Faithless Hawk (Merciful Crow #2) By Margaret Owen
First things, first. There will be one minor spoiler for The Faithless Hawk, Book two in the Merciful Crow Duology, at the very end of this review. I will give you plenty of warning, so don’t worry. Up until that point, this will be a spoiler-free review. HOWEVER, there absolutely will be spoilers for The Merciful Crow, book one in the duology. If you haven’t read The Merciful Crow (WHAT?!) and do not want to be spoiled, then please do not go further than this first section. Please, read my review for The Merciful Crow and interview with Margaret Owen, which are linked. I was thrilled to have the opportunity.
Before I move on to the actual review of The Faithless Hawk and tell everyone to scram. There is something important I would like to say about Margaret Owen, in the interweb space. It is hard to find people on the net that are informative, kind, and just seem like the type of person that would make you better. Do I know her in real life? Nope. Could I be wrong? Absolutely. For all, I know she is sitting at home, rocking back and forth muttering craziness. If that is the case. That is one hell of a trick.
All I know is from twitter. And from that, I believe even if her writing weren’t my thing (I do follow good people because good people), I would follow her account. If you are looking for someone to follow that might not drive you berserk, may help you grow a couple of brain cells, and isn’t a super-bitch? Check @what_eats_owl out. That’s all.
Ok, all you weirdos that haven’t read The Merciful Crow, scram! I have some tea to spill on The Faithless Hawk, and it is going to rain fire.
Core Of The Merciful Crow Duology
Here’s the thing. I bled for The Merciful Crow. Doubt me? Read my review, and you won’t. If I had any fear going into The Faithless Hawk, it was that what made The Merciful Crow such a standout, last summer would somehow fade to the background. My fears made one thing abundantly clear (about me).
Yes. Yes, I am.
Faithless Hawk grounded itself and brought the Merciful Crow Duology full circle on its foundational themes of social justice and oppression. The Merciful Crow duology (as I said in my review of The Merciful Crow) sets itself apart from many (not all) of its fantasy counterparts by firmly integrating these themes. They are not throw-away plot devices or represented in typical fantasy fashion. Nor is it just an afterthought. Instead, it picks up right where Merciful Crow leaves off.
“The queen could pick off a dozen sparrows, certainly but there’d be too many gaps in schedules, too many worried families looking for them. Someone would notice.”
Fie let the unspoken question hang over them all: And no one noticed twenty Crows dead in the road?
That was the pinch of it, though. They’d notice. But so long as the plague beacons were answered, they’d look the other way. And since the Crows would starve without viatik, those beacons would keep being answered.
Once established, I realized that Faithless Hawk would jump Merciful Crow with a quickness, and become a completely different
ballgame hairball. It took everything I loved about The Merciful Crow and added layers of dagger-sharp qualities. Margaret Owen decisively twisted them into my bleeding heart.
Faithless Hawk: Murderers. Bastards. Traitors. Queens.
The second I saw that tagline, I posted a Goodreads Monday. How could I not? First, how the devil in the blue dress did Margaret Owen get Bastards on the cover of any book, let alone a Young Adult book? That’s some kind of voodoo. Second, that tag is fierce. Did it clue me into the thought that there might be some fierce writing happening there? <See Ransom, above>
I figure it went something like this. Henry Holt lost.
Margaret Owen, Fie, And Faithless Hawk Are A Mood That Will Suffer No Fuck Bucks
Who knew 2020 would drop us into the Hunger Games, or that the odds wouldn’t be in our favor because 2020 burned all favorable odds. Fast-forward to August 2020 and Faithless Hawk’s “Murderers. Bastards. Traitors. Queens,” tagline AND THIS WRITING BEHIND IT.
Between Merciful Crow and Faithless Hawk, something happened. Don’t ask me. I read things and know nothing. Maybe Fie and Owen hashed it out, or Owen planned it this way. Either way? The end result was exacting, unyielding, damnation written.
Fie muffled a cold laugh in her sleeve and let the fire go, and darkness swallowed the Hall of the Dawn once again… The embers of fire-song in Fie’s own bones did not argue. The finest, stiffest, most high-bred Peacock families in Sabor had turned to little better than beasts trying to claw their way out.
She felt dangerous, she felt raw and undeniable, like vengeance made flesh, like a walking curse. And she was not done with them yet.
Christ on a crouton if Owen doesn’t write the shit out of Fie, out of the whole of Sabor. And it reverberates off the page, right through your nervous system.
Here’s the kicker. I’m pulling the best quote(s) I can without spoiling anything. I could spoil The Faithless Hawk, pick the best quotes for every character, from all my tabs, and not even write a review. It would be decimating. But. No.
I can even prove it, without spoilers. This review is a few days late because of an idiotic reason. I did something I never do. And now I remember why. I took my ARC and my final copy. Then, I tabbed out all the notes in my Kindle.
It took hours. Here is why.
If you can’t tell from the front and top, I actually ran out of the colors I started with because- THAT WRITING.
How do I even summarize this without ending up with a 2,000-word dissertation that spoils everything? Let me start with this generalization. The King is dead, Queen Rhusana is trying to usurp the throne from Jasimir, and Tavin and Fie are already a thing. Because of this, the romance factor isn’t as prevalent in The Faithless Hawk as it was in The Merciful Crow. Now that I can put the two books together, I think that the enemies-to-lovers trope in Merciful Crow, (really not even a trigger thing because I wasn’t in that space when Merciful Crow came out), took up too much space. With that on the back burner in Faithless Hawk, there was room for SO MUCH MORE. And MY GOD. Margaret Owen SOARED.
Also, there is this new character. I WANT TO TALK ABOUT HER SO MUCH. And her relationship to Fie and how brilliant and perfect it is written. But I can’t and I’m sad. READ THE DAMN BOOK.
Psst… another non-spoiler quote
Thank you to Henry Holt for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
First, there is Jasimir and Fie. Their friendship was both heart-filled and smart-ass, and just everything. Owen nailed it from moment to moment.
He let her go, but when she reached the stairs, he called after her, “Fie.”
“Aye?” She looked back.
“…If I lose you too…”
She knew that break in his voice; it matched hers, when she’d laid all her failings at Pa’s feet days ago. So, she gave him a sad grin and said, “Not just me. You’ve got the cat, too. Now sit tight for a bit, aye? Help’s on the way.”
“They leave holes. She’ll know where they belong.”
“Then put more holes in,” Jasimir said with a strained kind of calm. “Really, Fie, since when do I need to tell you to stab things?”
There is also the trio of Khoda, Jasimir, and Fie, who spend quite a bit of the book trying to sort out all of the things. While they are all keeping a mess of secrets, fears, and political issues from each other and Sabor, they are stepping forward with each other, in the best of intentions. In the middle of the blood (oh does Faithless Hawk get all kinds of gory), magic, rage, ruination, and reckonings, there is room for even more. They manage to become official cat masters.
At one point, I was waiting for Mango/Jasifur or Patpat to come running through the castle with a look on their face and something exploding behind them, and you know they are thinking…
“Jasimir straightened his shoulders. “I have an idea. Let me go first.”
“You’re the ranking cat-master,” Fie returned.
Jasimir strode down the hall, Patpat trotting at his side…
And then later Draga dismisses them…
“Very well. Cat-masters, take your leave. We will make another appointment for later.”
What Can I Even Say About The Damn Story?
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Owen wrote the hell out of it. But what can I say about it without spoiling everything? It is a fight of will, magic, blood, deception, politics, oppression, fear, strength, ancestral secrets, and a meddling God of epic proportions.
Friendships and relationships are tested. Bodily sinew is tested.
In the end, The Faithless Hawk takes The Merciful Duology and ends it on a flashbang that lit up every piece of humanity inside of me. I don’t know the why of it not being a trilogy. However, I can still see the possibility. Maybe someday, that might happen. I’ll be here if it does. In the meantime, it is evident that Margaret Owen is on a trajectory to set the world ablaze. I imagine that is where Fie gets it from.
A Small But Fun Spoiler
I say small because it’s a joke I can’t help but tell, and it doesn’t say what ultimately happens to Rhusana. But the thought occurred to me after the 75% mark, so I wanted to give everyone a chance to bail if they wanted to do so.
For those of you that are bailing? I hope I did The Faithless Hawk (And Merciful Crow, Originally, justice) and here’s a last piece of advice:
Anyhow, at one point during the last 25% of The Faithless Hawk, Rhusana (and her white tiger) was full tilt in battle, and my eyeballs just popped out of my head. Because this thought just knocked me in the head and wouldn’t get out: