Book Review: Steel Crow Saga

Paul Krueger

Rating: 5 out of 5.

published: 26th September 2019
spoilers? no


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.

If my people run from the horror of what we’ve done, in time we would forget. And if we forget, we might one day do it again. Your peoples do not have the luxury of forgetting how you’ve suffered.

Galley provided by publisher

This is probably the best book I have read this year. Yes, I’ve read over 200 at this point, yes, I’ve read some excellent books (mostly sequels), but this book. This book. I knew from the first few pages that this was going to be a 5-star read, it’s that good.

Steel Crow Saga is set in the aftermath of a revolution. The combined forces of Shang, Sanbuna and Dahal have fought and defeated their coloniser, Tomoda. But now they have to make this fragile peace permanent. For the past three years, the now sole remaining heir to the Empire, Jimuro, has been imprisoned by Sanbuna, but he is now the hope for peace. So, Tala is tasked with escorting him to Tomoda. Meanwhile, Lee and Xiulan, two investigators, are on Jimuro’s trail, themselves hoping to bring him in and gain the Shang Emperor’s respect.

First and foremost, the best thing about this book is the characters and their development. The four major characters are: Lee, a thief who’s learnt only to look out for herself; Xiulan, a Shang Princess looking to prove herself; Tala, the warrior tasked with protecting her greatest enemy; and Jimuro, the next ruler of Tomoda whose life rests solely in the hands of those who despise him most. So already we’re set up with some fascinating and flawed characters. Recently, I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of books where the characters can be summed up in a single word. Not so here. They’re wonderfully fully fleshed-out, you could be right there with them they feel so realistic. And they get some excellent character development. Especially Jimuro. Gotta cop to never having seen Avatar: The Last Airbender here, but I’ve picked up enough about it to know that Jimuro gets a Zuko-esque redemption arc. Not some cop-out where he has a single heroic deed and is thus forgiven, but an arc where he works towards changing himself and his country. And the other three mains get similarly amazing development as well.

Secondly, the worldbuilding is just epic. If you liked the kind of worldbuilding that Jade City and The Poppy War presented you with, fantasy allegories for real-life countries and events, then this book will be right up your alley. If you like the kind of steampunk fantasy that Fullmetal Alchemist gives you, again, this book is for you. If you want a magic system that’s something like if you crossed FMA with Pokémon (go with it), then this book is most definitely for you. And if you’ve never seen or read any of those, or didn’t particularly like them, read the book anyway. Trust me you won’t regret it. It’s a book that’s been getting a lot of comparisons to anime, and that’s exactly right (also, it would make the most epic anime, but I digress).

I feel like I’ve rambled on a lot here, but there’s no easy way to express how much I love this book. It’s 600+ pages and I read the bulk of it in a couple of hours because I just couldn’t put it down. I had to force myself to go to bed instead of just finishing it like I wanted to. I can’t remember the last time I felt like that about a book (probably a couple of months back, if we’re honest), but this book was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. Truly.

Which means, you should absolutely go and preorder this, and then wait impatiently for September to come.

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