Books & Thoughts: THE QUEEN OF STEEL AND FIRE
About the Book
Book: The Queen of Steel and Fire
Author: Steven South
Genre: Young Adult, Epic Fantasy
Release date: April 21, 2021
When her father is murdered, Princess Claire Erinn is thrust onto the throne of Keldaren. Unprepared to rule, Claire has to act like a strong queen until she learns how to be one. But an enemy queen and Claire’s half-mad brother don’t intend to let her live that long. They’re coming for her crown—and her head. With Death herself hunting her, Claire struggles to become the warrior her kingdom needs. As war engulfs an entire world, only one queen can rule—through steel and fire. Click here to get your copy!
About the Author
Steve lives in Minnesota with his wife. When he’s not reading, working, or writing, he loves to travel…his goal is to make it to at least six continents in his lifetime. Just three more to go! Beside traveling, he also loves karaoke, although he’ll be the first to admit that he’s terrible at it. You can contact him through his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/queenofsteelandfireseries
Get ready to be whisked away into a complicated web of political war. In this fantasy land, you will meet many new races, both animal and spiritual, and nothing is quite as it seems. For one, the dragons are the good guys. And I love it.
South did a commendable job of throwing us right into the politics of this unknown land without having to go into pages of descriptions. I found myself following along easily as each land and ruler came up, even though it seemed a little overkill for a YA fantasy world. After what felt like the twentieth meeting between Claire yet another people, I started losing interest.
And speaking of overkill... The fight scenes were SO descriptive. If you're someone who likes to "see" the action in fight scenes, including all the gory details, you will enjoy this book. I, however, would've been okay without a lot of it. Despite this being a book following primarily women, this is most certainly a book written for guys. If you doubt that, I present to you the love triangle. I wish South would've just left that whole storyline out because I was cringing the whole time. Claire is a strong, independent woman... until a good-looking guy gives her a smile.
And then there's the spiritual battle going on. This was the part I was most torn about. There were some powerful moments, Claire questioning her belief in the gods, her hearing about the One True God, her asking some great questions. And then.... I don't want to give away any spoilers, but all I'll say is that the "true faith" suddenly takes a turn into some strange spiritual experience that culminates with "the Gift." I struggle to know whether I should have an issue with it, since it is fiction, but it threw me off and made me uncomfortable after it had been lining up with Christianity so closely. There are also demons and witchcraft, though they don't show up much in the story. Yet.
Overall, I'd definitely shy away from recommending this book to younger teens. Between the spirits and the violence, the target audience seems to be older. But despite all these words of caution, I did enjoy the story, and there were a lot of unique twists and turns I didn't see coming.
More from Steven
This project began as a bit of a lark to see if I actually had it in me to write a book. I first “finished” the book in 2006. Then I discovered the meaning of the phrase “writing is re-writing”. It took me over thirty attempts to get the beginning right. Six complete re-writes of the book and 13 years later, it won the 2019 Minnesota Author Project award for young adult fiction. Many query letters later, I found a publisher. After several more revisions with Mel Hughes—the excellent editor that I was very fortunate to work with—Elk Lake Publishing released the book this year.
When I first started writing this book, there weren’t a lot of Fantasy novels with female main characters. I felt it was a really under-represented area within the genre, and I wanted to write a book that imagined what a world with more strong female characters—and especially a strong female protagonist—might look like. I also wanted to write a book that explored the struggle with reconciling faith and reason, and how to be good in a world of moral relativism.
I was raised in a strong Catholic household, but I drifted away from faith in my late teens. In my mid-twenties, I decided that I was being intellectually dishonest with myself, having one foot in religion, and one foot in a kind of lukewarm agnosticism. I took some time to “wander in the desert” and really wrestle with religion and my beliefs, did a lot of studying of different religions and Christian denominations, and as a result of that, found myself really strongly drawn back to the Church.
There’s a saying that all first novels are autobiographies. I guess that’s somewhat true for this novel too. Claire has to struggle to answer the fundamental question about faith that all honest skeptics have to confront at some point in their lives—what if could be true? The Queen of Steel and Fire was born of my journey through that question, and the answer I found.