||big fantasy novel without a map showing the imaginary lands? I thought maps were a requirement in epic fantasy! Steel Crow Saga takes place in east Asia in an alternate universe where magic exists.
The most common magic is called pacting. A person can pact with any animal, when the bond is formed, the animal becomes a magical being that can appear and help the magic user. I am not sure why the magical animals
disappear at all, only to appear when summoned. Why not just keep the magical animal at your side endlessly? Each human can pact with one animal. If the animal is killed during fighting, it disappears until the magic
user has enough energy to summon it again.
Steel Crow Saga is the story of four young people, each from a different nation. Xiulan is the 28th princess in the Shang court, which is China on our planet. Xiulan works as an inspector for
the elite Li-Quan detective force; her pact animal is large white rat. Lee Yeon-Ji is Jeongsonese, which is the equivalent of Korea. Lee is a young clever thief; she does not have a
pact animal. Prince Jimuro is heir to the throne of Tomoda, which is Japan. Jimuro does not have a pact animal, but he can do metal pacting - he can do magical things with metal (sort of like Magneto from the X-Men). Tala is from the Sanbu islands - I am not sure what Earth country Sanbu represents: Malaysia?
Indonesia? The Philippines? Her pact animal is Beaky, a big bird. There is also a nation called Dahali, which is India, but none of the main characters in this novel are from that country. There is no mention of anyone from Western civilization in the story.
At the start of this novel, a war has just been fought, and the yoke of Tomodese empire has been overthrown. The countries of Shang, Sanbu and Jeong have united in revolution and defeated the Tomodese armies, and
now a peace treaty must be crafted. The rulers of the Tomoda empire have perished in the fighting, and so Prince Jimuro must be escorted to Tomoda and crowned so he can sign a binding peace from his throne (Jimuro has been held captive by the great General Erega). Because there are many
people who want revenge for all the atrocities that the Tomodese have committed during their occupation, General Erega decides to have Jimuro sail for home on a secret ship, while a decoy convoy draws the attention of those who want vengenance. Tala is in charge of security on the secret ship.
The technology seems to be late 19th century - there are railroads and automobiles and cannons, but no sign of any electronics such as radio or indoor lighting. Each chapter is told from the point of
view of one of the four major characters: Xiulan, Lee, Tala or Prince Jimuro. Sergeant Tala and her platoon is charged with escorting Prince Jimuro home; she will follow orders like a dutiful soldier, but she has personal reasons for
despising the Tomodese. Prince Jimuro is royalty, but inwardly he is afraid he is not worthy of assuming the throne, the task may be too much for him. Xiulan and Lee team up early in the story, and their adventures are separate from
the story of Tala and Jimuro, but of course, all four of the main characters eventually meet up.
Only on occasion does Krueger show the same events from two different characters view points. I guess this is to give the reader a look into the thoughts of each character during an especially important plot point,
but it slows down the pace to go back over events that have already happened. Much of this story focuses on the interactions between the four main characters, the main villain is off stage for most of the novel, and not even mentioned for long
stretches. But the characters are well described and likable, so it is fun to spend time with them. I think Princess Xiulan and Prince Jimuro are portrayed the best.
Steel Crow Saga was picked by NPR as on of the best books of 2019. It is an interesting read, if I saw another novel from
Krueger, I would pick it up.