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.