Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publishing Date: September 18 2012
Genre: YA, Japanese Steampunk
Page count: 313
When sixteen year old Yukiko is sent to tag along on her father the Huntmaster’s impossible quest of finding and capturing the legendary and probably extinct arashitora (thunder tiger/griffin), her airship crashes and she is forced to make a tentative peace with the grounded wild beast before their unique telepathic bond grows into friendship and beyond. This Japanese Steampunk adventure tale consists of airships and clockwork, chainsaw swords and a dependence on a harvested plant known as the ‘blood lotus’ for ‘chi’ – the fuel that absolutely everything runs on and that has polluted the world so badly the land is dying, all the animals are gone, and the sky is red.
Kristoff’s skill as a writer is undeniable. His descriptive passages are so fine I wanted to weep, and his command of the English language is phenomenal (Japanese is another story – take a look at other one and two star reviews for more on this. They’ve all said what I think and I don’t need to repeat it here). However Kristoff’s beautiful writing failed to connect with me. I still struggle to work out why: on paper, this story is everything I could have ever wanted and more (strong female lead, telepathic connection to a charismatic animal, conspiracies and unpredictable betrayals). The only reasons I can come up with is that Kristoff’s worldbuilding is detached from his protagonist and has no bearing, connection or influence on her whatsoever. The second reason is that this story held no sense of urgency, even though it had quest deadlines. I took several months to read this – whilst I somewhat enjoyed it when I was reading, I had no desire to pick the book up once I put it down. The constant interruption of Japanese words instead of their perfectly acceptable English alternatives made for an interrupted narration as well.
Yukiko is a fine heroine. She’s not amazingly strong and awesome to begin with – she spends a lot of her time during fight scenes crawling around in the mud – but despite being distinctly unglamorous at first she manages to kick a lot of ass and embrace her power within to one of the coolest climaxes I’ve had the pleasure of reading. But where this novel really shines is its portrayal of Buruu, the wild griffin tamed by Yukiko’s clumsy affection. Buruu speaks IN ALL CAPITALS which reminds me of Thor from Avengers. He also experiences the most growth in the novel, turning from a wild beast to an eloquent, caring, receptive friend with a loyalty to leave readers breathless.
In summary, I want to make it perfectly clear that although this novel did not work for me, pretty much all of my friends loved it. I think I’ve summarised why it didn’t work for me, and although I doubt I will be picking up the other two books in the trilogy (but who knows, because I’m a pedantic who likes to finish series even fi I hate them) I would like to read other things from the great mind of Kristoff.
An advance reader copy was kindly provided by the author.