Linzi's Reviews > The Merciful Crow

The Merciful Crow by Margaret  Owen
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bookshelves: fantasy-sci-fi

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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Reading Progress

June 3, 2019 – Started Reading
June 3, 2019 – Shelved
June 4, 2019 – Finished Reading
January 20, 2020 – Shelved as: fantasy-sci-fi

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Linda Naquin Yes, you definitely read it too fast because a lot of what you're asking about or questioning was explained in the book. For example, they're being tracked by Vultures, Skinwitches whose power lies in tracking people and objects. Fie realizes in the end that it was her they were tracking the whole time because they had her Crow mask. To answer your question about castes, people are born into them the same way we are born white, black, or Hispanic. It's in your blood. She mentions there are few half castes because most people stick with their own caste because it improves the chances of having a caste witch (not everyone has magic, only some, and those are witches; Crows have no inherent magic of their own, but there are still only a few witches amongst them who can manipulate teeth magic) Therefore, you cannot just choose to be a different caste or not to be your own caste, it's your blood and you're born that way. Also, Crows don't just take teeth for payment. Anything goes, so long as it's fair for the village. A poor village doesn't need to pay as much, but a well off village owes more and usually tends to try and cheat the Crows because all castes look down upon them, a hatred born of fear because Crows only arrive in the wake of plague. Crows aren't the only good caste, with all others being villains, it's just you're reading the book from a Crow's point of view showing the Prince how his kingdom is failing the Crow caste, so you see more of the bad than the good. She mentions there are indeed villages grateful for the mercy of the Crows, but the majority are not and that is what she tries to impress upon the Prince.

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