Endowed with the markings of an unforgettable debut read, Karen Azinger’s The Steel Queen, draws readers into Erdhe, a fantasy imbued realm ripe with intrigue, knights, bravery, swords, sorcery and pure evil. As the premier novel in her Silk and Steel Saga, this novel serves well as an introduction to the medieval type lands of the kingdoms of Erdhe, along with its various engaging inhabitants.Author Azinger provides a filling fantasy read built with a satisfying integration of action, intrigue and fantasy elements. The story engages instantly immersing the reader in a complexly woven storyline, which houses an abundance of varied and unique characters. The female characters bear particular appeal because of their determination and cunning in a world where their place is limited by male dominance.Foremost, the story, particularly follows the paths of several focal characters; Katherine/Kath, a young princess whose deepest desire is to lead and wield a sword. Blaine, son of a pig farmer who earns a seemingly impossible knighthood. Steffan, a dark character who seeks power at any cost and Liandra, queen of Lanverness who looks to preserve her wealthy kingdom. Meanwhile, events unfold, with the story told from their multiple perspectives with the narrative changing viewpoints frequently, as each moves toward their destiny. As well, furthering the character woven storyline, are brief appearances of additional engaging characters. Although, initially, it seems the characters are on separate paths, with their own goals to achieve, destiny dictates otherwise as a malevolent force at work threatens all of Erdhe.Consequently, what follows is an entertaining, adult themed, vibrant and at times quite violent, but well paced narrative, that artfully explores the sexual, bureaucratic, and religious landscape of a fantasy world facing the heart of darkness.Ultimately, I enjoyed The Steel Queen. With this work, Author Azinger has wrought the beginnings of an intriguing and thus far, fulfilling fantasy series. Furthermore, while there are a plethora of fantasy genre novels available, what separates this one from the some of the others is the quality and style of the writing and creativity. Author Karen Azinger wields a well honed knack for engaging and concise storytelling.Additionally, aside from the great story, I like the inclusion of the map of Erdhe and the Appendix explaining the background of various kingdoms. Overall, this was well worth the read and I look forward to the next in the series. This is a book I not only recommend for fantasy fans, but also fans of eloquently written, action packed adventures.