Book Review

The Faithless Hawk

The Faithless Hawk

  • Author: Margaret Owen
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: August 18, 2020
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
  • Series: The Merciful Crow #2

Heads up: If you haven’t read The Merciful Crow, you may want to skip this review, since it may include some spoilers for book 1 (but none for this book, I promise). You can find my review for book 1 here.

TRIGGER WARNING: plague, gore

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A dead king. 

An empty throne.

A lost god.

And a treacherous road for the crows.

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still, she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and igniting Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne. 

With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite Sabor against the Crows — and to grow her monstrous army — Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding. But as the plague ravages the country, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and the nation is lost forever.

Desperate, Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot but ancient secrets of the Crows — secrets that could save her people … or set the world ablaze.

This book was quite possibly the best ending to this duology that I could have ever dreamed of. It was definitely worth the wait. 

Fie has officially taken over as chieftain, and serious changes have been made. While the majority of people in Sabor still look down their noses at Crows, the oath she made with Jas in book 1 means no more Money Dances, and no more hiding in the trees when the Oleander Gentry come to raid their camp and kill Crows. They get fair viatik and have more goods than they’ve ever had before, all due to the presence of their own Hawk guards:

“They made for an odd funeral procession rattling down the dusty gravel: a wiry twist of a girl chief in her beaked mask, a shadow of a Hawk looming at her back, nine more Crows towing their dead sinner in the cart, three Hawks bringing up the rear.”

Fie has begun thinking of other things, too, though. She’s wondering why all of the other castes have a birthright, while Crows do not. They simply have the ability to take the birthright of other castes, using bones, generally teeth. They also have the dubious distinction of being immune to the Sinner’s Plague, leading them to work as undertakers, providing mercy to those suffering from the plague. What I didn’t realize, and learned over the course of this book, was exactly how damaging the plague could be, if left unattended to. 

Rhusana has a total grudge against the Crows, and does everything that she can to undermine them. In addition, she controls the skin-ghasts, which are probably the creepiest and most horrific thing I can think of:

“Then one night they’d encountered more of Rhusana’s skin-ghasts, hideous empty puppets made from the skins of the dead.”

Fie realizes that in order to beat Rhusana, she will have to infiltrate the palace and do it from the inside. However, in doing so, she ended up having to call on some allies that I did not expect. Each of the allies was strong-willed and at times, it felt like the weirdest and worst-planned heist ever, even though it worked in a weird way. I was surprised at the amount of plot twists that were involved in the story, and there was actually some humor involved as well. Romance and betrayal also played a big role, and I never failed to be impressed at how realistic Fie’s character was. She’s so strong willed, but also sensitive, wise, stubborn, and forgiving. 

I was especially impressed with how forward thinking this society was. Women held positions of power regularly — queens were common even throughout history, female warriors were just as well respected as males, Jasimir is widely known to be gay (even as a crown prince), there are other lesbian/gay/bi characters, and there’s at least one non-binary character (Madcap), and it’s all completely accepted in Sabor. I liked the idea of the Covenant as a system to keep things in check, where sinners are punished with the plague, and then reborn as a Crow to earn their way back to another caste, even though the caste system isn’t necessarily working well in this society.

There was a great view into the gods of Sabor, as well, as how the shrines and graves in the palace work. I loved the creativity of the story and how everything came together. I never predicted any of the plot twists, although I loved every single minute of it, especially since several parts actually gave me chills! This was definitely one of my favorite duologies, and I highly recommend it.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 18

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