“If it didn’t matter what they wanted, it wouldn’t matter if – just once – they got it.”
– Margaret Owens
Release Date: July 29, 2019
Thank you Edelweiss+ and Henry Holt and Co. for an eARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
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 started this book off utterly confused, thinking I wouldn’t like it and that I would never want to read the next book; I was wrong. The Merciful Crow is a journey/adventure story about our characters getting from point A to point B, with a ton of challenges of course, that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The story was unique, with a magic system unheard of before that really caught my attention. Fie, Tavin and Jasimr grew on me throughout the novel and it will be hard to wait and see what comes next for the series.
While I enjoyed this book, it only gets 4/5 stars from me because of how confusing the world (?) and caste system were. I definitely need a map of whatever world or continent or wherever this novel takes place in. I don’t even know the name of the place or what to call it at this point, there is a possibility I missed it at some point when I was trying to figure some other plot details out. (UPDATE: I bought a finished copy and it had a map and made so much more sense. Shoutout to the amazing publishers!) What I do know is that I have no idea how many cities there are or if they’re divided up by certain castes or even how the governing system works beyond there being a king who is in the Phoenix caste. I was willing to overlook these issues along with the initial confusion of the caste systems though because of how well written the main and side characters were.
It took me a bit of time and some note taking to understand the caste system that was such a huge part of the story. There was a “Caste Legend” provided at the beginning of the book that listed a bunch of birds and what their birthright was, but I didn’t really understand any of what that meant. It wasn’t until I was fully into the novel that I realized that a birthright was a power that the caste had and that among the castes there were also witches, albeit less common. I’m still not entirely clear on what was so special about being a witch (heightened abilities?) but it did make their teeth stronger. Teeth stronger? Yeah you read that right. The Crow caste, having no powers of their own, can channel the powers of other castes through teeth. It was a unique magic system that I don’t entirely understand but still managed to enjoy trying to learn about.
On a slight side note, I found the sexuality of people in this book really interesting. Almost everyone mentioned was bisexual or gay. The prince himself preferred men and nobody cared. He could marry another guy and it wasn’t even questioned, the higher castes threw their sons at him. It’s just not something you see a lot of in books and it really made the book stand out in my eyes. Maybe it’s not even worth mentioning, but I loved seeing it. It should be normal and it’s so great that sexual orientation not being an issue is making its way into mainstream novels.
All three of the main characters started out insufferable and got on my nerves. Just when I started to like two of them, the third would come in and ruin the dynamic, causing me to dislike all three of them again. Throughout their journey though, I, just like the characters themselves, started to learn about each of the backgrounds they grew up with that made them who they were. Fie was a Crow, the most hated caste. Crows kill those sick with the sinner’s plague, bringing mercy, but are hated and often not paid correctly for their services. The caste as a whole suffered greatly in their treatment, often being taunted and harmed by everyone else. The world was against them from day one. Being a Crow meant being tough and Fie definitely had an edge to her because of it which made her prickly and a take-no-crap kind of girl. It was hard to like her at times because of the chip on her shoulder, but then you see how she’s treated by others and realize she has to be that way. Then the poor thing gets paired up with a prince from the Phoenix caste and a highly Hawk guard who grew up in the palace, wanting for nothing, not knowing the injustice others faced outside those walls. It added a lot of tension and misunderstandings. I warmed up faster to Tavin than anyone else, then Fie and it wasn’t until almost the end of the book that Jasimir grew on me. The group kind of reminded me of the Celaena, Dorian, Chaol trio from the Throne of Glass series and it will be interesting to see what happens to the group next, especially after the dramatic ending.
If you can get past not understanding everything happening or not knowing what everything means right from the get go, this book is one worth reading. The Merciful Crow has all the things to make it a successful and amazing series, especially if book #2 fills in some of the information I’m missing.