As a future chieftain of the Crow caste, sixteen-year-old Fie abides by one rule: Look after your own. Her clan of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when her family is called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime. Instead, they find a still-living crown prince, his cunning bodyguard, and a common foe: a ruthless usurper queen who wants them all dead. Fie agrees to smuggle the prince across the nation in exchange for her people’s safety. But with the queen’s brutal hunters on their tail, she’s forced to make the sacrifices that define a true leader.
The Merciful Crow is the first book in a duology and the author’s debut novel. After reading her recent novel Little Thieves, which was brilliantly written, I found this novel to be a little bit of a disappointment. It was such a slog to get through and I’ll have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief when it ended. Whilst there is plenty of action in the storyline and the characters are wonderful, I felt the writing let it down and it lacked the excitement and energy that usually propels me through a fantasy novel. It felt stilted somehow and I couldn’t get into a reading rhythm. Overuse of the word ‘betwixt’ became a little tiresome, particularly in the first half of the novel and the random Scottish dialogue sprinkled throughout didn’t seem to fit with the story. Fie’s character reminded me a little bit of Ygritte in Game of Thrones and although it didn’t quite come across in the hit and miss dialogue, I can only assume the author intended to portray Fie as a quirky, funny, strongly accented heroine. Fie is, however, a solid female lead, fearsome and slightly rough around the edges. You can really feel her sorrow and her rage and I’m sure her character will continue to grow and develop as the series continues.
The magic system is interesting and complex. The world is split into castes, each caste is named after a bird such as phoenix, hawk, sparrow, owl, pigeon and crane and each one has its own birthright. These birthrights can be refuge, memory, fortune, honesty and illusion, to name a few. The crows are at the bottom of the pecking order and the phoenixes at the top. Crows do not have a birthright, but can call upon any birthright by using the teeth of other castes.
The author’s writing style has definitely come a long way since this novel and I am looking forward to reading The Faithless Hawk, the last in this two-book series.
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Publication Date (UK): 18 August 2020
Series: #1 The Merciful Crow
Page Count: 384
Genre: YA Fantasy
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