Steel Crow Saga

Steel Crow Saga

by Paul Krueger

Narrated by Kim Mai Guest

Unabridged — 23 hours, 20 minutes

Steel Crow Saga

Steel Crow Saga

by Paul Krueger

Narrated by Kim Mai Guest

Unabridged — 23 hours, 20 minutes

Audiobook (Digital)

$22.50
FREE With a B&N Audiobooks Subscription | Cancel Anytime
$0.00

Free with a B&N Audiobooks Subscription | Cancel Anytime

START FREE TRIAL

Already Subscribed? 

Sign in to Your BN.com Account


Listen on the free Barnes & Noble NOOK app


Related collections and offers

FREE

with a B&N Audiobooks Subscription

Or Pay $22.50

Overview

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.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR ¿ Tordotcom ¿ Kirkus Reviews*

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 against 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 she 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.


Editorial Reviews

DECEMBER 2019 - AudioFile

Kim Mai Guest narrates a story about the aftermath of war. After a devastating decades-long conflict has finally ended, a soldier, a prince, a detective, and a thief from opposing sides must lay down their mutual animosities and work together to help usher in a new era of peace. The frequent point of view shifts, extremely complex plot, and variety of accents present in the story may appear daunting, but Guest is up to the challenge. Each of the four main characters is deeply psychologically damaged in some way, and all of them bury that trauma. Guest skillfully teases out the nuances of the characters’ individual suffering in ways that are truly amazing. K.M.P. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine

The New York Times Book Review - Amal El-Mohtar

…set in a fantasy East Asia with world-building that evokes both Pokémon and Avatar: The Last Airbender without feeling derivative of either…The magic system and geopolitics are both elegantly simple…Steel Crow Saga is a vigorously animated novel that shifts from shade to light with the warmth of a beating heart.

Publishers Weekly

06/03/2019

Four cultures collide in this disjointed journey across a land reminiscent of post-colonial Southeast Asia. Iron Prince Jimuro of Tomoda, last of his bloodline, fights to make it to his own coronation, hoping to establish an unprecedented reign of peace. Bitter and remorseful Tala of the Sanbu Islands wears her anger like a shield, and ensuring the safety of Prince Jimuro is the only goal that spurs her on. Lee Yeon-Ji of the Jeongson vassal state of Shang, who lives by her rule of “leave them before they leave you,” is recruited into the powerful Li-Quan police force and sent to capture the prince. Princess Shang Xiulan vies for the Shang throne against her own sister by using the Iron Prince as an offering. Magic abilities pop up without notice as the plot requires, and the geographical staging and overlapping territories are confusing. Krueger (Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge) does little to develop the plot or the fantastical aspects of the setting, but the book teems with cultural references in the characters’ personalities. Readers with a taste for Southeast Asian culture will appreciate the backdrop, even if they are less than won over by the story itself. Agent: DongWon Song, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

A heady look at postcolonial emotions, Asian cultures, and anime influences . . . a well-built magical world of warring factions.”Library Journal (starred review)

“With a well-realized world and strong characters, many of whom are queer, Krueger's novel will feel as fast-paced and exciting as its animated influences and leave the reader longing for more. Highly recommended for any fantasy fan.”Booklist (starred review)

“A post-colonial fantasy draws on Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Filipino cultures for a multinational tale of political intrigue. . . . This Asian-influenced sociopolitical drama explores the complications that ensue after the war, when no one's hands are clean. Characters face the consequences of the choices they made during the conflict and consider whether it's possible to rise above deeply ingrained prejudices and forge alliances with former enemies. Such grave matters are leavened by amusing banter, solid action, and two charming nascent romances of opposites. As tasty as the mushroom adobo that appears in the book both as food and metaphor.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 
 
“Starts with a bang and never slows down . . . Think Pokémon meets The Golden Compass, with plenty of original and frightening twists along the way. . . . Krueger deftly gives each character their own point of view without losing sight of the novel’s central theme: We’re stronger together than we are alone.”BookPage

DECEMBER 2019 - AudioFile

Kim Mai Guest narrates a story about the aftermath of war. After a devastating decades-long conflict has finally ended, a soldier, a prince, a detective, and a thief from opposing sides must lay down their mutual animosities and work together to help usher in a new era of peace. The frequent point of view shifts, extremely complex plot, and variety of accents present in the story may appear daunting, but Guest is up to the challenge. Each of the four main characters is deeply psychologically damaged in some way, and all of them bury that trauma. Guest skillfully teases out the nuances of the characters’ individual suffering in ways that are truly amazing. K.M.P. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2019-09-30
A post-colonial fantasy draws on Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Filipino cultures for a multinational tale of political intrigue.

The nations of Sanbu, Shang, and Dahal have thrown off the colonial rule of the Tomodanese Empire. A Sanbuna troop is delegated to escort the captured Iron Prince Jimuro to the vacant throne of Tomoda so he can establish a new, peaceful, and presumably conciliatory relationship with the other nations. The plan falls apart when a splintersoul, a Sanbuna man with the frightening (and believed impossible) power to shadepact (i.e., bond) with multiple animal spirits and to steal others' pacts from them, attacks the ship carrying the prince. Only the prince and one of his escort survives: Sgt. Tala, who has hidden her own ability to forge shadepacts both to a crow and to her brother Dimangan—a bond considered taboo. Jimuro and Tala struggle toward the Tomodanese capital of Hagane, trailed by a group of Tomodanese noble rebels; the eccentric Shang princess and law enforcement officer Xiulan, who models herself after a fictional Holmes-ian detective and hopes that capturing the prince will lead to her own throne; Xiulan's new partner and potential crush, the clever but emotionally bruised Jeongsonese thief Lee Yeon-Ji; and the splintersoul Mayon, who has some strange and deadly motives of his own. Like some other contemporary authors, Krueger (Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, 2016), who's Filipino American, eschews the tropes of high fantasy established in late-20th-century novels inspired by European cultures, set during conflict, and expressing a fairly dichotomous morality. In contrast, this Asian-influenced sociopolitical drama explores the complications that ensue after the war, when no one's hands are clean. Characters face the consequences of the choices they made during the conflict and consider whether it's possible to rise above deeply ingrained prejudices and forge alliances with former enemies. Such grave matters are leavened by amusing banter, solid action, and two charming nascent romances of opposites.

As tasty as the mushroom adobo that appears in the book both as food and metaphor.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940169240245
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 09/24/2019
Series: Steel Crow Saga , #1
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 918,627

Read an Excerpt

This wasn’t Lee Yeon-­Ji’s first time in a jail cell, but unless the executioner changed their mind, it was looking to be her last.

The kingdom of Shang had never expected much from women like Lee, and she’d never expected a whole lot from Shang, either. All she’d ever wanted was enough room to slip about, pulling the small jobs and scams that had always kept her stomach and her ­pockets . . . well, not full, but at least more than empty. That’d been easy enough to manage during the Tomodanese occupation, and she figured it should have been even easier now that the Shang kingdom was rebuilding itself. For the most part, she’d even been right.

She just hadn’t accounted for the depths to which some people would stoop to be a prick.

She didn’t bother getting to her feet as two officers appeared beyond the bars of her cell. They were a tall woman and a short man, in scarlet guard uniforms of fine Shang wool. The tall guard rattled the cell’s bars with her baton. “On your—”

“—feet?” Lee said, with a quirk of her eyebrow. It was thin and long and sharp, like the rest of her face, like the rest of her everything. “That was what you were going to say, right? Figured I’d save you some breath, considering you Shang are about to save me a lot of mine.”

“Mouth off all you want,” said the short guard. “See what kind of mercy that gets you.”

“Oh, come on,” Lee pouted. “Could you convict and execute a face like this?”

The tall guard sneered. “Get on your feet, or I’ll summon my shade and leave it in there with you. You’re just a dogf***er. I wouldn’t even get in trouble.”

There was a time when the slur dogf***er would have hurt Lee’s feelings. But for any of the thousands of Jeongsonese living in Shang, that particular slur lost its impact by their third birthday. And Lee was a good eighteen years removed from her third birthday; she barely even registered the term now.

So in the face of the woman’s threat, Lee just shrugged. “f*** it. Go ahead. If your shade’s a dog, I’d probably find a way to enjoy myself.” The thought of actually f***ing a dog made her skin crawl. But if these puffed-­up Shang were dead set on seeing her as nothing more than a dogf***er, why not play the role to the hilt on her way off the stage?

The woman was unamused by Lee’s performance. “You don’t want me to do that, girl. She bites.” She held up a hand, which was missing its last two fingers.

Lee considered pointing out it was extremely unlikely that the shade had done that, since shades were supposed to contain part of their human partner’s soul, and vice versa. But rather than annoy this guard who’d just as soon do the executioner’s job for them, she sighed and stood at last. “Lead the way, Officers,” she said, and let them take her on one last walk through the Kennel.

The prison hadn’t always been called the Kennel. Under Tomodanese control, it had been called Fort Asanuma, after the daito who’d once ruled Jungshao. And before that, in the days of the first Shang kingdom, it had been called the Temple of Justice. Even now, with Tomoda defeated and Shang ascendant once more, it had just been renamed Jungshao Prison. But the locals on both sides of the bars called it the Kennel, and who was Lee to argue with custom?

Besides, in her book there were worse things to be compared to than a dog.

The Kennel’s corridors were open air, the cellblocks forming separate buildings within a larger courtyard. This meant her cell got sunlight most days, but today there were only thick gray clouds and a thin, steady drizzle. The rain collected between the slate tiles underfoot, and they sloshed faintly with each step Lee took toward her impending death.

Some of her fellow inmates sat in their cells and stared at their feet as she passed, slouching like beaten circus animals. Others shouted things at her: Obscenities. Jeers about the gibbet that awaited her. Variations on the same four slurs she’d been hearing her whole life. She found it easy to ignore them all. Her stay in the Kennel had been so brief that if she were a man, she wouldn’t have even had the time to grow decent stubble.

Right by the front gates of the prison stood a gibbet. On one end of it was a high gallows and a trapdoor; on the other, a polished wooden block whose surface was slick with rain. This was the custom in Shang: that condemned citizens would be allowed to take ownership of their death by choosing how they got to make their exit. Lee just wished Shang custom included options like “drowning yourself in soju” or “death by a thousand naked women.”

A few prison guards were there to oversee the execution. A white-­robed executioner stood atop the gibbet, leaning on a huge, heavy saber. And waiting at the foot of the stairs was the strikingly handsome Magistrate How, arguably the most powerful man in the newly liberated province of Jungshao. He hadn’t been the first enemy Lee had made in her life, but apparently he was going to be the last.

Lee smiled mirthlessly to herself. He’d come to see her off personally. How thoughtful of him.

A squat woman fell into step next to her: Warden Qu. She looked oddly at home in the rain, but perhaps it only seemed that way because of her toadlike appearance. “What will it be, Lee?” she said. “The rope or the blade?”

“Don’t suppose you’d let me order off the menu?” Lee said. She kept her tone even, but her traitor heart started to race as she eyed her two choices. It’d been easy to remain cool and detached before now, hiding behind smirks, snark, and silence. But you couldn’t exactly smile your way out from under the shadow of a gibbet.

“You’re hardly the first guest to make that comment.” The warden sighed. She always referred to the inmates as guests, like they were all friends bunking together at a roadside inn. “Have you made your choice?”

Lee did the math. Escape was impossible. If she made a break for it, they’d either shoot her or sic their shades on her. And it wasn’t like she had one of her own to summon; her native Jeongson was a vassal state of Shang, and only Shang-­born citizens were allowed to know the secrets of shadepacting. Not that the steelhounds had been better, the bastards. Some of the Jeongsonese had actually welcomed Tomoda when they’d first arrived on Shang’s shores, eager to see their oppressors given a taste of their own medicine. But as far as overlords went, the Tomodanese had been more of a lateral move than an upgrade.

She sighed, as if choosing the manner of her death were little more than an annoying household chore. “Sword,” she said. “Any chance he can warm it up before he swings it? My neck’s cold.”

The warden rolled her eyes, then waddled over to the gibbet to let the executioner know. Lee prepared to follow her up the stairs, but the magistrate held up a hand. “A moment,” he said in the bouncy tones typical of Shang’s public servants.

“You mind, Magistrate?” Lee said. No point in observing pleasantries now. “I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

“I just wanted to remind you,” said Magistrate How, “that everyone has their betters, and this is what happens when you test them. There’s a natural order to things, and Heaven forbids that it be upset.”

Lee shrugged. “I’ll lodge a complaint when I get there. Get right to the heart of the matter.”

Magistrate How, born pale enough, went even paler.

“What?” said Lee. “Can’t stomach a friendly chat in the rain?”

All the color had drained from the magistrate’s face. Lee could practically see the veins and capillaries in his cheeks. “How dare you!” he shrieked, then slapped her across the face. He didn’t have a lot of strength in him, but he had a lot of rings on his fingers, and they stung fiercely when they connected with her cheekbones.

The warden came running. “Magistrate How!” she said. ­“What—?”

“Don’t mind him,” Lee said. “The man’s just venting his spleen. I’ll have me that sword now.”

Magistrate How scoffed. “As if I’d ever allow you a clean death,” he said, his imperious tones back in full force. “Warden, executioner, you shall hang her!”

The warden shook her head. “Apologies, Magistrate,” she said. “The law’s clear: We must honor her choice of the sword.”

“I am the law,” the magistrate said, rounding on her. “I have been appointed by His Most August Personage the Crane Emperor himself. If I say I want her hanged, I will have her hanged.” Seeing him carry on, it surprised Lee how much the right kind of sneer could unmake even the handsomest face.

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews