The Merciful Crow(The Merciful Crow #1)by Margaret Owen
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?
Trigger WarningsSelf-harm and graphic descriptions of inflicting injury on others
Should You read The Merciful Crow?
“Pa was taking too long to cut the boys’ throats.”
There may be spoilers ahead, so continue at your own risk..
I was clearly craving more “crow” books as I couldn’t wait to start The Merciful Crow immediately after reading The Storm Crow. The Merciful Crow is a very appropriate name because it’s mainly about the Crows, who are at the bottom rung of a Caste System, who deliver “mercy kills” to the upper castes who are not immune to the plague disease.
The Caste System consists of three castes: Splendid, Hunting and the Common Castes with the Phoenix(The Royals) on the topmost rung of the ladder and the Crows on the lowest. The Splendid, Hunting and the Common castes are further divided into groups such as Peacock, Swan, Dove; Hawk, Crane, Owl, Vulture; Gull, Pigeon, and Sparrow respectively. Every Caste and their groups have different birthrights except the Crows who have none.
The Caste hierarchy may sound confusing and overwhelming at first, but I promise you that it isn’t. Now that I have explained a bit of this book’s world to you, let me tell you exactly what is the story and what did I think of it.
The story starts with Fie who’s the daughter of the chief of a band of Merciful Crows. Her band of Merciful Crows is at the Royal Palace where her father is delivering mercy kills to two royal boys. Crows are the only caste to remain immune to the plague that’s wreaking havoc across the kingdom( I don’t remember the name of the place so i’m gonna just keep using kingdom *sorry*) and that’s why they are called everywhere there is a person or family afflicted and when the chief kills, a reward is given to the crows in exchange.
So, what happens next is that Fie and the rest of her Crows take the royal boys to burn them and lo and behold, they’re not dead after all. It turns out that the royal bodies are none other than Prince Jasimir and his royal bodyguard Tavin(who occasionally acts as the prince’s double). The situation gets even crazier when Jasimir and Tavin ask the Crows’ help to deliver them to a safe place because all these years the Queen or Jasimir’s stepmother was trying to kill him. Fie and the Crows agree only after a sacred oath is made: Swear that there would be no more merciless killing of the Crows’; that when Jasimir becomes King, he will provide armed protection to the Crows. After taking this sacred oath, Fie and her band of Crows along with the prince and his bodyguard start on a journey to fulfill their promise but treachery lies ahead and somewhere along the road, Fie will have to decide between her family and two strangers who could care less about the Crows.
It's time for MY thoughts
To my utter surprise, I loved everything about the book. At first, I stumbled on the language used- which was part Scottish, I think- and the caste system. Each caste groups have witches among them too and the term “witches” is used to describe both males and females. There was a lot of mentions of teeth and their uses which kinda grossed me out. HOWEVER, everything was okay in my world as I became used to everything and truly enjoyed the story which set at the perfect pace for me. There were loads of twists and turns throughout and I loved the build of anticipation till the very end. There were lots of clever uses of wordplay.. a cat named Barf and a chief named Bastard. And a bastard who’s a Hawk. And a Prince who’s supposed to be dead..
I loved the world-building; the caste system and their division into various groups, each having different birthrights..except the Crows. BUT…the Crows have this unique ability -which I’m not going to spoil- that I thought was so clever.
“They’ll come up with a fancy name for you… Tell stories for centuries. Fie Oath-cutter. Fie the Cunning. Fie, the Crow Who Feared No Crown.”
I loved Fie’s character: she’s relatable, fierce, loyal..and one of the most well-developed characters I’ve read in fantasy recently. Her anger, arrogance, sorrow is all justified when you read what her family and the rest of the Crows have been through. Tavin is an interesting character as I had started to think of him as a side character but oh boy, does he have many layers to peel off. I hated Jasimir because he -rightly so- was acting like a pompous
ass and jealous prince for most of the book. However, all these characters were so well-developed that in the end, you’ll end up loving them and wanting more of them.
There is a slow-burn romance but it doesn’t take center stage. It was well developed, felt natural and both of the characters showed respect towards each other in spite of the social system at play.
I need more of Fie, more of Tavin and Jasimir, and where their paths will lead them to. I won’t say it ended on a cliffhanger and you can even read it as a standalone if you want, but I know that The Merciful Crow is planned to be a duology. To say that “I’m excited” would be an understatement.
Overall, I highly recommend this fantasy to you if you love fast-paced, immersive stories with a slow-burn romance that will keep you second-guessing the outcome till the very end. There are unique uses of magic at play, a gay prince, bisexual bodyguard, badass females with cats and lots more in this fantastic book by Margaret Owen.
|Thanks to the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.|
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Is the Merciful Crow on your TBR? Have you already read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!