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Reviews for The Steel Queen - Book 1 of the Silk & Steel Saga

5 stars - Loved this book so much I went back and shot-gunned ...
November 9, 2015, posted on Amazon by Amazon Customer
Loved this book so much I went back and shot-gunned the entire series! Fans of Robert Jordan & R.R.Martin rejoice - great story line (but much, much shorter and accessible).

5 stars - Exciting and very well written-the characters are so engaging!
May 29, 2011, posted on Amazon.com by Ronna K. Rothenberger "ronnakay" (Portland, OR)
This review is from: The Steel Queen (Paperback)
If there is one thing I love it is finding a great book series! One is never enough for me and Karen Azinger does not disappoint in setting up her Silk and Steel Saga with her first book The Steel Queen. The world is artfully created, the characters rich and well defined but also with room for growth not only in this book but in the rest of the series. There is plenty of action and it never seems long and drawn out like in lesser novels. The Steel Queen is a work of literary art and I am very much looking forward to the rest of the series! I loved the jouney I took with the characters throughout this book and look forward to joining them on the next journey! Long Live The Steel Queen!

5 stars - Exceeded my Wildest Expectations! Absolutely Stunning!
May 28, 2011, posted on Amazon.com by Christine E. Miller   
This review is from: The Steel Queen (Paperback)
Wow! The alternate universe that Karen Azinger has imagined, in her debut novel, "The Steel Queen," is absolutely stunning! I am generally not a fantasy fan, but I do make exceptions for the rare works of authors, such as Tolkien, who write fantasy as serious literature. Azinger's first novel falls into this category. Beautiful prose aside, the writing doesn't take a backseat to the action. In a medieval world of forgotten magic, signs of an ancient evil emerge. In a style that bears a clever resemblance to historical fiction, Liandra, the Spider Queen, spreads a web of spies to guard her throne. A vein of blue ore has been discovered in Castlegard, and a growing cult of the Flame God, in Coronth, threatens the northern border of Lanverness. But what concerns Liandra most is news of a Painted Warrior, felled by arrows fletched with the Mordant's colors. While Liandra's shadowmen harvest new secrets, the Knight Marshall, of the domain of Castlegard, wonders if the reappearance of blue ore is a sign that a hero is once again needed in the Lands of Erdhe.

From a creative standpoint, I am often surprised at how fantasy, which should arguably be one of the most imaginative of all literary genres, turns out to be little more than a variation of the same old fantasy template. But when the Lands of Erdhe grow increasingly dark and dangerous, as the Dark Lord prepares to reenter the earth, a fresh new literary voice is born. Although Azinger's book has specific elements that are identifiably Tolkienesque, her powerful writing voice, intellectual treatment of the conflict between Good and Evil, and development of strong female characters sets her apart. And for reader's, such as myself, who shudder at the appearance of orbs and fireballs, it seems that the power of magic will be used sparingly and with finesse, making it infinitely more intriguing in the long run. Azinger has also perfected the multiple character point-of-view, alternating seamlessly between characters in a style that is particularly effective in engaging the ADD among us.

The book's upcoming publication was announced at the London Book Fair, several years ago, were Azinger received such high praise that my expectations, when I sat down to read the book, were stratospheric. Yet the book did not disappoint! It has adventure, romance, politics, and intrigue while remaining intellectually exciting and emotionally powerful. You will be left on the edge of your seat waiting to purchase the next book in this series that is set off with a kalaidoscopic masterpiece.

5 stars - Great, Thoughtful, Action-Filled Fantasy Novel
May 24, 2011, posted on Amazon.com by William Johnson "Bill Johnson" (Portland, OR United States) 
This review is from: The Steel Queen (Paperback)
Karen's novel is that rare blend of intelligent, well-plotted fantasy with deeply felt characters. This is a Tolkien-est, fully-realized world, with characters who operate with the best and worst of intentions. A fun, lively read.

5 stars -  Excellent Book
June 11, 2011, posted on Amazon.com by Paul 
This review is from: The Steel Queen (Paperback)
While I do not normally read books in the fantasy genre, I found this title to be an excellent read. Well written, interesting story lines and good character development. The story moves at a good pace making you want to continue reading - hard to put down. Looking forward to the next installment.
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5 stars - A Must Read Medieval Fantasy Series
May 31, 2011,posted onAmazon.com by Mike Dobranski
This review is from: The Steel Queen (Paperback)
The theater of the mind is a wondrous thing, and Karen Azinger displays mastery of it in her new book "The Steel Queen". From the castles, the varied topography of Erdhe, and the faces and clothing of the characters themselves, I've seen them all. All through the colorful imagery created by the author. This is a very well written book. The story lines are uniquely singular yet interwoven, each hinting at a singular homogeneous purpose. If medieval fantasy interests you, this exciting, engaging, even sometimes shocking storyline is a must read. It was hard to put the book down to break for dinner, for work, or some other foolish endeavor. I can't wait for the next release in the Silk and Steel Saga! 

5 stars - Finally! Another Option for George RR Martin Fans
June 15, 2011, posted on Amazon.com by Fantasy Fan 
This review is from: The Steel Queen (Paperback)
I couldn't be more excited about a book! I have read the reviews posted by other readers and I agree with much of what has been written, although I would argue that this first book by Azinger is much more akin to George RR Martin than Tolkien. Of course, I can see why readers with limited exposure to fantasy would compare "The Steel Queen" to Tolkien. There are definitely similarities in the genius of imagination displayed, the superior prose, the creation of entirely new races of people (what Azinger does here is amazing), the power of magic (as another reviewer mentioned, without orcs and fireballs), and the epic struggle between good and evil. However, a major difference between Tolkien and Azinger's style is that "The Lord of the Rings" has the feel of myth, while Azinger's work, like GRRM, reads more like historical fiction. Differences aside, one thing all three authors have in common is the ability to create fantasy of this caliber, which is a once in a blue moon phenomenon and the reason it has taken me years to add a new name to the short list of fantasy writers that rise above the rest. I was looking for a new author, I found this gem, and I am hooked! If you are a fantasy fan, a historical fiction devotee, or in need of a GRRM fix, you have to try this book!

5 stars  - I can't wait for the second book!!!
June 17, 2011,posted on Amazon.com by Gwand 
This review is from: The Steel Queen (Paperback)
This is an amazing start to the series. This book begins a fascinating journey into another world with smart characters and interesting plot twists. The action is endless and the descriptions wonderful. Really a fantastic find! 

4 stars An entertaining debut fantasy book
June 21, 2011 By "Seregil of Rhiminee" (www.risingshad... (Finland) 
This review is from: The Steel Queen (Paperback)
Karen Azinger's The Steel Queen is the first book of The Silk & Steel Saga. It's also the author's debut book (and it's a surprisingly good debut book). I'm usually a bit skeptic about the quality of self-published fantasy books, because I've read some horrible books, but The Steel Queen was a pleasant and welcome surprise. It was excellent entertainment and there weren't any dull moments.

Here's a bit of information about the world and some of the characters (I'll try to avoid too many spoilers):

The events of The Steel Queen take place in a medieval fantasy world. The book follows the lives and adventures of different characters in the kingdoms of Erdhe. The Kingdoms of Erdhe are about to be plunged into darkness by the forces of darkness.

The world is divided into different kingdoms and areas (Castlegard, Lanverness, Navarre etc) and each area has its own problems. The Castlegard domain fights against the evil of the Mordant while other areas fight against different kind of enemies, but the Mordant is a big threat to all areas. Castlegard is ruled by a king and is known for the Octagon Knights, who stand against the threat of the Mordant. Lanverness is a wealthy kingdom and is ruled by a queen.

Important characters include Kath, Blaine, Liandra and Steffan (I'll concentrate on these four characters in this review, because I don't want to write too many spoilers), but there are also several other characters, which help the story move along nicely and add depth to the story. To be honest, I was a bit surprised by the amount of characters, because I didn't expect to read about so many different characters. All the characters are well balanced and the author gives them room to grow, which is nice, and I'm sure that the characters will continue to grow in the sequels.

Kath is a young woman, who wants to be a fighter. Although his father wants her to be a normal young woman, she rebels against her father and learns to fight with weapons.

Blaine is a young man, who has trouble accepting that he's been given a rare blue sword, which is usually given only to heroes. He doesn't understand why he's been given the sword, because he hasn't done anything special (he feels that he isn't worthy of the sword). He's a knight of the Octagon.

Liandra is an interesting character, because she's a strong and intelligent woman, who knows what she wants. Because she's a ruler in a male-dominated court, she must be strong and she must use all her skills to stay in power (she uses her good looks, intelligence and spies in order to stay in power).

Steffan is a man, who's interested in the power of the Dark Lord. He wants to become a powerful man and he's willing to sacrifice anything to get what he wants. He even offers his soul to the Dark Lord. What he gets in exchange for his soul is good luck, which he uses to further the Dark Lord's reign in the kingdoms.

The Steel Queen is more complex than several other new fantasy books, because Karen Azinger has created an interesting world and a thrilling story. The complex and interwoven plot is handled excellently and it develops nicely over the course of the book. I've read several debut fantasy books and I've often been annoyed by the lack of effort from the author, but not in this case, because Karen Azinger has written an effortlessly flowing story, which leaves the reader wanting more. This is a book, which can cause its reader a temporary "just one more page syndrome".

Karen Azinger handles politics, mysticism and religious things fluently and doesn't preach about things (she explores different themes in an interesting way and lets the readers make their own opinions about certain things). The religious, mystical and political events added depth to the story and made the world a believable place.

The Steel Queen contains several adult scenes (sex, sexual references and violence), which will fascinate hardcore fantasy readers. I enjoyed reading about the human sacrifices and other similar things (it was interesting to read about the religion of the Flame God and how heretics were sacrificed to the flames). These violent scenes were thrilling and added harshness to the story. I also enjoyed reading about the stunningly beautiful priestess who used and enjoyed her sexuality shamelessly. It was also interesting to read about Steffan's attempt to lure Liandra's son under his influence.

One of the themes in this book is a woman's place in a man's world. Each of the female characters is different, and in order to achieve success, each of them uses her powers differently (for example, Liandra is a brilliant strategist and Kath is a good fighter). This feels fresh, because it's interesting to read about strong and intelligent female characters instead of typical male characters who fight against evil enemies without any kind of intelligence.

Another important theme is honour, because the Octagon Knights are honourable knights and they're expected to follow the old ways. Some of these knights want to abandon the old ways, because times are changing, but not all of them. Honour and valour are important things to knights and they're also important to Blaine, because he ponders what it means to be a knight.

Religion is also an important theme, because the author explores how dangerous and destructive religious zealotry can be. The religion of the Flame God is shown as a threat: the author lets her readers see how heretics are treated and how much fear the worshippers and cult members can cause among normal people.

The story contained a couple of rough spots and certain clichés, but in my opinion the author managed to use these things to her advantage. For example, Kath's character could've easily been a female version of a typical male hero, but in the hands of Karen Azinger she turned out to be a strong and likeable character.

I think I'll have to mention that writing medieval fantasy without rough spots and clichés is extremely difficult due to a huge amount of medieval fantasy books, so certain rough spots and clichés are to be expected in this kind of fantasy. Fortunately these things didn't bother me at all, because Karen Azinger's story was good and her characters were interesting.

I think that The Steel Queen is a fine example how well entertaining fantasy can be written and published without the help of big publishing companies. The Steel Queen proves that you don't always need a big publishing - if you have a good story, writing skills and enough time and energy to start your own publishing company, you can publish your own books and have total control over them.

The cover art by Greg Bridges looks nice and creates the right kind of atmosphere for the reader. The map also looks nice and it shows all the important places perfectly.

This may not be a perfect comparison, but in my opinion Karen Azinger's prose reminds me a bit of Carol Berg, Helen Lowe, Lynn Flewelling, Melanie Rawn and Martha Wells. She has the same kind of sense of style and talent for writing entertaining fantasy as these writers have. Writing entertaining fantasy is difficult and it demands a lot of effort, because the author has to know how to keep the reader interested in the story and how to surprise the reader with unexpected plot twists. Karen Azinger knows how to do this (and she also knows how to hook the reader into the story right from the start), so I can say that she's on her way to become a successful fantasy writer. I was positively surprised by this book and I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

The Steel Queen is a thoroughly enjoyable debut fantasy book. It offers excellent entertainment for fantasy readers and it won't disappoint fans of fast-paced fantasy adventures. If you're looking for a new, interesting and entertaining fantasy book, please read this book and treat yourself to a good adventure.