In his debut novel, author Jay Kristoff creates a rich fantasy steampunk setting based upon Japanese feudal culture, complete with griffins, samurai warriors, demons, airships, an evil mechanized religious order, and a ruthless dictator. Really, I think that list should be enough to get you interested in reading Stormdancer (Amazon, B&N), but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
To date, steampunk has largely been confined to Victorian England settings, with the occasional foray into the wild west. Even the anime and manga steampunk tales have tended to lean on these more traditional interpretations of the genre. Kristoff boldly takes the genre in a new direction, infusing it with new vigor.
The central character in Stormdancer is Yukiko, daughter of the Shogun’s master hunter, Masaru. They are members of one of the four prominent clans, theirs based around Kitsune, the fox, the trickster god in their religious pantheon. When the Shogun hears rumors of a surviving “thunder tiger” (or arashitora, this culture’s name for a griffin), he has a prophetic dream that he will become a stormdancer, riding the great beast into battle and vanquishing all of his enemies. But first, he needs to get his hands on one, so he orders Masaru (along with his team, including Yukiko) off to capture it. Needless to say, things do not go entirely as expected (otherwise it would be a very boring book).