Author: Margaret Owen
Series: The Merciful Crow (#2)
Publication date: August 18, 2020
Genre: young adult fantasy
My rating: 5/5 stars
In short: this book rocks. It’s dark and magical and serious and funny and full of so many elements that ought to conflict but instead just weave together and make the storyline even stronger. I laughed. I was anxious. I was angry. I was happy. And I think you will be, too. This post is part of a blog tour, so there is a lot of content here, including a giveaway at the end–hopefully you’ll read it all 😉
Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.
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.
In short: I loved this book. It took everything good about its predecessor and made it even better. Instead of paragraphs, I’m going to give a bulleted list of things I liked, because I don’t have any good ideas on how to make it all flow nicely. (My brain is a little fried lately; sorry about that.)
- Look, I liked Fie in the first book, but this version of Fie is even better. She really comes into her own in this book, learning how to take charge as the chief of her band of Crows and making hard decisions, but never losing her personal spark or drive. She still throws sarcastic jabs everywhere, she still never backs down from a fight, and she still keeps her values even when outside forces demand otherwise.
- The relationship between Fie and Tavin! Without spoiling anything, their romance (and even their friendship) is thrown for a major loop in this book, and there are feelings. Lots of them. As you know, I am always here for feelings and complications.
- Sociopolitical commentary galore! As in book 1, we see lots of conversations dealing with the classism that pervades this society and the discrimination that the Crows face. This book does not drop those threads, but instead digs into them, continuing to explore oppression…and what happens when the oppressed finally decide to take a stand.
- Worldbuilding! Yay! I loved the world of this series already–the tooth magic, the birthright caste system, the eerie Sinner’s Plague–but The Faithless Hawk expands on that world even more, especially its lore and history. We see a lot more about the old gods and their reincarnations in this story, and it is pretty dang cool.
- Speaking of that Sinner’s Plague: in the midst of a viral pandemic, isn’t it wild to see a fictional plague? And, in particular, one that has responses that sometimes very, very closely mirror our own world’s? Check out this one passage (ellipses indicate parts I abridged, partially to avoid spoilers and partially to make it less confusing.)
[A bit of context: Crows are supposed to burn the bodies of those with the Plague, because they are the only caste that is immune to it. Recently, cities have begun burning their Plague dead instead of calling the Crows. This line of dialogue is started by the leader of a city defending that practice.’
“I’m sure they’re just following the queen’s example.”
“I would appreciate it if you made it clear to your arbiters that the Crows must handle any outbreaks…It’s not safe for anyone else to dispose of the bodies.”
Lord Geramir bobbed his head. “This will all pass soon enough.”
“Geramir…The words you’re looking for are ‘Yes, Your Highness.”
He squirmed, tugging at his collar. “It would be unseemly to directly contradict her Majesty…I’m just saying, you can issue your own orders after you’re crowned a week from now, and it makes no sense for me to burn bridges when we could just wait it out–“
“‘Wait it out’?”
The tent fell silent as everyone looked at Fie. She was staring at the Peacock lord, cheeks burning.
“I’m not particularly concerned,” Geramir said, waving a hand. “The arbiters know what’s best for their towns, and–“
“The arbiter of Karostei was the one turning away Crows,” Fie snapped, anger spiking up her gut. “He died wearing the Sinner’s Brand, along with a quarter of Karostei. We left that town in ashes. Can a quarter of your population wait it out?”
Lord Geramir’s face darkened. “This is absurd,” he said. “Did you ever consider you might be biased because it’s your job to take the dead? You’re wading around in it all day, but–“
“You aren’t concerned that the plague will reach your home.
So…yeah, I’m not saying it is a direct parallel, but the whole concept of people in positions of power thinking they’re above a disease and that they know better than experts and that experts are just making the problem up to suit their own ends? That sounds more than a little like our current situation in the USA. Even creepier, because I’m guessing most, if not all, of this book was written before the pandemic even really took off.
Anyway, more stuff I liked!
- Margaret Owen’s writing voice is superb. It’s just the right balance of sarcastic humor and antiquated propriety. When the same character who says “shit” all the time is also the one who answers questions with “aye,” there’s something very pleasing about the juxtaposition. And that style might not work for every book, but it most definitely works for this one, where we need both the lightheartedness and the heavy fire.
- Some cool new characters, including a guard Khoda (who is pretty great) and some new Crows, including leaders of other Crow tribes. But we also get plenty of our old favorites, including the always-irreverent Madcap and the hardened old lady with a heart of gold, Wretch.
- The best cat ever, Barf. Who also happens to be a good luck token. And who loves both belly rubs and attacking people who give them.
- So many twists, so much subterfuge, crazy prophecies, lots of blood and death and murder–this book hits the ground running from page one and just never stops. Heck yeah.
- Honestly, there’s something so wholesome about the Crows. Yes, they’re often crude, and they have a disgusting job and a terrible lot in life, but they stand by each other so fiercely and support each other no matter what. Multiple times, Crows in this book remind each other (and especially Fie) that they will always look after their own, even when it is hard. That degree of loyalty just makes me really happy to read about.
🎶 These are a few of my favorite quotes… 🎶 From the book, that is. There are some awesome ones in this book, some profound and some funny. I tried my best to choose only quotes that don’t contain spoilers!
“We have a saying in the legions: waste no weapons, least of all your foe’s.”
“What a load of dog shit,” Khoda mumbled, then seemed to recall he was in the presence of his commanding officer. “I mean–beg pardon, corporal. That sounds like…like…”
“Dog shit,” Fie finished helpfully. “You had it the first time.”
“How am I supposed to believe I’ll be better on the throne?”
“You can’t,” Fie said immediately. “‘Better’ isn’t what you think you are. Better is what you do.”
“It should be fine…They’re expecting us.”
It was not, in fact, fine.(Major Arrested Development vibes here, am I right?)
Her hurt never truly went away. Wounds became scars, pain tempered to bitter wisdom, and from the embers of her grief always, always rose rage.
“Change comes with a cost, and even Phoenixes need ash to rise.”
If you’re interested in picking up this title (and trust me, you should be!), you can add it to your Goodreads shelf and/or pick up a copy of it from any of these locations!
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.
For more fun stuff about this book (including author interviews, mood boards, a playlist, lovely Instagram photos, and more!), check out the rest of the stops on this tour HERE!
Yes, yes, the part everyone’s been waiting for. You can win finished copies of both The Merciful Crow and The Faithless Hawk–that’s TWO amazing books! Giveaway is open to US and Canada only and runs from August 23rd to August 29th. You can enter HERE. May the odds be ever in your favor.
And with that, I bid everyone adieu for the day. I also have a stop on Bookstagram for this tour, which you can check out HERE if you feel so inclined. As always, thank you for your continued support! (I also copied it below here, but I also haven’t really pitched my Instagram here, and I would love if you guys could check it out!)
Thank you to the publisher, Henry Holt, for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review, and to TBR and Beyond Tours for allowing me to be a part of this tour!