I mentioned in my last book review for The Storm Crow that I had found my new favorite YA Fantasy. I didn’t think it would be this soon until I found another fantastic YA fantasy, but here we are. This book was so much fun, from the caste system to the magic and everything in between.
Title: The Merciful Crow
Author: Margaret Owen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: The Merciful Crow
Publisher: Henry Holt
Release Date: July 30th 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?
I loved the characters in this book! Fie was such a strong main character and knew who she was and didn’t let anything – or anyone – change who she was. That’s not to say that she didn’t struggle with the decisions she had to make, because she definitely did but I feel like those decisions showed how strong she was. I feel like I still have so much more to learn about Tavin and Jas, but what I’ve seen makes me really want to learn more about them and their background. I loved how Fie challenged their view of the world and didn’t just let them be these high and mighty lordlings. Tavin was so resourceful and loyal and I could tell from the first moment we met him that I would really like his character.
Tell me if you’ve heard this before: a prince has to fake his own death in order to fight his way back onto the throne, but needs to rely on someone he never would’ve chosen to help him out. While the basic plot of this is a fairly standard fantasy plot, the extra details and the journey these characters take makes it so much more than just a regular old fantasy story. One of my favorite things that this book did was the caste system and how it connected to the magic system, but not everyone in each caste had magic. The romance in this book was such a fantastic slow burn, like THAT is how you do a slow burn romance! There is so much tension as they get closer to each other, and it felt so natural that these two characters should be together.
Each caste has it’s own “birthright” which is the magic that caste has and can use. For example, the phoenix caste’s birthright is fire so they are able to use and control fire. Another example would be the sparrows whose birthright is refuge. This is an interesting one because people in this caste who can use magic are able to hide themselves from view, which helps hide them from those who would hurt them. Then the most interesting caste (in my opinion) are the crows. Crows don’t have a birthright and are treated as less than human by the other castes. But the crows are immune to the deadly sinners plague so they are the ones who have to dispose of the bodies. The really interesting thing about the crows and magic is that while they don’t have one specific birthright to themselves, the crow witches can actually steal the birthright of the other castes by using their teeth. So if they burn a sparrow tooth it will grant them refuge. This is such a complex, unique and interesting magic system, I could literally just write my entire review about that!
I loved that we got to see a lot of this world since our characters travel around, and the gorgeous map in the front was super helpful with seeing where the characters are at any given point in the story. The way that the crows have to dispose of the bodies of those affected with the plague gave the book a creepy vibe, not to mention the tooth magic! When the crows show up to remove bodies, they wear plague masks like the ones worn during the time of the bubonic plague which also lends this ominous tone to the book. There were also these things called ghasts, and if you haven’t read this yet let me tell you – these things are so freaking creepy!
I was hooked from the beginning of the book! Margaret Owen really knows how to draw a reader in and make them want more, because I definitely want more from this world and I want so desperately to see these characters again. I also loved how she made all her characters comfortable and proud about their sexuality, since it is mentioned a few times that the characters don’t choose between male vs female partners, it’s based on who they really connect with. There is also a side character that uses they/them pronouns as well which was really nice to see! I always say that if the writing doesn’t stand out to me then it’s a great writing style, and this one fit that description for me which is a bonus!
I absolutely LOVED this book from beginning to end, and I took my time with it because I didn’t want to be over! I have no idea how I’m going to wait until the next book comes out. I honestly can’t stop thinking about these characters and it makes me want to pick up the book and read it over again, even though I just recently finished it. I just want this book in multiple editions because it was such a fun book, plus it had some great discussion about discrimination and acceptance.
This book clearly is getting 5 stars from me, and I think that everyone needs to read this book. If even just one aspect of this book catches your interest, do yourself a favor and read it because I don’t think you will regret it. Also, book 2 is titled The Faithless Hawk, and if that doesn’t make you excited and scared, I don’t know what will.