This ARC was sent to me by the publisher at my request. All thoughts and opinions expressed are completely my own and not influenced in any way. Thank you to Henry Holt (BYR) for giving me a chance to read this book early.
The Merciful Crow
Author: Margaret Owen
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Synopsis: 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?
Rating: The Merciful Crow is an intriguing debut that tackles some hard issues, but suffers from too much journey and a writing style that can be off putting for some.
“One way or another, we feed the Crows.” – Saborian proverb
The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen is a solid debut with a unique magic system and a strong female lead. Owen crafts a world that feels both ancient and painfully modern in its prejudices. And while the snark is stellar and the magic is intriguing, the plot feels plodding and the writing often left me feeling lost.
The world of The Merciful Crow is split into castes, the Crows being the lowest and most hated caste. The Crows are the undertakers of Sabor and are tasked with collecting the plague ridden dead. For mythological/religious reasons, the rest of the people in the kingdom loathe the Crows with a horrific intensity. The Crows are shunned, ridiculed, taken advantage of, and often run down and killed. Many parts of this book are not easy to read as they mirror some of the horrific things that have happened in our world in the past and sadly, in our current day. The rage Fie feels at her people being oppressed is ferocious and is a driving force in the story. But something gets lost in the exploration of prejudices of the world and it stops feeling as important as it should be.
The writing style was also hard to get a grasp of. I can’t quite put my finger one what it was, but I was just never able to really get a good rhythm in my reading. The building of the Crow’s world was amazing, but I felt that I never got to know much else about any other castes in the story. I found the magic incredibly unique, but again, I never felt like I got a firm understanding of how it worked. What I did get, I absolutely loved. I have a soft spot for unique magic systems and this one definitely takes the cake…or teeth, if we want to be on brand.
The majority of the story is spent on the road and on the run. While it keeps a sense of intensity through the story, it gets draining after a while. I like an epic journey as much as the next fantasy reader, but the constant catch and escape wore thin. Even though we traveled with the characters through much of the world, I also never felt like I got a great understanding of the world as a whole.
Fie is an awesome main character. She knows herself and her mind, is fiercely loyal, but isn’t some one note badass. Tavin, the obvious love interest, brings much needed comic relief in the form of snarky exchanges with Fie, but he is also the hard warrior and guard of Prince Jasimir. And then there is Jasimir. Wow, did I love AND hate him. At times, sweet and caring, a prince I could support as ruler in this world. At other times, annoying and childish, a typical spoiled prince who knows nothing of the land he is supposed to rule. I think all the characters were well written, it was more of a matter of me not liking their personalities all the time.
While The Merciful Crow is an interesting story, with an awesome magical system, there were too many missed notes for me to really fall into the story. That being said, I really enjoyed the ending and I will 100% be looking forward to the next book.