A TOUR OF STORMDANCER'S SHIMA ISLANDS BY JAY KRISTOFF
Two hundred years after the destruction of the old Empire and the rise of the Kazumitsu Dynasty, the Shima Imperium balances on a knife-edge. The marvellous technologies that have propelled them from a group of warring clans into a global power have also wrought a terrible toll on their ecology. Pollution, disease and mass extinctions are a part of everyday life. Constant warfare overseas has wrought a bloody toll on the populace, and the nation’s Shōgun and the machine-priests of the Lotus Guild are locked in an uneasy alliance steeped in mutual hatred.
The Seven Isles are controlled by four clans – four superpowers that have, in the two centuries since the death of the last Emperor, consumed or destroyed all other clans around them.
The Tiger Clan
The Tiger are the greatest and most numerous of Shima’s clans. Their greatest house, the Kazumitsu Dynasty, has ruled the isles for two centuries. The current Shōgun, twenty year old Yoritomo, can trace his lineage directly back to the general who began the revolt against the old Empire - great Kazumitsu himself.
The spirit guardian of the clan, great Tiger, is associated with ferocity, hunger and physical desire. They venerate Hachiman, the God of War above all others.
The Dragon Clan
In the days before the rise of the Kazumitsu dynasty, the Dragon were a seafaring clan of raiders who pillaged among the northern clans with impunity. Since the fall of the Empire, the Dragon have become renowned as great explorers and traders, sending their sky-ships to every corner of the known world.
The guardian of the clan, fierce Dragon, is a powerful spirit beast associated with elemental forces and random destruction. They venerate Susano-ō, the God of Storms.
The Phoenix Clan
Since the empire’s beginnings, the Phoenix have been renowned as the most creatively gifted of all the clans, and Shima’s greatest poets, artists and artisans have been of Phoenix blood. This is not to say the Fushicho are effete – some of history’s greatest swordsaints and martial artists have been of Phoenix blood – but as a clan, they have always prided themselves on form as well as function.
The spirit guardian of the clan, immortal Phoenix, is an elemental force closely tied to the concepts of enlightenment, rebirth and creativity. They venerate Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun.
The Fox Clan
The Kitsune clan are renowned for their cunning, relying on guile as well as force at arms to carve out their niche in Shima. Of the four clans, the Foxes are the easiest to discount, viewed as provincial and graceless by their fellows. However, the Kitsune manage to endure and prosper, through a combination of subterfuge, tenacity and simple outrageous good fortune.
The kami guardian of the clan, wily Kitsune, the nine-tailed Fox, is said to bring good fortune to those who bear his mark. They venerate Tsukiyomi, the God of the Moon.
The Lotus Guild
Not a clan, but a sect of engineers, mystics and priests, the Lotus Guild are nonetheless a powerful faction within the nation’s political landscape. The Guild controls the secret of creating chi – the fuel powering Shima’s technology – in addition to producing its heavy machinery and munitions. Without the Guild, the nation would be plunged back into the dark ages, and thus, they extract ever-increasing tolls from the Shōgun in exchange for their aid.
They venerate no gods, instead following philosophy known as 'The Way of Purity'.
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Jay Kristoff's Lotus War Trilogy starts with Stormdancer, and is followed by Kingslayer and finishes with Endsinger.