Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

Good Reads Description:

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 stumbled while reading this one… I picked it up and put it down several times over the last few months.

Why, and what kept me reading?

  • The main reason is that I’m intimidated by page counts, especially when I get stalled in the first 100 pages… I got to about page 150 and the world hadn’t been fleshed out enough for me. I started to play the page-count head game. If this book slows down 1/4 of the way in, what’s the rest going to be like? I usually can hang on if I’m on the downhill side of 50%… I really need to feel grounded in the books that I read and the overall conflicts were not explained until Chapter 9. And it didn’t help that I’d just gone back-to back with two huge fantasy novels.
  • While the 4 countries themselves weren’t defined to my liking, the characters were excellent. This is what kept me reading. They are very different from each other in allegiance and personality… Tala, Jimuro, Lee, and Xiulian: soldier, prince, thief, detective (of sorts)… all connected to different levels of power within political makeup of the world. This allowed me to see the conflict arise from several points of view.
  • Shadepacting: I was never into Pokemon, but all descriptions of this book relate that the magic system is similar. The characters possess a shade or animal spirit that has been attached to their soul or being. This can help them fight or do a host of other actions to help them out in their quests. I liked it and felt that it was a perfect way of developing the character’s personalities even more than normal characterization.
  • Not only do the characters cut across country and socio-economic background, they represent many different sexualities that are completely normalized. This adds a good layer to the already deep appreciation that I have for this character building. Moral compasses spinning like tops, and a bit of romance thrown in… it’s an exciting challenge to the reader to figure which way Krueger will go next.

Overall, this was a book that I may have picked up at the wrong time… but there were things that kept me reading even if my mood wasn’t exactly with it.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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