“‘We will be back when you call.’
When, not if.”
I received an ARC of The Merciful Crow at BookExpo, this in no way impacts my review. However, my review is based on an unfinished and uncorrected copy, please note that the story and quotes may differ from the final book. I’ll keep this review as spoiler-free as possible.
Read in June 2019
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
In a medieval-like society broken down into twelve bird-named castes, we follow sixteen-year-old Fie who belongs to the Crows, the lowest caste of Sabor. While all the other castes have special birthrights – Fire for Phoenixes, Truth for Cranes, Luck for Pigeons… – the Crows have none. They are barely tolerated because they are the only caste that is completely immune to the Sinner’s plague and thus are in charge of containing the plague that keeps hitting all the other castes. They are a nomad people, always on the road, and they must regularly answer plague beacons to carry out mercy killings, take away and burn the bodies of the people who got affected in villages along the way before they can infect others.
Crows are disrespected and belittled by everyone, some villages even refuse to pay them; still, they do their job, and take the deceased teeth as payment. You see, some of the Crows are bone thieves, and have the ability to burn the teeth of other castes and use their Birthright temporarily.Fie is one of them, she is trained by her Pa to take over after him and become chief of her group. One day Fie’s group is called out to collect the body of a member of the royal family, but it turned out that Phoenix Prince Jasimir and his Hawk body double/guard Tavin faked their deaths to escape Queen Rhusana, Jasimir’s stepmother, who wants to take over the throne (royal heir keep dying in ‘hunting accidents’).
“The Crows were merciful, but they weren’t cheap.”
Pa sees her the perfect opportunity, he makes a binding deal with the Prince, his group is going to help him and smuggle him to the place where other family members can help him against his promise to give the Crows the protection they need when he finally ascends the throne. It’s risky and it goes against the one rule the Crows live by: ‘Look after your own’, but it seems worthwhile. But the road there is full of pitfalls; they have to face multiple attacks by the Oleander Gentry, a group of white-cloaked ruthless riders roaming the countryside to hunt and kill Crows, just as they did to Fie’s Ma, but also outrun the Queen’s mercenaries following them closely behind.
As I said earlier, I was given this book at BookExpo at the Fierce Reads booth on some kind of ‘tell us what book you liked, we’ll give you a book that you might enjoy’ and to be honest I was there only trying to get Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo. I got this one instead and had only heard briefly about it, I had seen the cover on Goodreads and didn’t even know the synopsis. But what started with disappointment ended up pretty well since I enjoyed this book. I loved the representation, with a pansexual male character, a gay royal, and I think that one of the side characters is nonbinary. Also, there is no gender discrimination whatsoever (female queen, female chief of the army, Fie is taking the head of her group after her father…).
“When you act in anger, you have already lost your battle”
However, I still had some issues with this book, the most important one being that I think that this book is not marketed correctly. I feel like it would be better to consider this book as an Adult Fantasy since there are close to nothing that links it to YA except the main character’s age. In term of style, I found this book slow and the language could be difficult for young adults. In term of content, the issues approached were intense, and the violence was graphic. I’m not saying that young-adults are not mature enough to read this book but that as an adult who prefers YA I would have liked it better if this book was properly marketed.
Last couple things I wanted to discuss: First I liked that it was a slow-burn romance but it lacked some subtlety sometimes, but rest assured, there is no love triangle in this book unlike I initially thought. Second I didn’t really understand how the cast system worked sometimes, like how is it decided who is born where? Is it hereditary? What happens in case of cross-cast birth? For instance, Jasinder is the son of a Hawk and a Phoenix and he is a Pheonix, but why? Many questions are left unanswered even if the world-building was central in this book. Overall, The Merciful Crow was a good book but some parts fell flat for me, it required much focus and even re-reading some passages at some point, but the message is good and the characters are fully fleshed.
“In her sixteen years, Fie had learned many a hard lesson when it hit her right in the teeth: Always watch the crowd. Always know your way out. Never go into town alone.
And on the nights you burn sinners, sleep with your sandals on.”
Have you read or will you read this book?
What did you think about it?