Thursday, 27 June 2013

Movie Review: The Woman In Black (2012)

Title: The Woman in Black
Director: James Watkins
Year Released: 2012
Running Time: 95mins
Classification: M
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller

After reading the book, I decided to give the 2012 The Woman in Black movie a try. The movie did not stay completely true to the book, however the changes made improved the process of the storyline and in some ways gave the audience a restful ending (or maybe just for me).

*I've also done a review on the book written by Susan Hill for anyone who is interested. I strongly suggest you read the book first before watching the movie.*

Unlike the book, the movie starts straight in the midst of the horror with the deaths of 3 children and the presence of the woman in black. The genre is set and the mystery begins.
Daniel Radcliffe portrays a convincing Arthur Kipps, characteristically. Thanks to Radcliffe’s previous movies (namely Harry Potter), appearance wise he looks too short to be a man and too young to have a child however as the movie progresses, his appearance is forgotten, replaced by his acting

There are some minor changes to the characters in the movie and some added surprises that, if you are the fan of the book, may or may not like. I personally thought the changes gave the movie more to play on and had to be done to make the movie longer and more visually interesting.

The biggest change is the existence of Arthur’s son. Arthur’s wife dies from childbirth and leaves him with their son. This happens at the start of the story and it is his son who propels the story further than the ending written in the book. (For those who haven't read the book, Arthur's son is not born until the end of the story).
In the book, Arthur lacks action and is left frightened; in the movie he attempts to solve the horror to save his son. To do this, the script writers included a thorough explanation of the woman’s history and existence and showed the consequences when one meddles with her. 

I preferred the changes. The book was brief and did not have as much death as a horror reader would have liked. I also preferred the ending. The ending can be considered happy depending on how you look at it. There is proper finish to Arthur’s story. As for the woman, it can not be sure what truly happens to her.

The actors, houses, locations are all perfect for the era and Eel Marsh House looks exactly as described in the book. Even the marsh lands look perfect. The colour of the movie stays dimly light and foggy, blending into the costumes.
This horror film plays heavily on noise. Without the sudden knocking, whispering and scary music, this movie would not be a horror. The noises were perfectly timed and will definitely make the audience jump in their seats. 
Just remember, if you are looking for something a bit more visually frightening you might want to skip this movie.

I spent most of the movie with my eyes under the pillow and hands clapped around my ears (I hate scary films). The reason I continued watching was to see why the woman did the things she did (even though I have read the book, the movie explained this more clearly with some extra touches) and how everything was resolved. I was much more satisfied with this altered story then the book. 

As much as I enjoyed the book, I preferred the altered storyline of the movie. The storyline in the book was simpler and was perfect for a short novel. For a movie, the changes enhanced what the book already had and added more dimensions.
This movie is not for everyone. For anyone who likes the more mystery horror stories, I suggest you give it a try but if you are looking for something fast-paced with more gore, try something else (you will most likely find this movie boring).

Terri's Rating: 3.5/5
I do not like scary movies, so the rating is based predominately on the storyline and the cinematic effects.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Book Review: The Study Series

Title: Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study
Author: Maria V Snyder
Year Published: 2005-2008
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Yelena is a convicted murderer. On the day of her execution, she is given a choice: take the noose or become food taster for the Commander of Ixia. Naturally, she chooses the latter. At the palace, she is trained to taste for poisons by Valek, the Commander’s loyal and mysterious Chief of Security. To prevent Yelena’s escape, Valek poisons her with Butterfly’s Dust – from then on, she must return to him for a daily dose of the antidote or else face a painful death as the Butterfly’s Dust takes effect.

So begins Poison Study, the first book in Maria V Snyder’s Study Series (also known as the Yelena Zaltana Novels). It’s an interesting premise, rife with potential. As Yelena adjusts to her new life, she meets General Brazell, father of the man she killed, and a magician from the neighbouring country of Sitia, who senses Yelena’s magic – magic being outlawed in Ixia. How can she stay safe? Who can she trust? There’s a lot of tension in this novel, which gives it an enjoyable, exciting sort of mood.

Still, the lack of poisons in a book called Poison Study is disappointing. There is only a brief period of poison taster training before the narrative drifts into Yelena learning to fight, Yelena being suspicious of General Brazell and Yelena taking baths. There isn’t much “plot”; the action, as it is, is mostly character-driven. That brings me to Yelena herself. She’s an Action Girl, and I’ll admit I didn’t like her at first – I felt she had a modern, misplaced sense of entitlement, which was bold considering she’s easily replaceable. However, over time, I came to appreciate her good qualities – she’s strong, frank, hard-working and wants to help people.

One of the best parts of the book is the romance. It’s not a surprise that Valek becomes a love interest, and the captor/captive dynamic makes it a bit more interesting. Thankfully, there’s no insta-love, so it was good to see their relationship actually develop. Valek himself is painted as a devoted and manly badass, and despite his curly shoulder-length hair (wat), he was probably my favourite character and I’m sure many of you will swoon for him (even though he's a pretty shady guy when you think about it).

While Poison Study works as a standalone, its sequels, Magic Study and Fire Study do not. The plot from Magic Study doesn’t even finish, meaning you’ll have to read Fire Study for closure. Spoiler alert: at the end of Poison Study, Yelena lives. She decides to go to Sitia to learn to control her magic. Like its predecessor, both Magic Study and Fire Study lack actual study of magic or fire. Instead, the books are mostly about how Yelena hunts down an evil magician who rapes, tortures and murders girls to steal their magic.

Like many others, I felt that the series weakened with each book. The key issue is the matter of the plot. While the first book deals with Yelena’s struggle to survive, the next two have her playing detective, justice-meter and all-round hero, since no one at all competent exists in her world other than Valek. Yelena’s rape and torture in Book #1 are harrowing, formative events. In Books #2 and #3, rape and torture are used almost gratuitously as drama-adding plot devices. The events of Book #3 are also especially repetitive, with a lot of people travelling around, getting captured and stabbing or being stabbed with the paralysing substance Curare. What makes it worse is how – perhaps due to a lack of personal stakes for Yelena – the antagonist feels like a Monster of the Week, rather than a Big Bad, even though their storyline stretches across two books. Also, while some characters are likeable (eg. Ari and Janco), others are annoyingly one-dimensional (Roze) and one character is outright spin-off bait (Opal Cowan, now featured in The Glass Series).

I had hoped that the world would be built up a bit more, since there are so many interesting concepts at play. It’s not often you read a fantasy set in a socialist military dictatorship like Ixia, but other than a bunch of colour-coded uniforms, you don’t get much exploration of the way it works. The capitalist democracy(?) Sitia, on the other hand, gets a bit more depth in terms of the plains nomads Sandseed clan and jungle tree-dwelling Zaltana clan – but that’s only in terms of their lifestyle, so to speak. You don’t really see how the Sitian government works; we only know there is a Council and that it takes them a long time to make decisions. The only virtue of this, according to Yelena, is how it means that no one person shoulders the blame for mistakes. Also, beggars apparently do not exist in Ixia. Mmm… okay then. It’s a bit too simplistic for my liking, but what can you do?

I think another reason why the sequels aren't as loved is because there is less Valek. Valek and Yelena's romance is one of the highlights of Poison Study and there’s less of that in the sequels. Their relationship also doesn’t seem to develop beyond the stage of becoming a couple. I would have liked to see Snyder explore how their previous captor/captive relationship colours their current one, or maybe something about how Yelena feels conflicted about Valek being an assassin of magicians (ie. people like her). But no. Instead we have one (1) token fight where she calls him out on his murderous ways and she’s portrayed as being in the wrong. Otherwise, every time they meet, they just banter for a bit before their clothes fall off. FYI, after disrobing, the sex scenes comprise, at most, of a vague paragraph about how Yelena feels Valek inside her and how their souls bond. In other words, these scenes adhere to the Twilight school of sexytimes writing, to give you an indication of what they’re like.

Yelena also falls victim to Mary Sue-itis. Big time. She goes from showing magic potential in Book #1 to gaining more and more super special snowflake abilities with each book. Worse is how she seems to disbelieve all the things people say about her. Beautiful? Me? Powerful? Me? Soulfinder? Me? I rolled my eyes so hard and so frequently they almost got stuck at the back of my head. Yelena also makes decisions that don’t seem to make sense, but of course it works out in the end because of course it does. She flip-flops on matters of trust and she only wants to help people if it’s done her way. However, she’s the only character with actual thoughts, so of course she solves all the problems, no matter how nonsensical she may be. The prime example of dumb that’s stuck with me is how she chooses her horse. So she’s just discovered she can talk to a horse (they think in English, apparently, only without auxiliary verbs and without the word “I”). So... how does she think she should choose a horsey companion? Why, by colour of course! It’s like she’s not even trying. And of course she gets the most special horse there is.

The writing in this series is simple. The style is easy-to-read and conversational and the chapters are short, with a tendency to cliff-hang at the end. It’s also the only reason I see for classifying this book as “Young Adult”, since Yelena is already nineteen years old (and Valek’s in his early thirties) and there’s a lot of dark material here (namely, the brutal rapes, tortures and murders). While it’s the sort of prose that’s easy to gobble up, it also felt lazy in parts. Some things I could forgive for being part of Yelena’s thought processes (such as a garment being called “skirt/pants” and Valek wearing a “sneak suit”), but other words and phrases jarred. The language is modern, with “Mr.” and “occupational hazard” being terms I did not expect to see in this world of swords and horses. The most striking instance of this is when Moon Man exclaims “wah-lah!”, which I can only assume is a bastardised form of the French “voila!”. I literally could not believe it and had to read the sentence a few times before it sank in. One last pet peeve is how Valek takes to calling Yelena “love”, using the word at the end of almost every sentence. Rather than sounding romantic, this just reminds me of kindly old British groundskeepers, because I’ve learned from TV that that’s how they speak, innit, love?

The Study Series starts off well. Poison Study is an easy, addictive read with a tantalising romance and tense mood. However, the sequels are less captivating. Yelena becomes a Sue, the romance stalls and the world isn’t as complex as it needs to be. The main conflict is not uninteresting, but the repetitiveness and dumb are really frustrating and sap the life out of things. To sum, the books aren’t unpleasant, but they’re not particularly great either. Still, the glass magic mentioned toward the end sounds interesting, so I may yet get sucked into reading the author’s next series about Opal.

(Note: newer editions of these books include a map at the start. There is also a sequel series for Yelena in the works.)

Alex’s Rating: 3/5

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Book Review: The Woman in Black

Title: The Woman in Black
Author: Susan Hill
Year Published: 1983
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Gothic

A junior solicitor by the name Arthur Kipps is summoned to attend the funeral of Alice Drablow, the sole inhabitant of Eel Marsh House. It is not until he sees a strange woman dressed in black wondering the premises that he realises the cold, dark uneasiness of Eel Marsh House is not just from the marsh lands nearby, but from the presence of something evil.  

*This review is purely from the book itself and not the movie.*

The pros about a horror novel is the reader can stop when it gets too ‘scary’ and, depending on their imagination, the supernatural world can be altered for the ‘less brave’: rather than having a pitch black room, add a tiny window for some extra natural light etc.
That’s how I get through a horror novel; however I did not need to utilise my own advice for The Woman in Black. There is horror and the supernatural, but the main reason to read the book is for the ‘why’ and the 'end'.

The Woman in Black starts with Arthur explaining his present life after the incident before talking about the past. From the first couple of pages it is clear Arthur survived the ordeal and lives a normal life, of course still been haunted by bad memories. By starting like this, the story loses some suspense on what happens to the main character. To find him living normally doesn’t make his experience serious or frightening enough for the story to be terrifying. I would have prefered if Susan Hill had just dived straight into the main story.     
There is a slow build up in the first part of the novel. From his present describing how he wishes not to mention the past and to the start of the past, the story trugs along. Something’s going to happen but when…… I found myself thinking.
Keep in mind this book is fairly short. Only 200 pages so the first half is more than bearable.

The second half is when things get exciting, from hearing strange noises, phantom winds and … obviously…. seeing a woman in black. It is like a dark cloud has descended into that half of the book, refusing to leave and making the reader wanting to know ‘what happened and why’ desperately. I loved the sudden noises, the uncertainty of where the cold wind is from and the old creepy house. Having the story told from Arthur’s voice and his descriptions makes the story more visually and mentally enhancing.
The Woman in Black is set during the Edwardian era (1901-1910) which just adds to the haunting texture of the book.

The ending was a surprise. I like it and I hate it.
Please skip to the next paragraph to avoid spoilers.
The idea of the unsolved evil bothers me. I like that it’s not a happy ending, but I hate the story of this woman still lingering around the town and house taking lives. I think I would have been more content with the story still lingering if Arthur’s future, after the incident, wasn’t so normal and he was mentally shredded from the experience. He would be one of the many that were and will be victims of the Woman in black. 

But on a happy point, the story is set so precisely during a specific era, a specific place and a specific kind of evil that after reading it, the Woman in black should not suddenly (with no help of the imagination) appear in front of you thanks to the story being so well grounded with no link to the present day (unless Eel Marsh House does exist).

I would love it if Susan Hill made this novel longer and maybe stretched the suspense a bit further. I didn’t get enough of the book especially near the end. I enjoyed it very much and would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good scare but does not want to read a long novel.
After reading this, I am so looking forward to seeing the movie.

Terri's Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, 14 June 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful
Director: Sam Raimi
Year Released: 2013
Running Time: 130mins
Classification: PG
Genre: Adventure, Kids and Family, Fantasy

I was reluctant to watch this movie. I wasn’t quite sure how the actors would sit in this genre since none (that I’ve seen) have been in this style before. I loved The Wizard of Oz as a kid and loved, even more, Wicked the musical. I didn’t want anything to ruin my memories of Oz. But, alas, it is not ruined.
Oz the Great and Powerful is not even in the same league, hence not worth being associated with The Wizard of Oz or Wicked.

The story tells how a circus magician, Oz (same as the land), played by James Franco, arrives in Oz and how his arrival changes the struggle between 3 witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams). With famous actors/actresses, magical costumes and stunning visual effects, how can this movie go wrong? Well for a start it felt more like a mini TV series than a big Hollywood film.

None of the actors/actresses delivered. This may be due to them not fitted for this genre or to the ‘shallow’ script. The characters were developed lazily and poorly, even the established characters were so basically written, there was no depth in their personality therefore I felt nothing towards them.
The worst was Oz himself, James Franco. He is an unreliable man who wants more in life but does not have the courage to achieve his ambition. He is a liar; he sleeps around, and will do anything for money. Oz is not a likable character, even till the end when all ends well and he saves the day, I was left feeling cheated and underwhelmed. He had the most reason and depth to have his character develop thoroughly but at the end of the day he is Oz 'the not so great and not so wonderful'. 
For the 3 witches, it would have been better to have shown their history rather than hear it from the characters. At least with visual aid, the ‘who’s good, who’s bad’ isn’t just merely implied but set in solid. From the movie, I did not feel the hatred between them was real since I had nothing to go by but talk.

(Side note: Am I the only one who thinks James Franco is not a good actor? Okay, so I haven’t seen 72 hours, but I’ve seen him in other movies and… nope, don’t like his acting…. Maybe it’s just me.)

The costumes stay true to the story with one exception, Theodora. She is the one dressed black pants with a purple jacket and a massive rim hat which I can only assume was chosen because it resembles a witch's hat. Her costume looks less Ozzian, and more Carmen San Diego in purple.

The visual effects were bright and stunning….. but a little too bright. The characters seemed to bounce off the screen in a ‘does not fit into the scenery’ way. Imagine the puzzle pieces that do not fit, now picture those pieces in an entirely different colour as the puzzle. This might have been done on purpose to allow a magical effect but what surprised me the most was all the animated creatures suited the background just fine. Then again I watched this movie in 2D and on a fairly modest sized screen. Maybe on the big screen it would have been different.
Having mentioned 2D, this movie was obviously made for 3D with the occasional flower or weapon diving straight into the camera. The 3D effect was less beautiful (Avatar) but more fun (Spy Kids). Watching it in 2D, I found the effects wasteful and eventually annoying. I recommend watching it in 3D.

Having ranted about the movie: the black and white introduction was a nice touch. Oz the Great and Powerful gave a respectful nod to the original film. It felt like home…..
The Wicked witch of the West was my favourite character by far. She had enough intensity in her make up and eyes to make her really evil.

This movie is enjoyable if you watch it in a kid’s perspective. I did not love the movie, but I did not hate it. I can see the enjoyment and the fun ride some people might have, and at some parts so did I, but I will not be re-watching this movie any time soon. 

Terri's rating: 2/5

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Book Review: The Serpentwar Saga

Title: Shadow of a Dark Queen, Rise of a Merchant Prince, Rage of a Demon King and Shards of a Broken Crown
Author: Raymond E Feist
Year Published: 1994-1998
Genre: Fantasy

The Serpentwar Saga is a series of four books set in Feist's Riftwar Universe. I warn you now: if you haven't read The Riftwar Saga, then I strongly suggest that you go read that before you even consider this series (a lesson I learned the hard way). That said, The Serpentwar Saga is a complete epic in its own right. It tells the story of the Kingdom and its war with an invading army led by the serpent-like Pantathians. None of the books really work as standalones, so once you start you're in for a four-book commitment, which is pretty much how I got sucked into reading all four books.

(Full review after the cut. No spoilers other than what can be inferred from the existence of four books and their titles.)

Friday, 7 June 2013

Book Review: Gravity (The Taking - Book One)

Title: Gravity (The Taking - Book One)
Author: Melissa West
Published: 2012
Genre: Science fiction, Young adult, Romance

This story is about 17 year old Ari Alexander. One night, she opens her eyes and sees Jackson, her academic rival, hovering above her and absorbing her antibodies.
This concept alone might seem disturbing but there’s a perfectly good explanation.
Due to humans own destructive nature, earth was driven to a near apocalyptic age. That was when the aliens, known as the Ancients, attacked. Earth was in no condition to fight and therefore a treaty was made. The Ancients help rebuild Earth. In return they take peoples antibodies to help them survive on Earth. So every night at exactly midnight, all humans will put on a patch that will numb all their senses and wait for their designated Ancient to arrive.

Not as creepy anymore right? I personally don't mind the whole aliens wanting to take over Earth thing but the antibody absorbing thing, I still find ridiculous. What I do think is the author purposely chose this kind of relationship so the aliens are not invasive or murderous - unlike The Host, (refer to Alex's review) where humans are cut and aliens inserted. So if I had to choose between The Host kind of aliens or Gravity kind of aliens, I’d go with the Gravity type.

Keeping in mind Gravity is aimed at young adults, I enjoyed it. If I was still in my teens, I would have loved this book. There is your female lead, Ari. A daughter of a commander, she has been taught at a young age to fight and is top at her school in combat. There is the male best friend, Lawrence and then there is Jackson, the love interest. A typical ‘young adult’ love triangle. I have mentioned before I am not a fan of female science fiction writers as majority focus too much on the love side of the story. But in Gravity, this triangle does not take centre of the story. Yay.

It is very hard not to compare Gravity to The Host. The storyline is completely different with the exception of aliens taking over earth and the lead falling in love with an alien. In The Host, the lead who is an alien falls in love with a human. I am happy to say the aliens in Gravity resemble humans and have no ‘physical’ just slight mental differences. This makes the love between Ari and Jackson much more plausible and less disturbing.
(I just had to get that out. This is just my prejudice towards Stephenie Meyer so I apologise to anyone who is a fan of hers. But it’s true, how can anyone fall in love with a bright shiny thing that attaches itself to the inside of a human?)

Melissa West makes a advanced hierarchy of our future which is refreshing. Depending on your parents you most likely will end up with their same title/career. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be what you want. The future is bright and better although there is a certain aspect in the novel that, if ventured further, might reveal a darker place.
I say it is refreshing because there have been a few novels and movies released which depicts the future being dark, dry and uninhabitable.

Gravity is a ‘light’ novel and a enjoyable read. Unfortunately this is Book 1 of The Taking series. Book 2, Hover, will not be out till the 6th of August. If you like to read series in one go then keep The Taking in mind and wait till all books have been published. I am kicking myself for not researching about this book before reading it. I will definitely be chasing Hover up and will add more to this post when I have read it.

Terri's Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Title: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Year released: 2012
Running Time: 105 mins
Classification: R
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Horror

Even the thought of Abraham Lincoln being a vampire hunting is preposterous and they decide on making it a non-comedy. Did it deliver? NO.
For anyone who doesn’t know this already, Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States and is famously known for ending slavery. He was assassinated in 1865.
Oh and he hunted vampires.

For a movie like this, I expected action and/or horror and/or comedy. From the trailer, it didn’t seem like a horror or comedy. Even so the trailer looked good. It made the title Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter look appealing...... ok so maybe just appealing to me. I was disappointed. 

Personally I am not a big fan of vampire movies, but I’ve seen enough to know how standard vampire movies are. I know vampires are not real therefore vampire hunters are not real, but in the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter world they are. The vampires still have super strength etc etc and humans are still boring with no special power. So, how can a measly human boy fight vampires without any chemical/biological/technological help?

We start with a young Abraham getting thrown into walls by a ‘bullet in one eye socket’ vampire to a older Abraham throwing vampires out of trains with no assistance. No ‘super strength biological serum’ injection was used and no advanced technology was used. This does not sound plausible.
I get that most people watch it for the action and don’t mind if there’s no reason to Abraham’s super strength but I’m just one of those people who believe if you’re going to make a movie, don’t make it sloppy.

These vampires are not very convincing either. Be romantic or be scary. The vampires in this movie just confuse me. I wasn’t sure if they healed or were just immortal with a human shell. They weren’t particularly scary and obviously not romantic. (Which is fine since vampires are a type of walking dead. Why would anyone fall in love with a corpse? I don’t care how good looking they are.) It felt like the writer wasn’t sure which vampire rules they should stick by. Vampires with powers or vampires who heal and are scared of sun?

There’s a poor effort to integrate the vampire war with the Civil War (I may me be mistaken about the Civil War). I understand the attractiveness of it. To have a non related vampire story integrated into real history would be fun but this was poorly achieved. This is due to the weak background of the story and the awful editing. One day Abraham is young, the next he has a massive beard, a cane and his famous top hat. The texture of the movie design was probably the only thing that was consistent throughout the film.

Before I forget, Abraham’s wife is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead... not much else to tell since this movie does not play on romance either.
The only thing I was impressed by was how much they made Benjamin Walker look like Abraham Lincoln near the end of the film.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has nothing to offer. Maybe if it wasn’t for the bad editing and unfilled gaps, the movie might have had some potential. Overall, it is not worth anyones time unless of course you want to waste time.
If your looking for a vampire movie, please seek else where as these vampires are busy trying to set their own fictional rules. 

Terri's Rating: 1/5

Book Review: Stormdancer (The Lotus War - Book One)

Title: Stormdancer (The Lotus War - Book One)
Published: 2012
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Steampunk, Japanese fantasy, action adventure

In a world where mythical creatures exist along side sky-ships and metal clad samurais protect the last heir of the Kasumitsu Dynasty, a young girl and her father are sent to hunt the once thought extinct Arashitora in the high mountains where no men venture.
This book would be fantastic on the big screen.

This was my first steampunk novel and, oh how I loved it. For the people who aren't sure what steampunk is, think the Victorian age, clockwork fittings, goggles, machines run on steam and hot air balloons. Stormdancer is based in a Japanese steampunk fantasy world. Basically steampunk with swords and samurais.

The story surrounds Yukiko, our heroine. She lives in Kigen, ruled by the ruthless Shogun. It is a city filled with smoke, sweat and death. Yukiko's mentality is just to follow the Shogun's rule even if morality isn't on his side and to stay alive. Her belief is 'one cannot change the world'. Of course what good is a heroine without some character development?

Like any good fantasy novel, the main character is thrust into a situation she does not want to be in and thus allow for adventure and character development. Yukiko is no different. She is stubborn but honourable. She grows into a strong young woman but still carries enough faults to make her a 16 year old. I found her likable and relatable. I don't believe I can change the world by myself and I like the idea of a peaceful life. But underneath my content exterior is a wannabe heroine trying to break through. Also, she can wield a sword as good as any man and *spoilers* talk to animals. What makes her the bit more special than your average fantasy character is her story begins rough and tough rather than being the typical ‘princess’ having to save herself by allying and forming a ‘hero guild’ whilst on a perilous journey. (I use the word princess loosely).    

I enjoyed all the characters regardless of whether they were big or small. Their histories and relationship help give rise to the background story and nature of the Shogun's rule. I am happy to say the romance does not interrupt or cause any indentation in the plot. It sits well for the 16 year old girl Yukiko is. One of my favourite characters is Katsumi. She doesn’t get as much mention as I wish in the book but I think her story is subtly bittersweet. She is a 'more than close' friend to Masaru (Yukiko's father) and carries a sense of sorrow and pity with her love story. She is dedicated, torn but as true as she can be. She fell in love with someone who does not share the same feelings back. Katsumi might be a hunter, but underneath she is just a woman in love.

I do want to applaud Jay Kristoff for creating strong female characters in Stormdancer without them loosing their female identity. This is quite hard to do especially from a man’s perspective. As Alex has mentioned in a previous post, it can go 2 ways. A too strong female lead which leads to suspicion as to whether the writer is doing it on purpose to prove they are not sexist, or a too feminine lead that eventually needs a hero (love interest usually) to save the day.

What makes Stormdancer so great is its thoroughness. The book stays true to the Japanese culture (well to the extent that I understand) but also adds elements of a ‘might have been by-gone era.’
Everything fits in to the story perfectly. Jay Kristoff has created a history and country with its own wonders and faults. There is an evil ruler, the innocent peasants, a conspiracy, revenge, a reluctant heroine, even a religion with its own motto. The introduction of Buruu, the Arashitora and the demons open up the gate way to the mythical world. I look forward to and hoping this will be expanded on in the following books.

The writing is descriptive and simple. Jay Kristoff does not feed the reader too much that can’t be carried out throughout the novel. Only annoying thing with Stormdancer is it is the first book in the The Lotus War. Book 2, Kinsalyer will be released in September this year.

Don't let the foreign words or the late release date of book 2 deter you. If you are looking for a steampunk fantasy book, Stormdancer is a must read. I love this book and cannot wait for the second book to come out.

Terri's Rating: 4/5