Petrik's Reviews > Steel Crow Saga

Steel Crow Saga by Paul   Krueger
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it was amazing
bookshelves: arcs-and-review-copies, owned-ebooks, favorites
Recommended for: Anime/Asian-inspired fantasy

ARC provided by the publisher—Gollancz—in exchange for an honest review.

4.5/5 stars

Multi-cultural, diverse characters & superbly character-driven narrative; Steel Crow Saga is a brilliant Asian/anime-inspired fantasy.


As an Asian who loves watching anime and reading mangas and SFF novels, Steel Crow Saga is a novel that felt as if it was written for me. Steel Crow Saga has been published for more than a month now, and I feel like I’ve sinned—Sloth—for postponing reading this book. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of my favorite anime of all time (seriously, watch the anime if you haven’t) and I also love Pokemon and Avatar: The Last Airbender; these three are the most dominant anime inspirations imbued into Steel Crow Saga. I REALLY would’ve read this book months ago, and I did have the chance to do that because I received the eARC from Gollancz in August. But here’s the thing, the eARC I received was so terribly formatted—it didn’t even include the entire prologue, for one—that I had to give up reading through it 15% in. Thankfully, what I’ve read so far back then was enough to solidify my decision to wait and read the finished copy instead. I’m super pleased that I made this decision; the wait was worth it because this is an amazing Anime/Asian-inspired fantasy book that’s worth reading without any hindrance.

“All the books in the world will never convey the technical realities of a procedure.”


Although Steel Crow Saga is marked as the first book of a series, do know that it is very much a standalone story; there’s no cliffhanger with the main stories whatsoever. The main plot revolves around four main characters: Tala, Jimuro, Xiulan, and Lee. Not only the four main characters have different roles in the story, but they also came from different countries that are deeply inspired by Asian countries in our real world. Tala is a soldier from Sanbu (Phillippines), Jimuro is a prince from Tomoda (Japanese), Xiulan is a detective from Shang (China), and Lee is a thief from Jeongson (Korea). As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, or maybe you’ve heard of it, Steel Crow Saga is enriched by both Anime and Asian inspirations; it makes for a refreshing read for me because incredible Asian-inspired fantasy novels are, in my opinion, relatively harder to find. I think Krueger did an awesome job writing this book; Steel Crow Saga is a book about what happened after the big war, a story about the neverending cycle of hatred caused by it, a story about forgiveness, and it’s a book that has everything readers usually love in their character-driven fantasy read. Do note that it’s better to not expect a fast-paced storyline, as per the case of the majority of character-driven fantasy, Krueger takes his time to progress the main story by making sure the characterizations and personality were on-point first, which he did spectacularly.

“Sanbuna lore had countless monsters, but the worst of them wore a human face.”


I’ve said this countless times before, but character-driven stories are my favorite type of novels to read. I loved that the book is slow-paced; I loved that the author takes his time to prioritize the characterizations foremost, making sure that I care about their journeys, feelings, struggles, and moral dilemmas. The characterizations given to the main characters were nothing short of incredible; it was rewarding to witness the characters’ development, both in attitudes and relationships. Furthermore, there were many passages that I found to be relatable. This one for example:

“He took off his glasses and polished them with the end of his tie. She found it striking, how odd the sight was to her. She knew they were an artificial addition to his face, but that didn’t change the fact that he looked incomplete without them.”


I feel seen through this little snippet; I’ve been wearing glasses for almost the entirety of my life, and I’m not kidding when I say that it has become a part of me and my look. I must say that I’m quite surprised by how few people mentioned Full Metal Alchemist inspiration in their review of this book; the inspirations were everywhere. For example, Tala and Dimangan's familial relationship reminded me of the Elric brothers in Full Metal Alchemist. Unfortunately, I can’t explain in detail as to why because I don’t want to spoil those who haven’t watched the anime masterpiece, which you really should. Moreover, there’s this obvious nod to the anime that filled me with glee:

“Lieutenant Riza, Special Division,” she said, borrowing the name from her hawk-eyed firing instructor.”


Picture: Riza Hawkeye from Full Metal Alchemist



Plus, there’s a city called Hagane in this book. Hagane is “metal” in Japanese, and Full Metal Alchemist in Japan is called Hagane no Renkinjutsushi. Alright, I’m going to stop talking about Full Metal Alchemist inspirations here otherwise I risk expanding this review even longer than it already is; this entire review is just a long way of me saying “yes, read Steel Crow Saga and also watch Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood please.”

The other two dominant anime inspirations that made this book more impressive were Pokemon and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Do you love reading about fantasy books that have animal companions in it? I do. Well, Krueger leveled it up by making these animal companions come in magic form called Shade, and a certain set of people in this book can Shadepact—creating a special bond with these magical animals and making them appear by calling their names, just like how it is in Pokemon. The second magic system is called Metalpact—bending/control metal to their will.

“He was Tomodanese, and with metal in hand his people could work terrible miracles.”


The magic systems were simple, easy to understand, and yet they also made the book, especially its actions, so much more entertaining. As I’ve mentioned before, Steel Crow Saga may be slow-paced and heavy on characterizations, but please don’t misunderstand this statement; there’s still plenty of well-written action sequences to be found in this book. The climax sequences, in particular, were intensely gripping and emotional. Combining the best of both magic and steel, Krueger crafted a concluding battle scene that ended Steel Crow Saga impactfully and satisfyingly.

Before I close this review, I would like to praise Krueger on his Asian-inspiration world-building. Krueger is a Filipino-American author, and I’m not Filipino so I won’t claim to understand all the traditions and culture around it. The people of Dahal, if I’m not mistaken, is based on Indian. As for the other Asian countries’ traditions, languages, foods, and cultures that I’m more familiar with, I have to say that Krueger did a great job of implementing them into his world-building while making sure that this is still a fantasy book. Let’s take a look at this:

“A Tomodanese surname for her was a tricky thing, since the Tomodanese language didn’t have an L sound.”


In our real-world, the Japanese (Tomodanese in this book) language has the same rule applied. If I were to say my surname “Leo,” in Japanese it would be “Reo.” Then for the people of Shang (China), they called their little sister “meimei” (Chinese for little sister) and their big sister “jiejie” (Chinese for big sister. However, the usage of language isn’t the only thing that Krueger included, even the way the characters behave and the clothing the main characters wear respectively were simply on-point. Additionally, the variety of Asian food and beverages such as soju, kimchi, soba, gochujang, mapo tofu, adobo, etc and the way they’re consumed also enhanced the authenticity of the Asian-inspired world-building.

Powerfully fueled by a palpable passion for anime, fantasy and everything Asian, Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger is a magnificently entertaining book you don’t want to miss reading. If you’ve been craving for an Asian/anime-inspired fantasy, or maybe character-driven fantasy in general, with on-point characterizations, I don’t see how you’ll go wrong with giving Steel Crow Saga a read.

Sidenote:
Both the US & UK editions—especially the US edition that’s illustrated by Chun Lo—has gorgeous cover art; I’m going to procure myself a physical copy as soon as I’m able.


You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
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Reading Progress

October 30, 2019 – Shelved
November 2, 2019 – Started Reading
November 4, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-30 of 30 (30 new)

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message 1: by Rinaldo (new) - added it

Rinaldo My inner weeb senses tingle so hard whenever this book is mentioned. It seems finally I have to put this in my Mt. TBR. Thanks for bankrupting me, Petrik XD


Petrik Rinaldo wrote: "My inner weeb senses tingle so hard whenever this book is mentioned. It seems finally I have to put this in my Mt. TBR. Thanks for bankrupting me, Petrik XD"

Not gonna lie, this is heaven for us weebs, bro. Seriously, the FMA & Pokemon inspirations are everywhere that I ended up having so much fun reading it! xD


message 3: by Rossana (new) - added it

Rossana wooo now I'm super interested in this one! I always love asian inspired fantasy stories! At first I discarded it 'cause it's advertised as a YA and I almost always struggle with those... but after your review I need to read it! I also aprreciate the fact that it doesn't end with a cliffhanger, I hate when I have to wait several months to see some kind of resolution!


message 4: by Petrik (last edited Nov 05, 2019 02:24AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Petrik Rossana wrote: "wooo now I'm super interested in this one! I always love asian inspired fantasy stories! At first I discarded it 'cause it's advertised as a YA and I almost always struggle with those... but after ..."

This one is VERY Asian-inspired story, Rossana! Seriously, i don't think there's a character that's non-Asian here for instance. The culture, the way of eating; all of them were written really well!

I wouldn't say it's YA, I'm pretty surprised that it's advertised as one actually. It's more like Mistborn; accessible to both adult and younger audience!

I hope you'll enjoy this one, it's a standalone story, and if the author write more in this world, it probably will focus on different characters in a different part of the world! :)


message 5: by Rossana (new) - added it

Rossana Wow, now I'm super sold!!


Petrik Rossana wrote: "Wow, now I'm super sold!!"

Woohoooo! :D


message 7: by Virginie (last edited Nov 05, 2019 03:21AM) (new) - added it

Virginie Ok, this was already on my TBR (mainly because I heard that Avatar: The Last Airbender was a major inspiration for it, and the cover looks cool :p) but man... You just pushed it up to the top :)
As a half-Asian, anime & manga and SFF fan, it seems perfect for me. I've only started to really connect with my Asian heritage 2-3 years ago, because my mother was reluctant to talk about it, with good reasons; she survived through 5 years of forced labor and starvation under the Pol Pot regime. But now that I visited Cambodia for the first time, I can't wait to see if there's inklings of khmer culture in this book too :D


Petrik Virginie wrote: "Ok, this was already on my TBR (mainly because I heard that Avatar: The Last Airbender was a major inspiration for it, and the cover looks cool :p) but man... You just pushed it up to the top :)
As..."


Yeahhh!! TBR Demon succeed! :p

I didn't know that you have an Asian blood in you, I think seeing that you also love anime, manga, and SFF like me, you will also love this book!

Yikes... that's rough though regarding what happened your mom, what a survivor. :/

You have to let me know if there's any culture I missed! There were so many of them but majority of what I know are Chinese, Korean, and Japanese!


message 9: by Ivan (new) - added it

Ivan Well, I'll be putting it on my TBR shortlist! ATLA and FMA:B were the only animated series I had rated with a 10 for a long time, until I watched Seirei no Moribito earlier this year. Loved the animals in ATLA and also other similarities you mentioned.

This is my first comment on one of your reviews, so I want to take the opportunity to thank you for all your reviews as well as your list of favourites. I started reading again two months ago or so, and now have a super interesting TBR list thanks to you (and Goodreads, of course). Cheers!


message 10: by Audrey (new) - added it

Audrey Great review Petrik I never heard about this book before so yeah you convince me again and hop in my tbr. I have a question to you plan to read the second trilogy of powdermage ?


message 11: by ChopinFC (new) - added it

ChopinFC Another great review bro! May have to add this TBR. After 'Sword of Keigen', 'Jade War/City', 'I've taken a real love for Asian-based fantasies.


message 12: by Micperk (last edited Nov 05, 2019 12:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Micperk Great review bro, I legit thought to myself while reading it, "Petrik has to read this." Glad you enjoyed it. We are the dead by Mike Shackle was another asian inspired fantasy I just gave 5 stars. The entire book setting felt like the video game sekiro or ninja gaiden. Took a moment to really shine but when I finished it I really enjoyed it,


Calvin Park I loved this one! So glad you did too!


message 14: by Petrik (last edited Nov 05, 2019 06:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Petrik Ivan wrote: "Well, I'll be putting it on my TBR shortlist! ATLA and FMA:B were the only animated series I had rated with a 10 for a long time, until I watched Seirei no Moribito earlier this year. Loved the ani..."

FMA: B is a masterpiece of an anime, I've watched it several times and it seems to never age. Crazy how good it is. I don't think I've watched Seirei no Moribito yet! I have to though, heard many great things about it. Hope you'll enjoy this book!

Aww you're welcome! Thank you for commenting and the kind words! I hope you'll find more amazing books to read! :)


Petrik Audrey wrote: "Great review Petrik I never heard about this book before so yeah you convince me again and hop in my tbr. I have a question to you plan to read the second trilogy of powdermage ?"

Thanks, Audrey! Woohoo for going into your TBR! OH YES, I plan to start the Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy at the end of this month or the beginning of December! So excited for it.


Petrik ChopinFC wrote: "Another great review bro! May have to add this TBR. After 'Sword of Keigen', 'Jade War/City', 'I've taken a real love for Asian-based fantasies."

Thank you, bro! Asian-inspired fantasy are incredible when they're done right, as you can see from Sword of Kaigen and Green Bone Saga, and I think this is another case where it's done right. It's slower than those two I mentioned and it has less impact save the ending, but the nuanced, world-building, characterizations were all on point! :)


Petrik Micperk wrote: "Great review bro, I legit thought to myself while reading it, "Petrik has to read this." Glad you enjoyed it. We are the dead by Mike Shackle was another asian inspired fantasy I just gave 5 stars...."

Thank you, bro! Thanks for the reminder about this one! I had dropped it, as I mentioned in my review, and your reminder made me pick up the finished copy! :)

I've heard many good things about We Are the Deadactually, but I didn't receive the ARC and I'm too broke at the moment. Gonna wait until later on I guess xD


Petrik Calvin wrote: "I loved this one! So glad you did too!"

Thank you, Calvin! Great minds think alike! :)


message 19: by Audrey (new) - added it

Audrey Looking forward to read your review on the second trilogy of powdermages😉


Petrik Audrey wrote: "Looking forward to read your review on the second trilogy of powdermages😉"

Yayy!! Look forward to them! :D


message 21: by Victoria (new) - added it

Victoria Rose Your reviews are always so detailed, Petrik! This sounds pretty great :)


message 22: by Maria João (new) - added it

Maria João Your review convinced me to buy this one. I'm watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood right now and loving it.


Petrik Victoria wrote: "Your reviews are always so detailed, Petrik! This sounds pretty great :)"

Thank you so much, Victoria! I try my best xD


Petrik Maria João wrote: "Your review convinced me to buy this one. I'm watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood right now and loving it."

That's so good to hear, Maria!! Enjoy both this book and the tv series! FMA: Brotherhood is one of my favorite anime of all time! :D


message 25: by Haïfa (new)

Haïfa FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST???? Sign me in please!!!
This sounds amazing Petrik!
Spot on review btw!


Petrik Haïfa wrote: "FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST???? Sign me in please!!!
This sounds amazing Petrik!
Spot on review btw!"


YESSSS! Give it a read so we can talk about it! And it's a standalone! Thank you, my friend! :)


message 27: by TS (new) - added it

TS Chan NOT HELPING MY TBR AT ALL!!!
Fantastic review, as usual, my bad-influencing friend.


message 28: by Petrik (last edited Nov 06, 2019 06:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Petrik TS wrote: "NOT HELPING MY TBR AT ALL!!!
Fantastic review, as usual, my bad-influencing friend."


Thank you, my friend! Hahaha likewise! Hope you'll enjoy this one! xD


message 29: by Vibur (new) - added it

Vibur Awesome review, Petrik! Once you mention Pokemon and anime together, you betcha I'm gonna add it to my to-read list :D


Petrik Vibur wrote: "Awesome review, Petrik! Once you mention Pokemon and anime together, you betcha I'm gonna add it to my to-read list :D"

Thanks, Vibur! Well, from your picture, I can definitely see that you're a Pokemon fans! I hope you'll love this one too! :D


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