The Merciful Crow Recap: Part OneBy Team Fierce Reads
Who's ready for Part One of The Merciful Crow Readalong Recap?
ICYMI: Today we're recapping the first 8 chapters of The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen which means...
THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW!!!
If you haven't read Margaret Owen's epic debut fantasy, now is the time to STOP READING so you don't read a full summary of what happens in the first third of one of our favorite fantasy novels of 2019.
HOWEVER, if this is the recap you've been waiting for to prepare for The Faithless Hawk (WHO ELSE CAN'T WAIT UNTIL AUGUST 18?!?!), WELCOME!
As a reminder, part one of the recap lives here, but we have a few friends helping us out with parts 2 and 3. Here's the full schedule:
Week 1 – July 6
Part One: Sinners and Queens
Chapters 1-8: Team FierceReads
So, now that we're on the same page, let's get this recap going!
Okay. If there was a hall of fame for the greatest first lines, this one would have a place of honor.
“Pa was taking too long to cut the boys’ throats.”
Talk about a badass way to begin.
Let us set the scene. It’s . . . pretty bleak.
Picture it: A guilded palace infected by a deadly plague. A “quarantine hut” (A LITTLE CLOSE TO HOME THESE DAYS AM I RIGHT? *SOBS*). The only people who can eradicate the plague wherever it pops up are the Crows (more on that wild social and political structure in a second). So of course it's up to our two favorite Crows, Fie—our takes-no-BS heroine who we stan forever—and her Pa—the chief of their band of Crows—to perform a mercy killing on two sorry souls who have been afflicted by the Sinner's Plague. And then remove and burn the bodies without letting the disease run rampant and kill everyone. It’s a pretty dark job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it, right?
Now, before we keep going, we should probably explain a little about Sabor's caste system. Crows are members of the lowest caste. Crows have no magic of their own, but through tooth magic they can temporarily access the birthrights of other castes. They're also immune to the Sinner's Plague and are therefore required to handle the outbreak. (PAUSE to remind you that we have a quiz you can take to discover what your birthright would be if you lived in Sabor. Shout out to all our fellow Swans out there!) The Phoenix caste is the highest and royal caste, but there are quite a few castes in between them and the Crows (see Swan, Hawk, Owl, and Sparrow, to name a few).
And now back to your regularly scheduled summary.
This is where the real drama starts. It's unusual for the royal castes to get the plague. It's even more unusual for Fie’s Pa to take so long to . . . handle plague victims. And it's even more unusual for the palace residents to be crying quite that hard for the two dead boys they're wheeling out to be burned. Fie's suspicions are confirmed when Queen Rhusana emerges to pay the Crows for their trouble, revealing that they’re hauling the crown prince of Sabor, Jasimir, and his (smoking hot, even in “death”) bodyguard, Tavin, to their funeral pyre.
(DUN DUN DUNNNN)
*Insert brief intermission here for drama and a bomb money dance by the Crows*
And here’s where things get interesting. We meet Barf, everyone’s favorite cat and the real star of this show (direct quote from Barf).
Oh, and also SURPRISE, Jas and Tavin are not dead. Turns out, Queen Rhusana is the most evil stepmother of them all, and she’s out to claim the throne for herself by doing away with the heir to the throne.
Jas and Tavin are in need of safe passage across Sabor to Cheparok to meet up with Jas’s cousin, Governor Kuvimir. He's promised to help them take down Rhusana and restore Jas to the throne.
HOWEVER, our girl Fie does nothing for free (YAS QUEEN) and makes a covenant oath (cue the blood handshake) to serve as their escort on one condition: Once in power, Jas must protect the Crows, offering them the use of his Hawk guards. *mic drop*
Our heroes aren’t on the road long before they encounter the baddest baddies in Sabor, the Oleander Gentry (aka the ignorant bullies trolling the land and making life miserable for the Crows). Oh and new on the scene but equally as creepy, skin ghasts (AKA basically human bodies without souls) puppeted by witches from the Vulture caste!
Yes, you read that right. We are just as disturbed by Margaret Owen's brain as you are.
But our girl Fie's got it in the bag—like she literally uses the teeth from her bag o' teeth to hide everyone from the enemy. In the process, Jas saves Barf from a burning cart, resulting in the true OTP of the series—Jas and Barf the Cat.
Oh, and also there’s a lil' something developing between Fie and Tavin *swoon*. There’s nothing like spending weeks at a time in a wagon with no access to a shower collecting plague ridden dead bodies to light that romantic spark.
Fie, Jas, Tavin, Barf, and the rest of the Crows finally make it to the Cheparok to meet Jas’s cousin, and everyone lives happily ever after.
JUST KIDDING. HANG DOG (aka Fie’s jealous ex and overall a** hole) HAS SOLD OUR BABIES OUT AND EVERYTHING HAS GONE TO HELL!
Fie, Tavin, and Jas are forced to flee, losing Pa and the rest of the Crows in the process.
Now for a little insider information from our lead Crow, author Margaret Owen.
Now, anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I’m a plotter. An outliner. A lover of spreadsheets and calendars and timelines and plot charts (including my signature one, the “How Dire Is It” chart, which has a Y-axis that ranges from ‘not great’ to ‘[screw] it, [screw] this, [screw] you.’) But even I know when to let a character tell me what should really go down in an important scene.
Which is why the all-important Covenant oath even exists.
In the original outline, the bargaining scene went down the way Jasimir expected it to: he presents the grim outlook for Fie and the Crows, and Pa agrees to help out of self-preservation. Then I decided that Fie should be handling the negotiations, to make her less of an observer in the scene. And then Fie decided that simple self-preservation wasn’t enough; they all deserved to get paid for the risk they were about to take. And that worked out much better for everyone. Well, mostly everyone. Eventually. Kind of.