The Merciful Crow
by Margaret Owen
“There was one way off this road, and that was to walk it to its end.”
To be published July 30, 2019 by Henry Holt
Genre: YA fantasy
Date finished: July 16, 2019
Content warnings: plague, gore
A future chieftain
Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.
A fugitive prince
When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.
A too-cunning bodyguard
Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?
My thoughts (spoiler free)
In this fantasy world, society is divided into castes, all of which are named after birds. The highest caste, the royalty, are Phoenixes, while the lowest caste, the Crows, are mercy killers who prevent the plague from spreading across the land. Traveling from town to town doing their duty, Crows are downtrodden and disrespected, constantly fearing for their lives. However, one Crow, a future chieftain named Fie, might have the chance to change that for good.
I’ll start out by saying that the worldbuilding was my favorite aspect of this book. Magic is stored in teeth, and Crows have the ability to essentially steal the special abilities of other castes by burning the power inside the teeth they carry with them. The whole system is unique and kind of creepy, which is what makes it so cool in my eyes.
However, there wasn’t much else about this book that stood out to me. Maybe this book is another victim of me simply not Feeling It with any YA high fantasy I’ve been reading lately. There wasn’t anything hugely wrong with the book, but I just didn’t care for most of it. When I wasn’t reading, I didn’t feel a strong urge to pick it up, and when I was reading, I didn’t feel a compulsion to keep going. I doubt this is a book that’s going to stick with me for a long time.
That said, 3 stars isn’t a bad rating. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who are going to love this book – there are plenty of elements that I know will appeal to other readers out there. My own failure to connect to the characters and story does not make it a bad book!
Of the three main characters – Fie, Tavin, and Jasimir – I found myself most curious about Jasimir, even though he’s certainly not the focus of the book. I did enjoy the reluctant friendship that grows between him and Fie. Fie herself is a great narrator – righteously angry and reluctant to open herself up to trusting new people. And Tavin provided both comic relief and some emotional depth to the relationships between the characters. The dynamic between the three was great, and I appreciated the fact that all of them challenged each other’s worldview in some way to help the others grow.
If you’re a fan of most YA fantasies, I feel like this is a book that you’ll really enjoy. Despite the fact that it wasn’t the most memorable book for me, it’s still well-written with undeniably unique worldbuilding. It might not have worked for me, but I’m sure it will for others!