20 setembro 2012

Review: Stormdancer (Jay Kristoff)

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Tor UK (2012)
Format: Hardcover | 352 pages
Genre(s): Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult
Description (GR): "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 SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
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."
WARNING: Contains SPOILERS!
I liked the overall concept and most of the world building, but some things just didn't work for me. I even made a list, which I will present later, but first, some context.

I've read a few reviews that mentioned the fact that Stormdancer gets a lot of things wrong when it comes to Japanese culture, myth and even language. I admit that while I do like anime and manga and have read a few books set in Japan, I don't know enough about their culture (especially historically) to judge if most things described in this book are right or not. But even so I've noticed some things that bothered me (or at least I think I did. I might be wrong, it may be all a matter of perception).

1. Setting - so Stormdancer takes place in an alternate version of Japan called "Shima". The author could have gotten away with the frequent incorrections if this "fantasy" land wasn't so obviously Japan. You have Daimios (feudal lords), Japanese supernatural creatures, Japanese deities, the same creation myth, the same society structure and hierarchy and even the same language. Shima is Japan which makes all the factual errors this book might or not contain very bad.

The ones I detected (very easy to spot, really) were the erroneous use of "sama" (any anime addict knows this is a suffix, it can't be used by itself) the use of the word "aiya" (which I've heard in Taiwanese dramas, I think, but never in Japanese dramas) and the bow Yukiko was always doing (with the fist in the palm) that seemed right out of "Mulan" (and Mulan, as we all know is Chinese).

2. Cultural Values - here's the part that bothered me. While this alternate Japan seems to have most of the values of Feudal Japan samurais that follow the Code of Bushido, rigid social hierarchy, rigid social rituals, respect for honor and servitude, these same values are considered... well, bad. The main character thinks they are the reason why people are oppressed and boasts the qualities of "revolution" and "rebellion" which are typically more western ways of thought.

The heroine despises her own culture, as seen when she is invited by the Shogun's sister to tea and says she doesn't have time for such silliness and all the rituals. This disregard for the culture the author is trying to portray bothered me.

3. Characters - to me they were another weak point of the book. They were two-dimensional and lacked development. They seemed to be there to further the plot more than anything else. For example, Hideo the minister was complacent, but why was he complacent we never know. He was complacent simply to be an obstacle to our heroine. The Guild people and the Shogun were simply evil without explanation. They were evil so that the heroine could fight them. The rebels were rebels so they could "open the heroine's eyes". Even Yukiko had little substance.

I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters.

4. Romance - two of my "pet peeves" made an appearance: insta-love (well, insta-lust, but still... the love interest was pretty hollow, no personality whatsoever) and a love triangle. The author didn't handle the romance part well at all. I'd have preferred no romance at all. Enough said.

5. Writing Style - too verbose, which made the reading difficult. Some things were just overly described and it served no purpose.

So why the three stars? For the potential. The world building is interesting and the story could be good if it was more layered and deep. As it was, the "message" (industrialization is bad, yadda, yadda, we're literally paying for it with our blood, etc) was about as subtle as a freight train. This book could have been great, but I think a little more research and character development were needed before it was 'released'. The concept is pretty good and the whole "steampunk" part of the story was well-constructed and imaginative; I wasn't too fond of the rest, though.

A disappointing read, mainly because I had such high expectations.

11 comentários:

jen7waters disse...

O ponto 4 matou tudo >.<

slayra disse...

xD Ahahahah, deixa lá, não é tão mau como noutros livros. E além disso há uma conclusão satisfatória para quem não gosta dessas coisas, mas dizer mais seria Spoiler. :/

WhiteLady3 disse...

Em relação ao ponto 2... *suspiro* Qual é o mal de respeitar tradições? A inovação ou rebelião não tem propriamente que romper com toda uma cultura. Será que beber chá é sinal de opressão? *facepalm*

E evil for the sake of evil... porquê? É tão mais giro explorar a raiz do mal, ou vai daí sou eu que já estou farta de heróis moralmente bons e que lutam contra o mal porque o mal é mau. O mal faz mover o mundo pá!

slayra disse...

O que me impressionou foi a diferença entre o Shogun e este livro, por exemplo. No Shogun a personagem principal fica completamente horrorizada no início, com a cultura japonesa, mas acaba por aceitar os seus preceitos sem nunca abrir mão dos seus. Neste livro, o "desprezo" e a incompreensão do próprio autor pela cultura japonesa são tão claros que até dói. A sociedade que ele descreve é ocidentalizada, como se as tradições e os rituais da cultura japonesa fossem algo só aplicável às classes mais ricas e fossem deploráveis. O exemplo perfeito desta sociedade (Hiro, um samurai que segue à risca os preceitos do Código do Bushido, acaba por ser um vilão e um cobarde). :P

Sim, o Shogun era mau como as cobras. Para além de oprimir o povo, achava que tinha direito a tudo, magoava as "gueixas" (que são descritas como prostitutas, mas no Japão feudal ainda não existiam sequer), era cruel para toda a gente, birrento, etc, etc. Basicamente um vilão "mwahahah". :P

WhiteLady3 disse...

É muito estranho ver "cobarde" associado com o Bushido... O_o

As gueixas não são só no séc. XVIII ou XIX? Antes eram cortesãs, certo? O_o

I had such hope...

slayra disse...

Indeed. xD

Sim. E as gueixas começaram mesmo por ser apenas mulheres que entretinham pelas suas capacidades para a música e o canto, só depois é que também começaram a... erm... diversificar o entretenimento. *blushes*

slayra disse...

edit: se quiseres eu empresto-te o livro e vês se tiras mais alguma coisa dele. :) Pode ser que gostes...

WhiteLady3 disse...

Até me sinto tentada a aceitar. :/

slayra disse...

Eu achei a parte do Speampunk bem conseguida...

WhiteLady3 disse...

Já agora, como é que o steampunk contribui para a história? São só as máquina da guilda? Como é que têm máquinas? Que tipo de desenvolvimento se deu?

slayra disse...

A guilda desenvolveu tecnologia "steampunk" (entre aspas porque não é movida a vapor, mas sim através do lotus de sangue, uma planta com diversos usos) e quase toda a economia de Shima se concentra na produção de fontes de energia para as máquinas.

Não faço ideia como têm máquinas, não nos é dito. O.o