Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
So, Stormdancer gotten a log of buzz and a lot of negative reviews. I'm pretty mixed on it, though certainly trending negative. I'm surprised that I didn't see an existing discussion thread (though the search function may not be working right with the upgrade)? Anyway, who around here has read it? The blurb below of my full review is only part of what I had to say about it.
The plot of Stormdancer follows a standardized checklist for epic fantasy – it’s an autocratic political system with overly cruel leadership, there is a mysterious resistance movement, a young teenager is the hero (Yukiko), one parent is dead, there are issues with her father to be overcome, Yukiko has magical abilities, impossibly a mythical creature appears, Yukiko promptly develops a magical bond to said creature, and then Yukiko sets out to topple the government. Anyone who is well read in epic fantasy will easily know the outcome of this book – right down to who dies and who lives. Now, this isn’t necessarily a big flaw – someone who has not read a lot of epic fantasy may think that this is a wonderfully unique book, though to me, the plotting was tiresome at best.
On to the writing – as we all know a really well told story from a great storyteller can make it easy to overlook a lot of flaws. Kristoff comes off rather mixed here – at times his writing is really good, surprising good for a debut author and showing lots of potential. However, there are some pretty bad pacing issues – particularly with the beginning third of the novel which essentially serves as poorly presented infodump that lays out all the details of the rather cool world he’s created. However, there is no subtlety and no nuance. And while I really enjoy the world that Kristoff has created, he lost a fair be of credibility by bludgeoning the reader continually with the horror and injustice of the environmental and human tragedy at hand.
And all this adds up to an overall criticism of the book that I hate to make – it’s too YA – in all the bad ways it can be. To further explain, YA books can be very powerful and rather more complex than many people give them credit for. And the best of them often cross over with great success beyond the traditional YA market. Stormdancer doesn’t do this – the lack of subtlety, the lack of nuance, the strait-forward plotting – it has been done over and over again and only reinforces the common criticisms YA books get from more mature audiences. This isn’t to say that Stormdancer won’t work out well for the traditional YA audience, only that I don’t see it moving far past it.