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Steel Crow Saga: 11/08/19
Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger is a complex, richly populated fantasy. It takes inspiration from anime and manga. The author has been upfront about his inspirations and at one point announced the publication of this book by calling it Fullmetal Pokemon. Although more recently he's revealed that it's actual working title was Splintered Souls (Twitter).
I'm going to be upfront and say as much as I loved this book, I know I missed things. I know other things went over my head. I know some day when I have more time to read in greater depth, I will linger over Steel Crow Saga. I will take down pages of quotes and do a close live reading of it on Tumblr. So for now, please accept my first impressions.
There are five main characters, though the blurb only tells you about four and to avoid spoilers, I will only talk about them. There is Tala: a soldier looking for revenge. There is Jimuro: a prince who has lost his empire to revolution and is fleeing for his life. There is Xiulan: a detective with a secret identity. There is Lee: a petty thief on the caper of her life.
Together these four are on a collision course road trip. And that puts this lengthy novel into the road narrative spectrum. This post will focus on the road narrative spectrum aspect of the novel. But this novel is far more complex and can be analyzed any number of ways.
The four characters I can talk about without too much risk of spoilers pair up in two symbolic sets of scarecrows and minotaurs (99). By this I mean that in each pair of travelers, there is one who sees themself as a protector, and there is one who feels trapped by circumstance. As this is a world in which a person can bind themselves to the spirit of a recently departed life, the scarecrow/minotaur relationship is also reiterated on a personal level.
The destination for these travelers was a more difficult one to pin down. After considering all of their physical destinations, I realized the ultimate goal is a metaphorical one. Each character in one form or another wants to or needs to go home (66). For Jimuro, home is also a physical destination, but for all of them, there's a nostalgic aspect to the destination. Every character has lost something and home is more wish than achievable destination, but it's what drives their actions.
The route they take is the interstate / railroad (00). There is a lengthy section in the middle of the novel that takes place on a train. This is also the section where Hiromu Arakawa's influence is most recognizable. Prince Jimuro pulls a move that is pure Edward Elric. When they aren't traveling by train, there are many scenes involving cars and well-paved roads. For this fantasy world, these roads serve as interstates.
All together, Steel Crow Saga is at one level the tail of scarecrow and minotaur travelers trying to find home via the railroad or interstate.