Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 18th, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult
A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.
I made it to the end this time! The first time through I DNF’d before they even reached the Thunder Tiger. At the time there were too many characters and too much of an infodump for me to slog through to the meat of it. I was also trying to read it on a plane and it seems utterly impossible for me to start books on a plane. I just can’t focus and with the depth of attention needed to start this book, I failed.
This time, I made it through. I got over the -samas and the hais and the feeling that I was reading an anime put to text. Let me tell you, I’ve read the other reviews. That has been a major deal breaker on a lot of them. If you guys can get over that and not let it detract from the story, the end result is marvelous.
The world is blighted due to the prosperous but deadly lotus plant. It’s used to power their steampunk vehicles and lubricate every day life. It’s even a recreational drug. And though it’s slipped into every facet of society, it’s killing the land and the people. A guild of body suit wearing religious fanatics keeps the lotus production moving ever forward.
Yukiko and her father are sent to capture a griffin for the Shogun, whom I started referring to as ‘Asian Prince Joffery’. Failure to locate and capture a beast thought to be extinct would result in death either by the Shogun’s hand or by their own.
Yukiko has an otherworldly gift in which she can communicate with animals via mental link. When they do, miraculously, find the griffin and subsequently capture it, she tries to calm the beast with her gift. The beast ignores her until their airship crashes and she rescues him.
What follows is a tentative but deeply forming friendship. At one point, Burruu, as that’s what Yukiko named the griffon, declares himself part of Yukiko’s family. From that point onwards, they are inseparable even as they are caught up in a resistance to attempt to overthrow the current Shogun and take back the land from the blighting lotus.
I teared up at several points in the book. There are some deep cutting revelations and some poignant deaths. This doesn’t bode well for my emotional state through the rest of the series, as it only looks as though it will get more intense.