Series: The Lotus War, #0.6
This edition: paperback
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Published: September 17th 2013
Where I got it: advance copy from the author (huge thanks!)
Your blood-red skies are filled with smoke. Your bleach-white histories with lies. You walk sleeping. Wake senseless. Breathing deep of toxic blooms and forgetting all that has gone before.
But I remember.
I remember when two brothers waged bloody war over the right to sit in their father’s empty chair. I remember when orphaned twins faced each other across a field of crimson and steel, the fate of the Shima Shōgunate hanging in the poisoned sky between them.
I remember when a blind boy stood before a court of storms and talons, armed only with a thin sword and a muttered prophecy and a desperate dream of saving the world.
I remember when the skies above Shima were not red, but blue. Filled with thunder tigers.
I remember when they left you.
And I remember why.
Let me tell you, monkey-child.
This novella, while it’s chronologically a prequel to Stormdancer, the first of the Lotus War books, is perhaps best read after reading the first novel. I read them in this order, and I found The Last Stormdancer to have much more of a dramatic effect this way. Especially if what it’s hinting at by the end is indeed what I think…
Heh! Don’t worry. This is a spoiler-free zone, and I’ll do my best to keep it that way – but trust me, the “ooohh” factor was very much present and accounted for with this story.
Told from the first-person perspective of one of the last known thunder tigers – arashitora – this is an account of the beginning of the end of Shima, and who played a part in it. The unnerving, faceless Lotus Guild are indeed present on this count, but this is more the story of the ones who attempted to stop them gaining the kind of power they now have. As the title suggests, this is an account of the heroics of the last known Stormdancer, and the legacy he left behind…
This will be a short review, as the story itself is short, but it’s worth saying that this is a dark, grim, thoroughly gripping story for its length – which, in itself, doesn’t come across as a point against it for me. Novellas are tricky beasts in that respect, in my book. More often I’m left wanting more than I get, as with short stories (even worse, especially with the good ones!) but here, it lasts exactly as long as it needs to, with not a page wasted. My appetite is certainly whetted, but thankfully I’ve got Book Two in the trilogy, Kinslayer, waiting on my reading pile. Otherwise you’d have a wailing blogger on your hands, and I’m sure nobody wants that.
Another point definitely in its favour is the narrator’s POV. I’ll happily admit that reading stories about mythical creatures pushes my geek buttons, and ‘thunder tigers’ (that’d be gryphons to you and me) are, in Kristoff’s wonderfully described interpretation, among the baddest of the badass. While I’ll never tire of dragons, I do sometimes want something else, something fresh, and this does the job very nicely.
I can’t speak much for or against the ‘authenticity’ of the Japanese-inspired culture and influences here, but bearing in mind that ‘inspired’ is all it needs to be (it’s not actually Japan), I will say that I love the strength of the imagery Kristoff provides. Mythical beasts! Lightning! Bloody battlefields! RAWR! It wins.
There may not be much in the way of sunshine and rainbows here, and I suspect I’ll need some before much longer judging by this and my immediate reading slate, but for awe-inspiring scenes and impressive narrative voices, I will happily keep turning to this stuff. Bring on Kinslayer.
The print edition of this novella is, I believe, a limited edition, but the audio version is apparently set for release on October 3rd. You can get it on Amazon UK, here.