The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen ★★★★
“Pa was taking too long to cut the boys’ throats.”
Weird magic and fun characters make for an exciting first part in The Merciful Crow series
I really enjoyed this story. The Merciful Crow is an exciting fantasy book. The magic used in the book is so unique and strange which makes the story more fun. The characters are recognizable and you really sympathize with them. The story was pretty slow-paced and some scenes could have been a bit smoother, but overall I enjoyed it.
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?
The storyline is fascinating, but I wouldn’t call it really innovative. The Merciful Crow resembles Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows series. Partly because the stories are both about crows, but also because it has the same dark fantasy atmosphere. I don’t think every book should be innovative, it should primarily be good, and The Merciful Crow certainly was. There are some good plot twists in the story, which ensures that the author keeps the reader’s attention. The magic and the world are exciting and the characters fun to follow. Still, the pace is a bit too slow at times. There were some scenes that could’ve been left out. It seems like the author didn’t want The Merciful Crow to end too soon and chose to stretch the storyline a bit. You notice this when nothing really happens, but the author still wants to fill pages.
Margaret Owen’s writing style is one you have to get used to. In the beginning I had difficulty with the author’s writing style, I had difficulty following and often had to reread sentences. After a while you just hit this and the reading will go smoother. There is some repetition in this book, scenes that are somewhat similar.
“I will follow until I must lead. I will shield until I must strike. I will fight until I must heal.”
One of my favorite elements of this book is the magic. It is so special and strange since the characters in the book use teeth. Yep, teeth! I thought at first this was just a name for an object, but no they use real teeth. This is so unique. It may sound a bit gross, but it really fits this book.
I was a little worried that the castes were going to be confusing and that I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart, but that wasn’t the case. Throughout the book you learn more and more about the castes and you understand what each caste can do. It was well explained, and I was able to tell them apart perfectly.
The romance in this book is well-developed. I like that the author didn’t go with the obvious option. The characters get to know each other throughout the book and the relationship is not too rushed.
Furthermore, this book also has a good LGBTQIA + representation. One character is gay and another is bisexual. This is a nice element to see in fantasy books. The illusion that everyone in a fantasy novel must be straight is slowly being shattered. They are also two main characters in The Gracious, which makes it even better. Often when an LGBTQIA + character is put into a book, it’s the maternal aunt’s cousin or something like that.
The main character, Fie, is a strong woman and that is fun to read about. In The Gracious, the important roles are occupied by strong women. This is of course a plus, I don’t know many fantasy books in which the general is a woman. The friendships and bonds between Fie and the crows were beautiful to see. You could really empathize with them. What I also loved about Fie is that she cries at times. This may seem strange, but in books, the main character should usually be strong and not show weakness. Everyone has experienced difficult moments and Fie certainly. The fact that Margaret Owen makes her cry in front of strangers was cool to me. I liked seeing the vulnerable side of Fie and that makes her feel real and honest.
The world in which Fie and the crows find themselves is exciting and magical. The author has worked out the world just fine.
The ending was quite predictable, which in itself is nothing wrong with. I don’t mind that a book is predictable, but this may be a turn-off for some readers.
I gave The Merciful Crow 4 stars because I enjoyed almost everything. Some scenes were redundant and the pace was a bit slow. The characters were fun to follow and I liked the LGBTQIA + representation in The Merciful Crow.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. It’s a good book, and I’m looking forward to the second part of this duology The Faithless Hawk.
Death, violence, animal in danger, blood teeth
Bisexual side character, gay side character
Young adult, fantasy
July 30, 2019
About the author
Born and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, Margaret Owen first encountered an author in the wild in fourth grade. Roughly twenty seconds later, she decided she too would be an author, the first of many well-thought-out life decisions.
The career plan shifted frequently as Margaret spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked in everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned.
Fortunately, it turned out that fourth-grade Margaret was onto something. She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page, and negotiating a long-term hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.) In her free time, she enjoys exploring ill-advised travel destinations, and raising money for social justice nonprofits through her illustrations.
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