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.
You want action? This book has that. You want magical animal companions? This book has that. You want colourful characters that compliment and clash against each other? You guessed it, this book has that.
Much has been made about just how “anime” Steel Crow Saga is, and honestly, I can’t really dispute that claim. I’m not much of an anime fan myself (beyond enjoying Fullmetal Alchemist) but I am a fan of how Paul Krueger manages to pull from those influences to create an engaging and exciting story that stands apart from the books I’ve read before.
I love books that are unashamedly themselves. Those that celebrate their tropes and revel in them. So while I did admittedly find some of the dialogue to be a little cheesy, or some of the character’s reactions to be a little melodramatic at times, I didn’t really mind. Steel Crow Saga is proud of what it is, and what it is… is fucking fun.
And not “fun” in that damning-with-faint-praise kind of way. I mean this book is a fucking riot. The characters are vibrant and full of personality and pain and longing. The world is modern, but imbued with a sense of magic and complexity that keeps you reading just on the off-chance that you might learn more about it. Steel Crow Saga may be fun, but that doesn’t mean that it’s simple. It goes into a pretty in-depth exploration of the effects of colonialism on people adjacent to it, for one thing.
And this, of course, ties into the characters. The blurb copied above does a great job of introducing them, but I want to comment on just how much I enjoyed how the history of the world, and each character’s individual background, ties into their worldviews. From the prince that doesn’t want to be a slave to his people’s shitty colonialist past, to the impoverished thief trying to get over her innate distrust of her oppressors, to someone simply wanting to stand up for themselves against their family.
Krueger is wonderful at crafting these characters that are deserving of sympathy. You want to see them succeed, all of them.
But the catch there is that, a lot of the time, these characters are on opposite sides.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a big bad. But the complexities of the world mean that it isn’t as simple as just teaming up to fight a Pokemon battle against Team Rocket. There are politics and feelings and all sorts of other stuff in the way.
I love it when a world is that complex. But what I really loved about Steel Crow Saga is that it achieved that complexity without sacrificing its sense of wonder. The magic here feels magic. Whether that comes in the form of someone who can shape metal, or someone who can summon a giant animal to fight for them.
Steel Crow Saga is a book that will appeal to a lot of people. There are lots of high-action scenes, plenty of heart-to-heart moments between characters, and a whole lot of magic. There is so much more to this book than I’ve touched on, but honestly it’s a book best experienced for yourself. If you’re strongly opposed to a little bit of cheesiness, I’d maybe look elsewhere. But if you aren’t, and if anything else I’ve said sounds up your alley, I really think you’ll enjoy this one.
Steel Crow Saga releases on the 26th of September, 2019.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.