Reasons for Inclusion: Japanese-inspired setting, themes of class oppression
Japanese steampunk wasn’t the only thing that drew me into this book. It promised a girl and a griffin fighting mythical monsters and imperial oppression, and it didn’t disappoint.
The islands of Shima are dependent on blood lotus for drugs and fuel. It powers their airships, their weapons, their war against the rest of the world. The common people suffer in poverty, choked by smog and addicted to drugs.
The spoiled Shogun sends Yukiko’s father out on a suicidal mission to capture an arashitora, a powerful animal long thought extinct. They fly into a storm and capture it, but their ship is destroyed shortly after. And Yukiko, who can talk to animals, is left alone in the jungle with the beast, who wants nothing to do with a human after her father caged him and clipped his wings.
The two slowly learn to get along as they wander through the wilds. And when they run into a rebel camp, they have to decide if they’re going to stand up against the Shogun’s destructive rule.
The themes of communication, oppression, and revolution were seamlessly worked into the worldbuilding and adventure, making for a very enjoyable book. The more Yukiko and Buruu talk, the more they understand each other, and even start to become like each other. Over the course of the novel, Yukiko learns of the horrible things the empire has done to the people, the environment, and the other creatures of the land. She has to decide how much destruction and violence are acceptable in the pursuit of justice, what the consequences are for fighting or accepting the system.
Every person has to choose what side to be on, what actions to take. It’s that choice, no somebody’s origin, that decides who they are. A soldier can turn against his master, a rebel can do terrible things, a wealthy woman can secretly support the resistance. And a girl and a griffin can change the world
One criticism: I did find the use of Japanese words a lot more jarring than other Japanese-set works I’ve read recently. Terms would be translated directly rather than being left to context, as if the characters were literally saying the same thing twice.
Asides from the awkward translating, the writing was beautiful, filled with powerful descriptions of the decadence of the royal court, the poverty on the streets, the wild strength and beauty of the wilderness.
I highly recommend this trilogy!