Stormdancer was a book I was doomed to love. It has too many of my favorite things. With a kick-ass sword-wielding heroine and a snarky animal side-kick how could I not?
The story took me a little while to get into. I'm not very knowledgeable about Japanese culture and the novel throws names and titles at you like you're supposed to understand what's going on. It took me awhile to figure out who the people were and how they were connected. But I did figure it out.
Once they start on their adventure, a quest to find a presumed-extinct Thunder Tiger (I think it's a griffin), on an airship I really began enjoying the story. The steampunk world was richly different from most that I've read (mainly because almost every steampunk book seems to take place in London or thereabouts). I liked seeing how steampunk could work elsewhere in the world.
The main character was a spunky teenage girl with the ability to mind-speak with animals. After their airship crashes she finds herself alone in the jungle with only an angry Thunder-tiger they'd captured as a companion.
The relationship that develops between Buruu and Yukiko is my favorite part of this novel. Their communications are believable and sometimes hilarious. Their bond changes them both, the beast learning sarcasm and humanity while Yukiko starts to channel the rage of a tiger.
This book isn't really about capturing a Thunder-Tiger. A potential revolution, with all the brave speeches and conspiracies needed, are the central plot-line. The book has just enough twists to keep you guessing, but not so many to feel contrived. When I thought this book was going down a path I didn't like, Kristoff turned it around in a way that worked for me.
All the female characters are stronger and more complicated than they first seem. Especially coming from a male author this made happy.
"Women in this city, on this island, we do not seem like we are important. We do not lead armies. We do not own lands, nor fight in wars. Men consider us nothing more than pretty distractions. Do not for a second believe this means we are powerless. Never underestimate a woman's power over men."
I love strong female characters. I love books set in different cultures. I love talking animals. Even though it started slowly and was a tad too descriptive at times, this was just as Cassi-book through-and-through.