The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received this book as an ARC at BookCon. I knew nothing about it other than the basic synopsis and that I liked the cover.
The story follows Fie, part of the Crow caste, and her family as they aid towns in removing plague victims before they can infect others. During a stop to a royal palace she finds herself embroiled in a murderous plot in which she and her family must attempt to save the prince from being killed and the throne from being usurped.
I had quite a few problems with this book but to explain them I have to get spoilery so if you don't want spoilers, I suggest you stop now.
Ok, still with me?
I feel like the book suffered from too much world building. Yeah, you read that right.
You've got a bunch of different "castes" of birds. Peacocks, Oleanders, Sparrows, Phoenix, Crows, Vultures. Ok cool. When the crows collect the bodies of the plague victims they take teeth in payment. Each type of tooth has it's own kind of power. Other than the Phoenix teeth which control variations of fire…it's incredibly confusing as to what each type of tooth does. And maybe I read it too fast but I don't remember reading as to why people are born as Crows vs. Peacocks vs. Vultures, etc. Nothing to say why you couldn't choose to be a different one as you grew up.
Then the author tries to essentially imply that the only solid and honest caste is the Crows. There are occasional individual outliers but for the most part, Crows are the only good overall Caste. Weird, but I'm more or less OK with this except that…
…while there's a central villain, unlike every other fantasy novel; you never actually hear from the villain herself. You only get to read about the main characters running from her agents.
The book also really never explains how they are being tracked so well by the bands of bad guys.
One of the things that I did enjoy was the flipped dynamic of the "witch/warrior" trope having to save the prince from certain doom. Usually it's the prince/princess having to do the saving. And Fie doesn't fall for the prince, she falls for his bodyguard/body double and she doesn't even start to think about that until at least half way through the book. Definitely a nice twist.
I didn't hate it. I just felt like it was lacking some depth. I needed more in general from this story. Now, I just came off a Grishaverse binge so it earned an extra half star because I might just want more Grisha and nothing else compares. If you like YA fantasy you might dig this one too. I'm not going to recommend it, but I'm not going to tell you to avoid it altogether.
Overall it's a passable way to spend a train ride home.
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