Balancing Revolution And Oppression With Wit, And An Inspired Magic System, Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga Hits Shelves Today

I worry sometimes that authors will run out of ideas for magic systems. I enjoy them so much that I worry the day will come when they will start blending together or authors won’t be able to flesh them out as they should for reader buy-in.

Then I look back on four books I read from July through September and I realize that I should stop worrying. Ok. One of those books wasn’t published during that time frame. However, the other three were. One of them is, of course, Storm Crow Saga by Paul Krueger.

The Written by Ben Galley was published in July of 2010

  • Spell books tattooed to a mage’s back and dragon powers bound to Tear Books

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen was published in July of 2019

  • Varying avian teeth cast different spells by rare witch doctors

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool was published in September of 2019

  • Graced- of Heart, of Blood, of Mind and of Sight

Storm Crow Saga by Paul Krueger is out today- September 24th, 2019

  • Pacting:
    • Utilized differently by each culture and also brings an element of oppression.
      • Both Storm Crow Saga and Merciful Crow utilize their caste and magic system, respectfully, to address themes of oppression and justice. 
    • The people of Sanbuna and Shang pact with the souls of animals. This allows them to beckon them to fight with them as needed.
    • The people of Dahal pact intrinsically, strengthening their personal aptitudes
    • The people of Tomoda pact with metal and power their vehicles.
    • Now, here is where the ability to, or not to, wield magic allows for cultural oppression. The Jeongsonese are gifted with magic the same as everyone else but they are kept from gaining the knowledge to fully utilize it.

I’m sure you are wondering by now, what the hell is she doing?

Image result for golden girls memes

I started with the explanation of these different magic systems for a simple reason. I wasn’t sure where else to start reviewing Steel Crow Saga and if I didn’t figure it out? This was going to become a very simple review. It would be the synopsis and then:

Image result for read the book gif

Literally. That was all I had. So, I had to find a place to root the review. And then it dawned on me. Based on what I read this summer? And really if I thought about it? My concerns over authors running out of inspired magic systems that are fully imagined and engrained in the story, is simply not happening. And right there were four shining examples, off the bat. One of them being Steel Crow Saga.

If you want to argue that The Written came out nine years ago? Well you have Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom since then, yes? Gilded Wolves last year and its sequel, Silvered Serpents coming in February.

And if I keep thinking? I could keep going. There is For a Muse of Fire (Kingdom for a Stage is a couple weeks away) and here’s a hint. Put your money on Angel Mage by Garth Nix, which comes out on October 1st.


Now that I found my running start the magic system is engrained and intrinsically important to the storyline in Steel Crow Saga. It gives vital pieces of behind-the-scenes information that speaks to motivation of nations.

Krueger divulges it in a way that doesn’t tell the reader what to do with that information. Instead, we are left to draw our own conclusion. Who is good and evil, who you root for or against, is left up to us, for the most part.

Having multiple points of views adds to the layers and dimensions of the individuals within nations. Each character is unique in voice as demonstrated through both dialogue and the narration in each respective chapter. Between these two pieces we have a multi-layered look of both the whole and the pieces that make up the whole.

The only drawback of this approach is that the story and pacing can get drawn out at times. However, coming from me, take that with a grain of salt. I have diagnosed ADD and sometimes struggle with adult sci-fi/fantasy for this reason. With that being said, on this point YMMV.

On the other side of that coin, if I hadn’t been completely immersed in the storyline and the characters? And if it was too long without any action? I wouldn’t have made it, but by the time those denser parts of the story evolved, and the pacing slowed down? There was more than enough emotional investment to keep me going. So, I highly doubt someone who doesn’t have my penchant for distraction and brain fog would barrel through.

Image result for steel crow saga

Thank you to Del Rey and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review

The journey each character goes on and how they change over time intertwines well with the plot. Both serve each other well and push each other forward. Too often you will find a clash when the plot is used as a device for character growth or characters are put into situations to spur the plot forward. Krueger doesn’t fall into that trap. The two work in tandem together.

What I truly didn’t expect and what I would imagine to be near impossible, Krueger pulls off with complete finesse. There are such heave themes of oppression, revolution and colonialism that it would be impossible to imagine any amount of lightness. But it does. And now, I couldn’t imagine Steel Crow Saga without it.

Krueger manages to strike a balance between themes of enormous gravity with quick witted banter and humorous narration that you just don’t see coming. It is never insulting to the importance of the plot or out of place. Instead it provides a reprieve and sense of hope. I want to say it is akin to the humor you would find in Star Wars.

I know there are many other comparisons out there, but I don’t have any context for ANY of them, unfortunately. When I think of revolution, sci-fi and humor that works- there is Star Wars. It is at times very serious with very deep social constructs and then at times unexpectedly but fittingly hysterical. Steel Crow Saga strikes that same balance.


20 thoughts on “Balancing Revolution And Oppression With Wit, And An Inspired Magic System, Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga Hits Shelves Today

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    1. Thank you! I was really worried about how I set up this review so I really appreciate you saying that. It will always be a concern, I think. For us who love these magic systems but need them to be unique and flushed out? It will always be a concern bit at least we can see consistent examples of it still coming out.


    1. Hahaha!! Thank you! I’m so glad I’ve heard positive reactions to this review. I was worried the set-up would not be well liked. But yes! Magic systems are so awesome and we need them to keep coming!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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  5. This is a really interesting review! I love when different authors write about magic systems/fantasies in books as they have different ways of dreaming up a new story and it’s all so fascinating!
    I love love magic systems in books and the way you spoke about this one definitely makes me want to pick this up! And that everything comes together – the plot, characterisation, magic system.
    Glad you liked this one! I was watching the reviews to see what people would say about it.


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