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23 January 2010 @ 10:25 pm
Stormy Bamboo by Tamara Sheehan  
Publisher: Drollerie, 2010
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-genre: Swords and sorcery, Steampunk
Rating: 3 1/2 pints of blood

Well, what have we here? Some traditionally asian artwork on the front of a fantasy novel heavily influenced by flavours of Asia? Is... is that allowed?

I really like the juxtaposition of the stark image against the warm tones of the rest of the cover. It's pretty and it's appropriate and most importantly, sets the mood for the book. Also, fox!

Stormy Bamboo is pretty unique, as far as fantasy goes. It's epic fantasy in the historic far east with a bit of steampunk thrown in for good measure. You have blood mages and samurai wandering around in a world where steam horses and dirigibles are not so unusual, and a bit of politics thrown in for good measure. It might sound totally random and eclectic, but everything fits together in such a natural way you don't come away thinking "wow, there was a lot going on in there." Instead, you're more likely to think "I've never read anything like that before." Curious? There's an excerpt up at Bewildering Stories. Also, y'know, there's more review to be had if you want to hear more about it, too.

When wandering ex-Samurai Hikage runs into a mysterious woman offering to buy his services as a bodyguard, it seems like a good idea. She needs someone with his skills, and he is in desperate need of funds, so he agrees to go along with her for a short time. The more he and Iyuko come to know each other, though, the more it becomes clear neither of them is quite what they seem, and their goals have more in common than either would have suspected. Even more alarming, Hikage realizes Iyuko needs a bodyguard to protect her from enemies more dangerous than he had initially anticipated - the same people who are after him.

If they can escape those hunting them long enough, they might be able to clear Hikage's reputation and save the empire. Of course, not all of their enemies are human, so that escaping thing might be a lot trickier than it sounds.

The worldbuilding is absolutely lovely. I know a lot of people love to read fantasy for the way it can transport them to new and different worlds, and Stormy Bamboo is an excellent example of that. Not only does the ancient Japanese setting stand out from the sea of pseudo-medieval worlds currently swarming the epic fantasy genre, but the world is carefully crafted and builds together in a way that makes sense. If you're a sucker for visiting new worlds and have a hankering for something a little out of the common way, this is the direction you want to turn.

The prose is the type of thing to suck you in after the first sentence, regardless of where you start. It's infinitely readable, and the language takes you even further into the world and the characters. The prose alone makes this the kind of book you can pick up intending to read for ten minutes or so, just until your bus stop comes and then you come to half an hour later to realize the bus has run its entire route and looped back to where you first got on. Good times*.

To wrap this puppy up, Stormy Bamboo seemed like a good book to review after this week's coverfail outrage. For those interested in taking on the POC reading challenge, this would be a good candidate, but there are any number of other reasons you'd want to take a look at this book. Like perhaps the fact that it's a solid read and a whole lot cheaper than a transporter. Or, y'know, if you're fond of intricate details that add up until you have this phenomenal larger picture.

*This is obviously not part of my personal experience or anything. I am far, far too observant to ever miss my bus stop. And if I say that enough times, it may eventually come true.

Stormy Bamboo is available as an e-book. My copy was generously provided for me by the author.
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Muse's Booksmuse_books on January 24th, 2010 09:55 am (UTC)
This sounded so good that I went off and bought a copy (epub) but for some reason it is crashing out every time I try to read it.

I've sent an email to the publishers as hopefully they can suggest a solution.