A soldier with a curse
Tala lost her family to the empress's army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress's crimes don't haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic . . . and her own flesh and blood.
A prince with a debt
Jimuro has inherited the ashes of an empire. Now that the revolution has brought down his kingdom, he must depend on Tala to bring him home safe. But it was his army who murdered her family. Now Tala will be his redemption - or his downfall.
A detective with a grudge
Xiulan is an eccentric, pipe-smoking detective who can solve any mystery - but the biggest mystery of all is her true identity. She's a princess in disguise, and she plans to secure her throne by presenting her father with the ultimate prize: the world's most wanted prince.
A thief with a broken heart
Lee is a small-time criminal who lives by only one law: Leave them before they leave you. But when Princess Xiulan asks her to be her partner in crime - and offers her a magical animal companion as a reward - she can't say no, and soon finds she doesn't want to leave the princess behind.
This band of rogues and royals should all be enemies, but they unite for a common purpose: to defeat an unstoppable killer who defies the laws of magic. In this battle, they will forge unexpected bonds of friendship and love that will change their lives - and begin to change the world.
- ISBN10 1473229022
- ISBN13 9781473229020
- Publish Date 25 June 2020 (first published 24 September 2019)
- Publish Status Active
- Publish Country GB
- Imprint Gollancz
- Format Paperback (B-Format (198x129 mm))
- Pages 528
- Language English
I loved this beyond words— I really can’t put my finger on exactly the words to say to fully express the extent of my emotions, at the moment
I can say that I fell so unexpectedly, madly, head-over heels in love with this book. I mean, I knew that i’d probably like it, given its roots roughly based in asian history, & its fantasy elements which seem like something out of the pages of a beloved manga series. I mean, its pretty much a guarantee that i’ll love absolutely any novel with a magical system based upon even a rough sketch of asian culture & folklore, and although this touched on familiar, it is exceptional & original. With a plot drenched in humanity— bonds & relationships between fellow humans, between animals (also known as shades), and a even a small amount with metal, or “steel.”
The magic in this story is made through pacts- a magical bond between human and another source, namely, Shadepacts, a pact where a human and an animal create a pact, in which both parties trade a piece of soul with the other, the animal offering service to the human if their souls are harmonious to one another. They ask only a specific favor/ condition of the human in order to complete the pact. Think of this sort of like Pokémon, except with the cost of part of the soul, & people can only split their soul with one, or possibly two shades- more is unheard of- and an actual piece of a soul is what that gives a shade life. All that it takes to call on them during a time of need is the name given to them during the formation of the pact. Shades take damage magically, their corporeal form fading when they take TOO much physical harm, to heal; if the damage they take is fatal- they cease to be.
Others can create pacts with steel- and make steelpacts with metal to control it to their will. With the ability to control blades, bullets & the like, it comes in quite handy. It is a learned & sacred act, stemming from the thought that every part of the earth has a living force.
For the moment, I have SO MUCH MORE to say I need some more time to reflect, I think, because this story is so incredibly amazing & I want to do it justice! My frantic mind is struggling to get a firm grasp on the words that keep popping up in my brain, trying to form coherent sentences. So much is on the tip of my tongue... yet nothing that I write seems... exactly right. It may not even make sense! I have not drafted anything, because I have been pouring myself completely into reading, with no break to review (except for sleep, of source), as a result of my extreme anxiety lately.
Soooo yeah- I may just honestly be rambling strings of unintelligible words/ sentences for all I am aware of rn.
As I said on twitter WHY NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT HOW GOOD THIS BOOK IS???
I mean it has anime vibes and super diverse, with bitchin' characters, eastern culture and cuisine, but isn't medieval? all my favorite things! it has magic, it has animals, it has guns, it has technology! and friendship! and kissing! and it's new adult fantasy! amazing!!!!!
The story is set in in a complex fantasy world, built and based in post-World War II Eastern Asia. The different races are unique and based on races from our world. Tomoda is based on imperialistic Japan, but with citizens who meld their souls with metal. It called metal packing. Shang is based on china, Sanbu the Philippines, Jeognsen-Korea, and Dahali, India.
This book is definitively aimed at a much older audience then young adult. The world is very diverse. Not only are the characters entirely Asian-inspired but most of the characters are sexually ambiguous. The women are kick butt, and the cultures have one histories of powerful men and women. Theirs even a secondary trans characters.
The other unique thing i found in this story is the use of shades which are viewed differently from race to race. Some see them as slaves other as family.
Overall this is story that is unique and well though out. What did not work for me may be just what you find enjoyable in story. Maybe it wasn’t the right time in my reading life for me to throughly enjoy this story. Either way it not terrible it not fantastic it just is.
Also it actually closed up like a standalone, which I found refreshing.
Steel Crow Saga is the first novel in a series of the same name by Paul Krueger, and it’s as intense as it is brilliant. If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to get into, consider giving this one a try. It’s full of character driven plots, a magical world, and so much more.
In a world torn apart by battle, four characters must come together to find a way to forge a new path. By doing so, they hope to prevent the circle of pain and bloodshed from continuing. But the journey will be anything but easy.
Steel Crow Saga takes four characters, all of whom a very different from one another, and by rights all should hate the others, and forces them to do the unbelievable. This novel is an amazing fantasy novel, but it’s the characters who make this tale sing.
Tala is a soldier through and through. She lives for the battles, and will do whatever it takes to take vengeance for her lost family. She and her animal companion Beaky have a dark secret, one that colors every aspect of her life. And her life is forever changed when she is forced to guard a prince that is not her own.
Jimuro is the prince of Steel – and he’s bound to step up and lead his people. Unfortunately, he’s currently a prisoner in another nation. In other to bring the peace though, he’s allowed free and sent off with a military escort. Only, the whole trip doesn’t go as planned. On the bright side, the change in course has given him plenty of time to learn the truth about the world around him.
Lee is a thief, plain and simple. She’s smart as a whip, and even more determined to survive. She’s one of the last of her kind – a people constantly stepped on by those who consider themselves better. But she won’t let their outlook on her life change her plans for the future.
Xiulan is a woman with many identities. Her preferred one is a detective, which is how she ends up with a master class thief. She hopes that Lee will help her find the person she is looking for, and start a change for the better.
I’ve been hearing nothing but positive things about Steel Crow Saga, and now, having read it, I completely understand why. It was emotional and dramatic, and had such a brilliant display of worldbuilding within.
There was a lot to love about this book, simply put. The characters, the world, the magical systems, the politics. It was all well thought out and brilliant in its intensity. I did my best to stretch out reading this book as much as possible. But I’m still left anxious to get my hands on the next novel in the series.
I think what I loved the most about Steel Crow Saga was the variety of characters. Tala, Jimuro, Lee, and Xiulan were all so different from one another. And yet, they all had a stake in this tale. It was fascinating to see them all work together, and better yet; the variety will allow for most readers to pick a favorite character or two to really look forward to reading about.
I’m fascinated by the magical system within this world. We got a good look at shades (the animal companions), and a bit of a look at the steel magic. But I still have so many questions – and I’m sure that the future novels will answer them. I just have to be patient.
I was surprised by how much emotion Steel Crow Saga was able to force out of me. It was excellently done. The characters were compelling, the plot was thrilling, and the world filled with lush details. And each character’s backstory was refined and honed to force readers to sympathize with their perspectives.
I’m actually quite sad to be finished with Steel Crow Saga. I might have to reread it again, while I wait for news about the sequels. I tried starting another book, but the book hangover from this one is too strong for that just yet.
For more reviews check out Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks
To steal a phrasing from one of the characters, it was a long walk to a very anime battle scene.
The way this book is written falls into very detailed descriptions. There’s not a lot of room for the reader’s imagination in way characters think, feel, or how the world works. Steel Crow Saga is written from four perspectives and by the time you reach the end of the book, you know pretty well how each of them thinks, multiple stories from their past, how they feel about their families, and their personal moral compasses. Regardless of how each flashback relates (or doesn’t) to the story… it’s all there. The wordiness in the writing style doubled with all this fleshing out made this a bit of a boring read for me.
Behind the author’s particular style, there’s a uniqueness to this book. Steel Crow Saga definitely draws inspiration from anime, and that’s something you don’t see in your casual epic fantasy. The way character should-bind to their familiars (called “shades”) feels very similar to the anime fantasy relationship between heroes and their swords. The relationship between human and shade reminds me of a watered down, more mutually beneficial version of Naruto’s relationship with the nine-tailed fox demon trapped inside him.
Like I said, very anime.
And for that, I have to apologize, because anime really isn’t my thing. It’s my husband’s thing and my familiarity of it is limited to the bits and pieces of what I’ve seen of his playlists. Maybe Naruto isn’t the best choice, but that’s what I’ve got in my repertoire. As I said, it’s a style I haven’t seen before in this format and I respect that uniqueness, but I also have to acknowledge that for all the sappiness and drama and grand gestures, it’s not the style I personally prefer.
The plot itself took the scenic route, with a lot of partner-swapping and sidetracked conversations to give a better idea of the political climate and the various character backgrounds. This may all play into the series plot, but there was some much time between plot sequences that I honestly forgot what the point of the whole thing was about halfway through. Then, fortunately, the villain made a quick appearance somewhere in the 300s and reminded me.
In as far as the characters go, they were all developed and interesting enough in their own accord, but now that I’ve finished, I don’t think I was able to connect with them closely enough that they’ll stay with me now that I’ve finished. I never felt an emotional connection to the characters, who spent a lot of time in discussion and and flat inner monologues. Even the relationship between Lee and Xiulan felt forced and awkward.
The character I liked best was Tala. Even though she was a sergeant, Tala had the most emotion and it was easiest to care about what her character thought and felt. Her actions didn’t always make sense, but she was the driving force that pushed me through some of the rougher bits; this is the advantage to a book with multiple POVs.
There was one scene with Xiulan that stood out to me. It’s made abundantly clear throughout the book that Xiulan had some horrible, traumatic experience with mushrooms (explained near the end). At one point, Xiulan finds herself in a refrigerator essentially being mocked by a box of mushrooms and I’m not sure quite why, but the scene was a bit hilarious. The writing was on point there and I really liked that scene. I don’t want to say more about it and risk spoilers, but look out for the box of MUSHROOMS, y’all.
I think this book would be more memorable to me, personally, if it had been trimmed down by at least 150 pages and condensed more effectively. However, as it stands, I think there will be an audience for this kind of writing. I’ve heard a few people excited for Steel Crow Saga, and I hope these people love it! Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a fit for me and I won’t be continuing the series.