Jay Kristoff's Stormdancer was one of my MOST anticipated reads of this year, but I'll admit that I was a little nervous to read the ARC. I was scared that my high expectations wouldn't be met and I'd walk away from the book disappointed...silly me! Not only were my expectations met, they were taken to a whole new level of awesome baddassery. I'm going to do my best to not totally fangirl here and write an actually helpful, coherent review. Here goes...Sixteen year old Yukiko lives in a world divided into four clans and ruled by a harsh Shogun and threatened by both the strict Lotus Guild and rebel forces. A world once inhabitated by mythical beings and rich in tradition, is now polluted by a toxic fuel and reliant on clockwork industralization. The Shogun sends Yukiko and her father, a hunter, on a quest to bring back a thunder tiger, even if they have been extinct for a century. After a fiery accident, Yukiko finds herself lost in the wildnerness with only a crippled thunder tiger for company. And even though the thunder tiger, Buruu, initially wants her dead, Yukiko uses her rare and dangerous ability to connect with the tiger's thoughts and forge a bond with him. Together the two concoct a plan to save themselves, the people they love and maybe even overthrow the empire.Stormdancer is an extraordinary example of YA at its absolute best. An explosively spellbinding mix of fantasy and steampunk, with a rich, innovative world, exhilarating and riveting action and one of the most compelling YA heroines in existence, Stormdancer just effing rocks!What initially drew me to this book was the fact that it's a steampunk set in Japan. Most YA steampunk novels I've read are usually set in Victorian England type settings, but Kristoff has pushed the idea of YA steampunk into a totally new direction and has done so successfully. Stormdancer radiates with originality, yet never feels uncomfortably out-of-the box. I think what makes this book work and work so superbly is first and foremost Kristoff's writing. Kristoff is a masterful and smart storyteller, who clearly isn't afraid to tackle an ambitious and complex story. There's a fierce and lyrical beauty to Kristoff's writing that never depends on flowery or over the top imagery. Stormdancer feels both epically grand and genuinely intimate because the world-building is that phenomenal and layered. Vividly rich and lush in detail, the steampunk/fantasy infused Japanese setting is cinematic and breathtaking even in its startling ugliness. The social/political/historical setting surrounding this world is also extremely well-developed and complete.As enthralling as the world-building is, it would matter little if the characters placed in this world sucked...the characters in this world do NOT suck...not even a little bit. Even the douchey and asshattey characters are awesome. But the two shining throwing stars in this book are my girl Yukiko and everybody's favorite thunder tiger, Buruu. Yukiko is pretty much the epitome of a kickass heroine, but I love that her character isn't ALL about slaying demons, sticking people with pointy things and fighting (even is she does these things like a boss!). There is SO much more to this strong, witty, clever, resourceful and brave girl. I love that she can plan to overthrow a villianous empire and save thousands of people in one thought then fantasize about the hottie warrior Hiro in the next thought. This doesn't make her weak or shallow in any way; it makes her real. I kind of want to be Yukiko's BFF.Then there's Buruu *le sigh*. If it's wrong to have a crush on a mythical thunder tiger/griffin then I don't wanna be right! There's something so irresistibly captivating and eloquently powerful about this creature. The friendship and bond forged between Burru and Yukiko is deeply moving and lovely.The story Kristoff crafts for readers is always engrossing and engaging because every scene, every word of dialogue, every description, every thought is necessary. The action is thrilling, the dialogue is often surprisingly witty and always reads naturally, and the whole story is perfectly paced. I'm a huge nerd when it comes to weaponary and there are chainsaw katanas in this book...let that sink in for a moment...EFFING. CHAINSAW. KATANAS...those are swords AND chainsaws COMBINED into one glorious weapon of baddassery, people! How did I NOT know that this was, like, a thang?! (Google "chainsaw katana" and discover all the awesomeness yourself...go ahead, I'll wait!)...I held off on the fangirling for as long as I could ;) As the first in a series, this book concludes with a thrilling and climatic ending, that sets up the nice book nicely.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: If it were possible to have a crush on a book then I would I write Stormdancer cheesy love poems, make it mix tapes and cupcakes, and call it at home and hang up when it answered...I lurve it that much! Jay Kristoff has seriously and awesomely delivered with this book and has defintely made his permanent mark on the YA world. Buy this book, devour this book, make someone else read this book and definitely do some Stormdancer LARPing (I call dibs on the chainsaw katana!). An absolute effing MUST read!