Book Review: Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

Rating:  ★★★

I have to say- I was a little disappointed with this.  I’ll be up front and say that the premise: Pokemon meets Airbender, is in no way my thing- so your mileage may vary.  In my defense I didn’t see it marketed that way until well after I started reading it, but the comparison is legitimate enough, and the Pokemon part was a lot of fun.

However I couldn’t shake the feeling that the motivations for these characters and their countries didn’t always make sense.  When the book starts we are with Dimangan and Tala, observing them as children running errands in the market.  While there, they see the prince of the Tomodanese people jetting through the streets.  The Tomodanese people occupy Sanbuna by force, and the prince’s presence in the street starts a riot.

The problem is: the Tomodanese view the Sanbuna and their shades (think Pokemon) as slavers and slaves respectively.  The Tomodanese don’t eat meat and they don’t believe in utilizing animals for human benefit.  Basically, they are PETA.

And of course, the Sanbuna don’t view it that way.  The pact between them and their shades is an agreement, with give and take, not slavery.  (They do eat meat though…)  Cultural views on animals aside, obviously the Sanbuna are angry at the attempted colonization and occupation of their country.

Anyway- now that we’ve got that straightened out, what I don’t understand is what the other two cultures we are introduced to have anything to do with it.  There are also the Shang, and the Jeongsonese.  All of which seem to be against the Tomodanese, and then to top it off, the Shang, Sanbuna, and Tomodanese all look down upon the Jeongsonese, despite the fact that they don’t seem to have done anything.

Sound complex?  It is.  And I’m okay with complex.. but without knowing the motivations of the other two countries involved I wasn’t sure why the author felt the need to include them.  It seemed needlessly complex and without knowing the reasoning behind it I couldn’t help but feel like it was added to give the world building an illusion of depth.

Does that sort of thing happen in real life?  Yes.  Of course.  Is it right?  Of course not.  But I couldn’t help feeling throughout like Lee and Xiulan’s story really would have been better dedicated to a different plot and a different book, and being given the time it needed to establish how these cultures all fit together.

The characters aren’t terrible, but occasionally felt like cartoons and caricatures.  Xiulan runs around in an all white suit, calls herself the “White Rat,” wears a fedora and smokes a pipe in an endless to homage to her childhood hero, a detective from a book, Bai Junjie.  Lee is a morally grey thief character, rogue archetype.  She’s always imagining how it would feel to pick so-and-so’s pocket, or slip a lock or infiltrate a palace.  I guess my issue is they came off as very one note.

And to top it off… this book is long.  Way too long.  I think if it had been trimmed down to 300 pages and strictly followed Tala and Jimuro’s story, we’d have had a tightly paced plot with world building that didn’t feel flimsy and a truly unique take on fantasy.  Lee and Xiulan’s parts in the story could easily have been removed without effecting the overall plot and end result.

But I don’t have all negative things to say about it.  There is LGBT+ representation.  The f/f romance actually felt much stronger and sweeter than the m/f romance.  At least one of the main characters is bisexual, and there is a transgender side character.  And it was all done without any of them being shunned or feeling ashamed.

And despite me not necessarily loving Pokemon or Airbender, I have to say, imagining the battle field running rampant with magical, mutated-animal creatures was lots of fun.  Overall not a bad book that I think other readers will find more joy in than I did.

Steel Crow Saga releases on September 24th, and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to Del Rey and NetGalley for providing an eARC for review.


21 thoughts on “Book Review: Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

  1. I’ve heard similar reviews about this book and I have to say it’s a bit disappointing. The premise and cover had captured my attention early on and I was eager to read this. Awesome review though! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • You should still totally read it. I tend to be overly critical. I don’t do it on purpose- I’m just picky about some things. A book that’s 500 pages long should have a plot that’s a little tighter without being able to drop one storyline entirely and still deliver the same story.

      I have a couple Good Reads friends who did enjoy it so really don’t let my review stop you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m really intrigued by the Pokemon aspect of this story, even though I’m not really a fan either, but it does sound confusing. I got a copy at Comic Con and I may still read it depending on how my September goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly what happened to me! I was reading it at night on my kindle and it was just putting me to sleep. I finally buckled down on Saturday and forced myself to finish because I just wanted to be done with it. Glad I’m not alone though!


  3. Sounds like a fun premise, though I agree that it sounds like the book needed a bit of trimming. This is the second book I’ve read the blurb for recently that mentions Pokemon as an inspiration for worldbuilding, so I’m curious to see if that theme continues! (I don’t remember now what the other one was, though. Hmm.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always struggled to find the appeal of Pokemon, but the cover is so pretty and the premise of this story sounds good!

    I’m sorry to see that you didn’t think it completely lived up to it’s promise though.
    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah try the sample. I do have to say- I guess it does technically fall into the realm of adult, but it felt more YA to me. I don’t know why. I still haven’t precisely figured out the answer to what makes YA, YA, other than protagonist age.


  5. Pingback: Month in Review: August 2019 | Hamlets & Hyperspace

  6. This one seems to have issues that just can’t be overlooked. The marketing pitch is however hilariously interesting. Pokemon meets Airbender… Never would I have thought of that one. And, while I love complex, this one definitely doesn’t sound like it does complex right… Great honest review, Sarah!

    Liked by 1 person

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