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.
At first I really struggled to keep reading this book – not because it was bad, but because mentally I couldn’t quite connect and that was reflection of me and the world right now. I tried twice and was about to put aside for later (definitely not a dnf!) when a friend mentioned reading it on audio. So I thought I’d try that, and I’m really glad I did.
While it does take a while to get going, I loved the characters throughout, and especially liked how the relationships progressed through the story. Nothing is simple and clear cut, and there is insta-like but time is needed for feelings to develop.
You also get a beautifully complicated political world, from Xiulan and her family, to the iron prince and his throne. Jimuro really grew on me, and at the end he is really strong despite wavering in places through the book. I loved Lee, and her history and her flirting. Tala (and Mang!) is fantastic and probably goes through the most – certainly her storyline made me full on sob at one point. And Xiulan is probably my favourite, just for her reliance on her detective stories and her formalities. I loved them.
I also loved that there were multiple magic systems in place, and it was an evolving world – certainly seeing that start to happen politically was incredibly satisfying.
This sits brilliantly on its own, and it’s so satisfying to jump into a stand-alone novel that is as well done as this one. While I’d love to read more snippets from this universe, I think the ending perfectly wraps everything up while leaving enough room for hope and the future. An easy 4.5 star read.
Buy Steel Crow Saga from Waterstones.