FROM THE BACK COVER:Steelflower is an engrossing sword and sorcery fantasy that delivers a rousing adventure, with a dynamic female lead. Sword and sorcery traditionally has not offered a lot of strong female heroines; Howard’s Red Sonja comes to mind and some stories in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s sword and sorcery anthologies. With the heroine Kaia Steelflower, Saintcrow is solidly making her mark in this male territory.
Picking the wrong pocket can get a girl in trouble …
Thief, assassin, sellsword—Kaia Steelflower is famous. Well, mostly famous, and mostly for the wrong reasons. She’s made a good life for herself, despite being kicked out of her homeland for having no magic. She’s saving up for her retirement, when she can settle down, run an inn, and leave the excitement for others.
Then she picks the wrong pocket, wakes up with a hangover, and gets far more than she bargained for. Now she has a huge, furry barbarian to look after, a princeling from her homeland to fend off, and an old debt to fulfill. And for some reason, the God-Emperors assassins want to kill her. Its never easy being an elvish sellsword, and this time it just might be fatal…
Kaia Steelflower is a renowned sellsword, a member of the Thieves Guild and an accomplished assassin. She is also an expatriate from the Elvish lands (a G’mai) with greater speed, strength and superior senses as is natural for her kind. She has no magic and no s’tarei (a paired male protector or twin) which is not natural. The how’s and why’s of all of these things are intricately woven into the main story as we journey with Kaia. Steelflower is as strongly character-driven as it is action oriented and we come to know and care greatly about Kaia.
A barfight opens up the story, with Kaia saving the life of a huge barbarian named Redfist who is being attacked by the city guard. The same barbarian whose pocket she picked the night before. Having saved his life, he insists that his honour demands that he accompany her as repayment of the debt. Together they make a harrowing escape from the city. The necklace she stole from Redfist stirs discomforting thoughts.
On their journey to the next town, they realize they are being followed, Kaia suspects the necklace has something to do with it and abandons it. Shortly they are confronted by Darik, one of the first G’mai that Kaia has met outside of her homeland. He too is a loner and has been using the necklace as a magical Seeker to search for his adai, or female counterpart. He believes Kaia is his adai but she disagrees. Reluctantly she allows him to join her growing band of travellers.
In the next town, Kaia’s life becomes even more out of control. Darik is being sought by several pairs of G’mai. Turns out he is a Prince of the ruling house and in line to be heir, a role he has no interest in. He refuses to return and sticks by Kaia insisting she is his intended adai. A pair of the G’mai decide to stick with Darik, the adai of the pair is an apprentice teacher and believes Kaia does have magic and needs to be trained. Kaia remains skeptical, but is deeply troubled by the thought.
Kaia responds to a plea from an old mercenary friend for aid and plans to join a caravan headed to their new destination. Before leaving town, Kaia’s travelling band acquires two final members, a young thief that idolizes Kaia and a minstrel responsible for many of the outrageous ballads that enhance her reputation.
As Kaia’s group journeys they survive attacks by mage assassins, wyverns and become embroiled in a rebellion against the God-Emperor. There is never a dull moment. But beyond the obvious thrills, it also a journey of self-discovery for Kaia, Darik and her companions. It explorers their hopes and fears, reveals their strengths and weaknesses.
The world building in Steelflower is also finely crafted, with plenty of lands and cultures, phrases and names that will fascinate and delight you. Despite the book blurb above which implies a tongue-in-cheek tone, Steelflower is more of a fun, riveting adventure with some comedic moments. Action moments especially the many sword fights and encounters are vivid and exciting.
Saintcrow has fashioned a memorable heroine and a terrific crew of colorful supporting characters along with a firmly establish fantasy world. The future adventures of Kaia Steelflower should be exciting indeed.
Readers of Ms. Saintcrow’s urban fantasy series with Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet should also enjoy this.
Book 1 of the Steelflower Chronicles
Read an excerpt.