Kitsune Yukiko has lead an extremely difficult life for such a young woman. Her mother has run off, her brother died and she now has to watch over her drug addicted father Masaru. If that were not bad enough, her father has been sent on a mission by the Shōgun of Shima to do the impossible - hunt an arashitora, which are thought to be extinct. They manage to do the impossible and catch an arashitora, but unfortunately, their airship crashes leaving Yukiko no idea of whether her father has lived or died and alone with an arashitora who initially has no interest in her.
Using her powers of telepathy, Yukiko develops a bond with the arashtora and eventually names it Buruu after her deceased brother. The more time they spend together in Japan’s last unchanged forest, the more they take on aspects of each other’s personalities, which becomes crucial in the coming days, when Yukiko is tasked with destroying the Shōgun’s despotic regime. Can Yukiko save a nation that is so addicted to chi and mechanization that it is killing the environment?
The moment I found out that Stormdancer was Japanese steampunk, I was in all the way. Steampunk is easily one of my favorites in the fantasy genre, but it is quite often set in Europe. Having a location in an alternate Japan means that all of the characters were of colour. I do have to say that I am not very familiar with Japanese culture, so any mistakes that Kristoff made certainly flew over my head.
In an interview regarding the research Kristoff engaged in to write Stormdancer he said:
“I’ve had people ask if I did a degree in Japanese studies, but the closest I’ve come is reading all six volumes of AKIRA in a week. Maybe I’d picked up a lot of detail through film and manga that I’ve consumed down through the years, but Wikipedia was really my go-to-guy. I have a friend who lives in Japan who I bounce ideas off too. I pay him with the promise of booze.”
This greatly troubled me because Wikipedia is a starting place for research; it should never constitute the totality of one’s research. It’s also worth noting that manga does not completely represent Japanese culture. As I said, not being overly familiar with Japanese culture myself, I am quite sure I missed a lot, especially given the source material, so please keep that in mind when choosing to read Stormdancer.
Kristoff puts a lot of effort into his descriptive world building. Normally, taking 50 pages for characters to essentially walk down the street would irk me but I do understand why he felt it was necessary. Those unfamiliar with Japanese culture would need this to get a strong sense of the setting and the culture involved; however, this heavy description continued throughout the whole book, which at times bored me.