Debut author Kristoff’s steampunk adventure whisks readers to a Japanese dystopia where some mythological beings still exist, a few people have fantastical gifts, and all people live under tyranny.
Yukiko, 16, has an ability the shogun’s guild would punish with death: She can commune with animals. In a unique society woven from Japanese culture and history and the author’s ingenuity of mechanical invention and disease, living standards are rough; pollution and drug addiction proliferate under the rule of a corrupt shogun who seeks to win an admittedly nebulous war. When he commissions Yukiko’s father to catch an elusive arashitora, a creature part-eagle and part-tiger, Yukiko’s quest to survive becomes more challenging. Failure to find the arashitora means the end for Yukiko and her father. Indeed, death looms around every corner in this third-person adventure, as Yukiko meets defectors, rebels and others too scared to oppose the shogun. The book takes off in earnest when Yukiko meets an arashitora. She can communicate with it, and girl and beast grow through the bond they form in surprising and thoroughly convincing ways. Ultimately the fearsome pair takes on the regime, but not before Yukiko forays into the wilds of love.
Soars higher than the arashitora Kristoff writes about; superb. (Steampunk. 12 & up)