Book Reviews

Review: A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee

Ever since these Remixed Classics were announced I’ve been over the moon excited. And then it was announced that C.B. Lee – the author of the amazing Sidekick Squad – was going to be kicking it off with a queer Asian Treasure Island remix. I am writing from beyond the grave. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Xiang has grown up with stories about the Dragon Fleet and its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Dragon Queen, all her life. Xiang desperately wants to set sail and explore—mainly to find her father, a presumed dead crew member of the Dragon Fleet. Her only memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.

But the pendant’s true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. Rumor has it that the legendary Dragon Queen had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—hidden away on an island shrouded in mist that only can be seen once in a blue moon.

Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

It’s impossible to convey how excited I was for A Clash of Steel. C.B. Lee plus queer Asian pirates? And this has to be my favorite pirate story period. It’s not only because of the sapphic storyline, or because I’ve never seen Asian pirates before, it’s because Xiang and Anh are so detailed, nuanced, and endearing. The ways that Xiang just wants to be her mother, not marry some wealthy man, or live in a teahouse. All the times when she realizes that her life, dreams, and vision of the world was so small.

Only to have an experience, or a person – *cough* Anh *cough* – help show her more to the world? Be still my beating my heart. Xiang’s character evolution was fantastic as she blooms in front of our eyes. Lee unfolds the beginning of the book slowly not only to create a sizzling and descriptive world, but also to show us who Xiang thinks she is. The world she thinks she sees. And don’t even get me started on how I fell in love with Anh when I first met her.


A Clash of Steel is an adventure packed story with pirates, nautical adventures, and hidden treasure. It’s got the trifecta! With characters who question whether they want adventure, freedom, or stability, A Clash of Steel is thoughtful while being well paced. A win from beginning to start it has crew dynamics, interrogating our privilege, and plenty of salt air. Read it if you love examining the ‘classics’, epic pirate adventures, and the power of family and love.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Find A Clash of Steel on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite pirate story?

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