ABOUT THE BOOK:
One way or another, we always feed the crows.
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?
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by Olivia Farr, Staff Reviewer
THE MERCIFUL CROW is a lush new fantasy unlike anything I have read before. In the kingdom of Sabor, people are born into castes named for birds. Fie is a 16-year-old Crow, destined to be a chief someday. Crows are the lowest caste, seen as lower than animals and needed but completely unvalued. While the other castes have Birthrights that give them special powers (e.g. Phoenixes have fire, Swans have desire), Crows are without any such Birthrights. The chiefs are bone witches, where using teeth can temporarily give them the powers of the former owner.
While everyone detests Crows, and some even hunt them in the night, Crows are necessary to fight the plague. The plague seems to be punishment for sinners, and Crows are immune. When someone is infected with the plague, they call the Crows to town to give them a mercy killing and to burn the body. If the Crows do not come, the whole town will soon be infected. The Crows are then paid viatik, a price which is appropriate for the caste and along the lines of what the people can afford.
The book starts with a bang- the Crows are attending to the plague in a higher caste area than usually would be infected. Soon, Fie learns that the dead are the crown prince, Jasimir, a Pheonix, and his guard and body double, Tavin, a Hawk. They faked their deaths to save Jasimir’s life from his stepmother, who is determined to kill everyone who stands in her way of the crown. Jasimir strikes a bargain with the Crows- they will help him get to safety with his allies, and he will then protect the Crows when takes the crown.
What follows is a dangerous and fantastic journey into the depths of this unique world.
What I loved: The world-building here is slow but strong. Everything is revealed organically without any knowledge dumps and it grows steadily throughout the book. The characters are equally strong with the tenacious Fie leading this marvelous cast. I was completely drawn into her story and loved seeing the world through her eyes. She is just amazing- clever, loving of her family, brave, and everything you want in a leading character. The romance that develops with her is simply beautiful, and I absolutely loved watching it grow throughout the story.
With danger, trickery, magic, and more, this book has everything you could want in a YA fantasy and then some. With the addition of social justice themes, this book becomes an even bigger story with some important messages. For instance, there are discussions not only of the way the Crows are treated and the hate they constantly see, but also of others’ privilege and how people begin to sympathize with them and motives behind such changes.
Final verdict: With fantastic writing, gorgeous storytelling and lush world building, THE MERCIFUL CROW is an unbelievably good read for YA fantasy lovers. I highly recommend for fans of Sabaa Tahir and Leah Bardugo.