The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen
Series: The Merciful Crow #1
Published July 30th 2019 by Henry Holt (BYR)
Age Range: Young Adult
Representation: Gay SC
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?
Picked up The Merciful Crow on a whim and absolutely loved it. The first thing that caught my attention was the fascinating world and magic system. An unthinkable trio–a crow, a prince, and a bodyguard–are on the run together. They cut a deal in which both parties benefited. However, there was no knowing if anything would come out of it considering that they were being chased down by enemies. Friendships were built between unsuspecting people and slow-burn romance buds.
Margaret Owen balanced the world-building and the character development really well. Since her father is the chief, Fie knew one day that she would have to step up to take over him but she doesn’t know if she truly wanted to be one. Even though Fie was uncertain about being a chieftain, she constantly made difficult decisions that established her relationship. As she proves to be a strong heroine, Fie also showed her vulnerable side which I appreciated as well.
Not going to mince anything but Prince Jasimir was annoying. Unsurprisingly, I had a difficult time with his character. Unable to see things from other people’s perspectives and his inability to empathize, Jas’s privilege and sheltered upbringing are blatantly obvious. Gradually though, Jas got better as he started to understand how the Crows lived and being on the run taught him that life isn’t as black and white as it seems.
Tavin is level-headed and calm all the time. His character balanced out Jas’s. In contrast to the prince, Tavin understood life outside the castle more. He wasn’t naive and could think critically. Despite that, though, he doesn’t know much about the Crows and made stupid comments before he interacted with the Crows.
The world is built upon the caste system with the Phoenix caste (royalty) at the top and the Crows (undertakers) at the bottom. Crows used magic by igniting teeth of a dead person. Teeth from a specific caste has a particular property and is selectively used based on the situation. Despite only travelling with a Crow, a Phoenix and a Hawk, readers get to know the entire hierarchy when Fie used the teeth each time it’s needed. It was a easy way to let readers explore the various caste without long dialogues or extensive descriptions.
Before you scroll down, make sure you’ve read The Merciful Crow unless you want to be spoiled for what happened in book one!
The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen
Series: The Merciful Crow #2
Published August 18th 2020 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Representation: Gay SC
As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.
With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.
A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.
I found myself liking The Faithless Hawk more. The stakes ramped up now that Fie is gaining a reputation as the only chieftain with Hawk soldiers looking after and fighting alongside the Crows. The situation is more dangerous after Fie angered Rhusana, the Queen. It definitely shifted away from the main journey and setting in The Merciful Crow.
For the first part, we journey with Fie and her band, witnessing how the Crows were being treated after having Hawk soldiers as their bodyguards. There’s still a great deal of animosity against the Crow caste. Also, readers see how the lower castes are suffering under the hands of the upper castes. In the latter part, Fie and her friends snuck into the royal palace, planned how to take Rhusana down, and discover her powers. I appreciated the author’s decision to bring Fie and her allies into the palace sooner rather than later. It was well-paced and heightened the risks they are facing. Not going to lie, though, I did miss traveling with Fie as she answered the smoke signals.
Fie is humble, kind, and compassionate. While on the road, all she was doing was be a good chieftain. At times, she was vulnerable. It didn’t make her look weak but rather more relatable. I liked how her band supported Fie when she needed it. She had low points which made her cry, shout and scream. Since she’s inexperienced, Fie made mistakes that led to dire consequences. Instead of running away from responsibilities, she acknowledges her fault which proved that Fie was willing to learn.
As compared to The Merciful Crow, I’m more invested in the romance between Tavin and Fie here. Not sure why too. Maybe because they were more open about each other’s feelings or the fact that they showed their vulnerability to one another without it being awkward or weird. At the halfway mark, their relationship started to crumble (the title is called The Faithless Hawk so be prepared.) Won’t go into details because of spoilers. Even then, I still liked how their relationship was shaped and developed.
And the uneasy truth was that thinking on it felt like standing at the shores of an ocean on a moonless night—something terrible, vast, and unseen roaring before her, waiting to swallow her whole the moment she stepped beyond solid ground.
Prince Jas grew up so much! His thinking is more matured, he didn’t blame others for things they couldn’t control, and he understood the actions made by others aren’t necessarily in opposition to him. He definitely became a better person too. I adored the banter between Khoda, Fie, and Jas, especially the one about the tower window. The three of them worked immensely well together even though Fie and Jas, together, are a headache for Khoda at times.
In The Faithless Hawk, the magic system expanded even more. We got to experience the powers of each caste through Fie as she journeyed to take Queen Rhusana down. Through this, we realized how powerful Fie actually is because not everyone can handle three Phoenix teeth at once. Also, there was more to the caste system and its history, especially about the dead gods, and the intricacies of the different castes and their magic.
This finale was a satisfactory and wonderful end to the duology. Even though it has only two books, Margaret Owen did a great job in expanding the magic system, the history behind the caste hierarchy, and each character’s development while making the readers feel closer to the story. If you want to read about fortune-bringing cats, underdogs saving the day, duty towards others, and an intriguing system that allowed people to manipulate magic with teeth and hairs, look no further.