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The Merciful Crow duology

Some authors are good. They write one amazing novel (or series) and then write average novels for the rest of their lives. Some are great. Every book or series they publish is a five-star story and a must-read for young adults everywhere.

I have read books from only a few authors like this. Marissa Meyer has never failed to publish a novel I absolutely love and her series constantly pull me in, begging me to read more...even if there is no more. Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse books are all a hit, and,. in my opinion, live up to the hype they are currently receiving (though everything I've read of her's was set in the same universe so her awesome authorship may not have been properly tested yet).

Margaret Owen has not released dozens of books yet but the two series she has released both make my "book wishlist," receive five stars from me, and are either in my top ten books/series or close to it. She is a great author and I would continue to read her books if only there were more to read.

I recently finished Little Thieves. The book is Owen's most current novel and has so far received excellent feedback from those who have read it and keeps popping up all over social media. I loved it! It was one of my favorite books (of all time), one of the best stand-alone books I read last year if not the best, and a five-star novel for sure. You can read the full review of the book in one of my previous posts.

After reading the outstanding book, I wanted more so I made my first read of the new year the first book in her other series: The Merciful Crow.

It was only a few chapters in that I looked up from the book and said (to anyone listening and to myself), "this author didn't just publish one good book, she is a great author!"

The Merciful Crow series was a different kind of fantasy than many I have read before but I found the differences incredibly refreshing. The series is set mostly on the roads, traveling through a made-up world called Sabor. The main characters are the Crows, the lowest layer of a caste system without the 'birthright" given to each of the other castes. Fie (the protagonist) is a Crow witch so while she doesn't have a birthright, she can use the birthright of all the other castes by pulling them from the teeth of those castes. One day, her people are called to the palace to retrieve a dead prince and his bodyguard and burn them. After all, they have the plague and the only way to stop the plague from spreading and killing everyone and everything (except the immune Crows) is to burn the bodies and salt the ashes.

The only thing is the bodies they retrieve aren't dead. Now Fie has a bag of royal teeth that allow her to call flame, a prince and his bodyguard she must transport to safety, and a cat who may or may not be lucky.

The Merciful Crow series touches on so many important topics of the modern world while spinning a stunning story around an outcast, a prince, and a boy who fits nowhere. The story is deep and cuts to the core of the issues revolving around race that exist in today's world. Owen shows people being treated as less than human and makes an argument for never letting that happen in real life. Not only that, but her inclusion of the plague and the complications around it discuss the importance of having truth in these situations and not just listening to whoever has the most power or reach.

The Faithless Hawk, which details these elements about the plague (which apply to today's COVID situation) was released in August of 2020. So while there is some chance that Owen had the ability to edit the book and write in her say about the pandemic, I doubt this was her plan. Likely the book's storyline was largely completed if not entirely written before the pandemic and this connection was just chance. Whether or not the connection between this element in the book and the 2020 COVID pandemic that still exists today was intentional, the book had plenty to say about it.

It was interesting to read a book with so many themes and important stories to tell about today's world. Most of the fantasy books I read don't touch these kinds of subjects or do so only briefly and without much ability to truly convince people of something important. Owen's books were beautifully written so as to present these themes and important issues so vividly that they nearly punch you in the face as you read.

That doesn't mean she gives up plot, description, or character to reveal these truths. In fact, Owen's plot throughout the book is daring, adventurous, and takes plenty of twists and turns you don't see coming. Her characters are loveable yet flawed and people you desperately want to win (so much so that you might yell at the book to try to make it happen). Her setting is revealed through clever writing that intricately paints the picture while never stepping away from the plot and characters of the book for more than a moment. Each piece is then woven together so that the twisting, turning plot is carried by the wonderfully developed characters and supported by a setting that allows for conflict and excitement.

I did enjoy Little Thieves more so than The Merciful Crow. To me, it seemed that each of Owen's books grows better. The descriptions, plot, and character (while great from the beginning of The Merciful Crow) are more interesting, elaborate, and convincing each time. Little Thieves has a plot that twists and turns even more so than The Merciful Crow. While I saw a few turns coming at me in The Merciful Crow, most of the plot twists in Little Thieves hit me entirely by surprise. I also enjoyed the protagonist of Little Thieves more than that of The Merciful Crow though The Merciful Crow had supporting characters I fell more in love with than those in Little Thieves. Both do an excellent job of weaving an intricate, complicated story with a ton of different characters the author would have needed to create and not lose track of in a way that makes it all seem so simple to the reader and it was this, I think, which I enjoyed the most (as well as the morals of the story).

This is a series worth going to the ends of the Earth to find a copy of for reading. Five out of five stars for both of Owen's books. I cannot wait to see what she does next!

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