Book: The Merciful Crow
Author: Margaret Owen
Year Published: 2019
- Plot: 4/5
- Characters: 4/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Overall: 4/5
The Merciful Crow was an intriguing read about a world plagued by prejudice and hierarchy and the people fighting for justice.
The world building was excellent because it was very original and I was gradually fed more information as I read as opposed to a boring info dump at the start of the book. I also loved the magic system and the way it functioned in the novel.
The people were split into twelve castes and each one had a birthright gifted to them by their gods. Each caste was named after a bird. For example, the Phoenix caste (the caste of royalty) had the birthright of fire. However, the lowest caste- the Crows– were born with no birthright and were treated appallingly by the other castes. Hunted and abused by the Oleander gentry, shunned in every town and city, every day was a fight for survival for a Crow.
Crows were the only people who were immune to a highly contagious disease called the Sinners’ Plague which was impossible to survive. Therefore, they were necessary as they served as mercy killers for those who fell ill with the plague and were the only ones who could safely dispose of the bodies. They even wore the scary plague masks that people used to wear during the time of the bubonic plague which I thought was cool. Every time they took away a body they were payed by the town or village by whatever they could afford.
Despite the essential work that Crows did, people were still hostile towards them. This made me feel really sad because if the Crows didn’t take the bodies of the infected away from the town or village and burn them, the disease would spread like wildfire throughout and everyone would die. I couldn’t understand how the other castes could be so cruel and ungrateful to the people who were saving their lives.
I found it ironic that people claimed that Crows had no birthright because being immune to a deadly disease seems like a very precious gift. Furthermore, teeth and bones from other castes held a small amount of power that some Crows were able to harness. For example, a Crow could use a tooth from someone from the Phoenix caste to wield some fire magic. The way I saw it was that people decided to disdain Crows and say that they were cursed by the gods to make themselves feel important and superior because in reality Crows did have abilities that were extremely useful.
Fie was a Crow and a future chieftain and she was bound by a covenant bond to the fugitive prince Jasimir and his too-cunning bodyguard Tav to lead them safely to their allies in return for Jasimir promising to give more rights to the Crows when he became king. They went on a long and bloody quest to save their land from tyranny and bring about justice.
Fie was incredibly stubborn but she had a strong sense of loyalty and responsibility. I liked her because she was never afraid to stand up to those who sought to take away her rights.
At the beginning, I hated Jasimir because he was pompously annoying but his character developed greatly over the book and he went from a petty prince to a just king.
Tav was very resourceful and was good at getting into the good graces of others using his charm. He was also very loyal but after spending most of his life as Jasimir’s bodyguard and body double, he started to wish for a life of his own.
However, the one thing I didn’t understand was why their were no measures in place about how Crows harnessed the birthrights in teeth and bones because if people despised them so much why would they allow them to have so much power.
Overall, I enjoyed this book very much and I liked how it dealt with themes of loyalty and prejudice. It is a book I would recommend to fans of fantasy bored of the standard tropes.
Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.