Series: The Lotus War #1
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 1st, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mythology, Steampunk, Young Adult
Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.
But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.
Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.
Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?
I need to get one thing out of the way real quick. You see, this was one of my most anticipated books of 2012. At a certain point, you just couldn’t get me to shut up about it anymore. And yes, I finally read it in January 2013. You see, this thing happened. I knew this book would be amazing. But I knew it was not necessarily an easy read. When I finally had the book in my hands (it looks freaking AMAZING by the way) I was under so much pressure from grad school, what with exams, thesis proposal, group projects, more exams, committee chairman-ship… I didn’t want to force myself through the book at that point. I knew I wouldn’t be able to appreciate its full brilliance then, so I wanted to wait until I had vacation and nothing else on my mind. I’d like to think it was worth it. But all the same, I’m VERY VERY SORRY JAY!
I’m not worthy…
I’m a bit at a loss for words. I don’t really know how to analyze this novel because it’s so different from everything else I read. (In the best possible way!) Or that’s what it feels like. There’s a bit of a question mark, I believe, as to whether this qualifies as young adult or adult. And I’m on the fence too. While the main character, Yukiko, is 16, I easily forgot that at any moment of the story. It felt like she was at least 18, because she was really mature and went through some really dark and frightening ordeals. Then there’s the wonderfully excessive bloody, gory fight scenes and almost-everyone’s addiction to lotus smoke. This is a really mature young adult story, in any case, so typical young adult readers may not like it or find it difficult to get through.
I just have to once again mention how great the concept of this novel is. It is a combination of so many kick ass elements. Japanese, steampunk, high fantasy, dystopia with mythological elements and a strong female character. Not only is this a really creative combination but it works (perhaps, a bit, surprisingly). The execution is flawless.
Why yes, Doctor, it is brilliant.
Beautiful world building. The world building and descriptions typical of a high fantasy are all present, and that makes the story so much more beautiful. That being said, the beginning is a bit slow because there’s quite a bit to explain. It took a little while to get used to the world, the prose, and get to the action, but it was very well done, looking back, and all those descriptions were necessary. It doesn’t feel like filler material at all. The Japanese setting works beautifully, and I’d like to think that’s not just because I’m sort of obsessed with the Japanese culture. And steampunk takes it up a notch, really working to create a beautifully terrifying dystopia.
Once Buruu enters, our mythological creature, the griffin, the story becomes irresistable. I mean, Buruu is irresistable. I started out just plain laughing at everything he says (or, well, thinks) because it’s hilarious to see such a cynical creature hating humans for everything he’s got. And then later I just started awww-ing at everything he said because he’s freaking adorable, and I want my own Buruu, like, stat. I just love him.
I just want to snuggle with him all day.
So for a change there’s no real romance in this novel. There’s a bit, but it’s very, very much on the side. In fact, Yukiko chastises herself for thinking about boys when she needs to incite a revolution, which makes me love her so much more. It was really reminiscent of Katniss and the idea of romance just not being very important when you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.
In fact, Yukiko is making my list of one of my favorite protagonists ever. She feels very, very real and distinct. She is strong, but she has her flaws. She is courageous and has fierce principles, which reinforce her strength. But she’s also extremely caring to her family and friends. And she’s pretty witty, which I appreciate.
And finally, to have a fantasy novel combined with a dystopia was extremely unique, and it worked. The story is just astounding. While I’m a fan of dystopias and read them quite a bit, this one just grabbed me so much more. It’s like, here I really felt fury at how the world worked, with the Shogun and the Lotus Guild. True fury. And I think that is because of the story being more mature than most young adult novels. Blood gets shed. A lot of it. Characters die. Jay isn’t afraid to make the story turn very sad and dark, and I thank him for it. It was way more effective than other novels, and it really got my heart pounding in all the fight scenes, because you never know what’s going to happen.
I proudly raise my fist in the air to you, Jay. Masterful novel. Can I haz Kinslayer now please?