels, Kinslayer and Endsinger, were carted around with me wherever I went and in every quiet moment I delved into the world of Yukiko, Buruu and the stellar cast that round out this brilliant series.
Patrick Rothfuss puts it best: “A Japanese Steampunk novel with mythical creatures and a strong female protagonist? Yeah, I’m all over that. Though honestly, you had me at “Japanese Steampunk”” (goodreads review). How has it taken so long for such a combination to be formed? Because we were waiting for a writer like Kristoff, who handled it superbly. I won’t give away any spoilers, but there are a few things I really love about this series.
Firstly, characters die. I won’t say who, obviously, because I don’t want to go to Book Hell where there are shelves upon shelves of blank paged books, but I liked how the characters weren’t invincible. They got hurt, sometimes they even died, and often their deaths didn’t really mean anything, just like real life. This kept me so engaged and on the edge of my seat, that my family thought me even more anti-social over Christmas.
Secondly, the characters are complex and flawed. They make mistakes because they are human (or arashitoras) and frequently can’t see the bigger picture we, as readers, have access to. Yukiko is incredibly young at sixteen. She sulks at a drop of a hat and crushes on the first set of pretty green eyes to look her way, but she grows up quickly when she’s forced to become a symbol for rebellion. I’d list the awesome other characters, like Kin and Hana and Yoshi and Michi …, but it’ll take a while and both Kinslayer and Endsinger have wonderful character outlines at the beginning of the books to bring you back up to speed while having a bit of a giggle.
Overall, this series is both delightful and heartbreaking in equal measure. Kristoff has been added to my read-whatever-I-can-get-my-hands-on list, and I look forward to all the amazing books he’s yet to write!