Review: Steel Crow Saga

From the publisher:

Four destinies collide in a unique fantasy world of war and wonders, where empire is won with enchanted steel and magical animal companions fight alongside their masters in battle.

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.

I’m finding more and more that I’m starting to rely on book covers to draw my interest when I’m considering my next read. This has lead me down some really, really, dark paths of poorly written content… the whole mantra of “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” ends up whispered incessantly in my ear as I cringe over the books I’ve chosen. I flip them back and forth like a map I can’t read and despair as I heave the book and realize how far I’ve got to go until the end.

Don’t worry — are you worried?

Well, don’t be! The Steel Crow Saga was NOT one of these books!

The book cover certainly drew my interest when I came across it’s title. The publisher’s description got me even more excited for it. A soldier with a curse, a prince with a debt, a detective with a grudge and a thief with a broken heart. Now if THAT isn’t interest-grabbing, I’m not sure what is!

In the ARC I received, I want to note that Paul Krueger shares with us that this “is the most personal, autobiographical thing I’ve ever written.” This is a passion project — and one that hits every mark and will satisfy all it’s future readers.

I don’t usually find myself excited about books that talk about food. To be honest, I find myself skimming when an author goes into grave detail about meals as part of their world building. Not so with Steel Crow Saga.

Lee and Tala’s focus on food often left my mouth watering. The richness of the meals described, the cuisine differences between the different cultures, all of it was heady reading. I could sniff the freshly steamed rice. My mouth watered at the perfectly made adobo. It might have helped that I’m a HUGE fan of those types of dishes myself.

Even when I had no idea WHAT that these characters were eating, I was game to try whatever they were eating. If this book picks up a huge fan base, I can see them crowding around and buying a cookbook based off of the dishes the author talks about in this book.

OKAY… food aside. Let’s dive into the four narrators.

Tala, a soldier with a curse.

With Tala we find ourselves tied into what it means to be at the end of a war. How it may look for a devout solider, who gave everything to a cause, to be facing it’s end. With the sacrifices made of fellow comrades, with the pain of losing friends and family, Tala draws a narrative about the absolute realities of what war brings to soldiers.

She is someone that knows what it is to have conviction. How to push past your fear. And how to work hard, each and every day, no matter the cost. We also get to bare witness to people’s prejudices being so ingrained that we can’t fathom them overcoming them.

Jimuro, a prince with a debt

Of all the character’s arcs in this epic novel, Jimuro’s ended up being the most surprising to me. I really loved how the author interweaves the narratives to give us different perspectives of each character. Tala’s view of Jimuro truly shapes how you see him for a good portion of the book. Slowly, more and more is drawn out about Jimuro. He may be a prince destined for Steel Lord, but it’s through the eyes of Tala, and others, that we see how much more he is than the future he was born into. I wish I could do more to blather about Jimuro, because there IS A LOT TO BE EXCITED ABOUT, however — it’s something each reader needs to enjoy finding out through the story.

Xiulan, a detective with a grudge

I’m a sucker for a fellow book nerd… even when they’re characters in a book. Xiulan has big dreams and bigger aspirations as she strives to live her life like one of her favorite characters. The victim of a large royal family, Xiulan has lived a fairly isolated life, relying on books and pets to give her joy. Of all the characters, I found myself re-reading a lot of Xiulan’s content. I loved how poetic she spoke and how big her heart was.

Lee, a thief with a broken heart

I didn’t immediately see the connection of Lee to the story or with her “broken heart”. I loved seeing her banter and swagger. Her wit was easily displayed and her bravado when speaking to royals was something I found myself grinning over. Who doesn’t enjoy a good swaggering thief? Her place in the story often takes a backseat, but in this world, so do her people. It all makes sense further into the story. Trust me. Lee’s awesome.

I have to do it. I give this book a 5 out of 5. There are rich characters — truly richly written, in-depth, fairly treated, four distinctive narratives. The world building is inclusive to the story and doesn’t detract from it. This book will make you gasp, make you cry, make you squeal with delight, and make you hungry. It is a HUGE must read.

book review

Jessica Means View All →

My professional background in biotechnology as a research chemist and as a veterinary technician has allowed me to have experienced two vastly different fields and for that I am thankful. In both careers, I have mentored, encouraged, and developed talent.

As a mother of two (a daughter and a son), I’m a self-proclaimed backyard chicken guru and someone who has “foster failed” nearly all the animals currently running the household. Oh, and I maintain a husband in my spare time.

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