The Merciful Crow – Margaret Owen

This was one of my little sister’s very favorites of the year. That alone made this book stand out in a big way for me. Characterization is her most important checkmark, so going in I expected great characters. I was not disappointed.

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?

Goodreads Description

Our main character Fie is a crow, this puts her at the very bottom of the caste system in world. One of the strengths of Owen’s story is showcasing what this means for her and how that forms her as a person. It’s a stellar example of showing class and how the class you are born into is not defined by anything other than the system that put you there. My background in a very rural part of Oklahoma really let me identify with portions of this character. It was deep and I imagine there are many ways to identify with this character depiction.

The prose was also beautiful, from a writing perspective I found myself going ooo I like how she did that. It reminded me of all my favorite types of books when I was growing up.

I debated for awhile trying to decide if this felt adult-ish to me or not. At first I very much felt this could have been an adult fantasy. The length, the pacing, the violence, everything just felt more adult to me. I think what really did it was the theme’s within the class systems. Ultimately the hate and violence and the fact that even from the main character’s point of view there aren’t really any good guys for her to turn to.

Then I realized how big of a deal this theme is and how fantasy is a great place to explore it. I decided in the end that the only thing that felt YA to me was the romance. I feel like as an adult novel this romance would have been a slow burn. Needless to say though, I highly recommend this to adults reading YA. It’s got crossover potential.

While I joke that it would have been a slow burn had it been categorized as adult, I really did like the romance. It developed so naturally that I loved it. It’s so hard to hit that spot between slow burn and insta love and Owen really nailed it for me.

The plot at the end of it all felt very slow, which can happen in fantasy and especially in quest fantasy. Maybe it’s an incurable symptom. The roadtrip left me skim-reading different parts, the saggy middle kept well into the third act. Just be prepared for the characters to pull you through these sections.

I really liked the prince, Jasimir. I think there is some hate on him, but I loved how authentic the literal angry banter between him and Fie was. It makes me wonder at the future of their friendship, what other challenges can be explored here? They just really fight and yet work together and it’s just beautiful.

I would recommend this one for fans of big fantasy with lots of world and character development. Or if you unique magic/caste system’s are your thing.

The Merciful Crow is Margaret Owen’s debut Young Adult novel. Set to release on July 30th, 2019. It will be a duology.


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