Another book I’ve been waiting to read since before its release and really hoping that it would live up to my expectations – I can’t tell you all how happy I am that it did.
There are many things in this book that impressed me but I have to give the main props to the world building. Even though a lot of the terminology related to the world is thrown at us right from the beginning without context, it didn’t take me long to piece it all together and understand how the caste system works and how it’s all named. The idea of the caste system being named after birds with Phoenixes at the top and Crows at the bottom is pretty unique, as well as the single unique kind of magic (or Birthright) that each caste possesses.
The Crows are the lowest caste, highly discriminated against and tormented, or even openly killed while no one tries to protect them – but they never stop their job of mercy killing the people suffering from the Sinner’s plague. Theirs is probably the most important job of this kingdom and the only thing stopping the plague from spreading indefinitely and killing everyone, but they are condemned for doing it. It was heartbreaking to read but also increased my admiration for the Merciful Crows while reminding me a lot about the plight of the magic wielders from The Broken Earth trilogy.
The magic system in this book is also utterly unique, with the witches belonging to the Crow caste able to perform magic using teeth. It felt gross initially but I quickly became fascinated with how it worked and kept waiting to read more about its workings. There are also different kinds of creatures and magics we don’t know much about yet but it’ll be interesting to get to know them better. I also hope that author will provide more background in the next installment about why the plague doesn’t affect only the Crow caste and how their discrimination came to be so rampant.
Another thing that really impressed me was that there seems to be no misogyny here, with women being in very important leadership positions and no one batting an eyelid about it. Sexual and gender diversity also seems to be a normal and accepting part of this world because we get bi/pan as well as gay royals, and a non-binary side character, and it’s just presented as fact rather then something significantly different. It was very nice to see the casual representation.
It took me a few chapters to get used to the writing style but once I got the hang of it, it was a breeze. I also did a mix of both the audiobook and the ebook and I think it was a fun experience. I initially had trouble with the usage of new language for normal conversational words and it took me a while to glean their actual meaning by observing the context. But I saw a couple of reviewers mention that these words are Scottish influenced and while I guess that’s different from usual, I still can’t understand why it had to be so. Otherwise, the writing is amazing. The pacing is consistent and fast, full of twists and turns and betrayals from unexpected quarters, always keeping us on our toes. I laughed and cried and gasped all the time, and never wanted to put it down. What I also found awesome was that the author didn’t shy away from talking about periods or birth control, and it’s nice that they aren’t taboo topics anymore. The story is also essentially a quest and it has quickly become a favorite trope of mine, so I very much enjoyed going on this treacherous journey with the characters. I found the author’s descriptions also to be very detailed and could totally imagine it all happening right in front of my eyes.
Fie is the daughter of the chief of the band of Crows and an absolutely brilliant character to follow. She is loyal and fiesty and has a bit of a temper, hates that she and her family members have to be silent in the face of taunts and threats but will suffer it all to keep them safe. She is also fearful to hope for anything good but will not stop trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel. I really admired her strength and tenacity, pushing through adversity and despair, getting ready even to sacrifice herself if there was a possibility that her caste might have a better future. Every struggle of hers felt real and painful and every time she succeeded, it filled my heart with joy.
Jas is the prince and Tavin is his bodyguard who have faked their deaths. I initially hated them because being from the royal castes, they never cared for the Crow castes until they needed their help. Jas was particularly infuriating because he is privileged and ignorant and just wants what he wants, and I wished Fie would smack him to get him in line. Tavin seems to know a little bit about the hardships that Fie’s people face but doesn’t seem to mind the status quo much either. But he is also a charmer and a flirt, so it was easy to start liking him sooner. It takes the two boys to be in the Crows shoes and being hunted indiscriminately to actually understand how much they have failed to protect their own people and I liked seeing that transformation of their minds. There was also a slow burn romance (no triangle here at all) which I adored, especially because it was based on mutual respect and they also had open conversations about consent and sex which was nice to see in a YA novel. I just hope we get to see a lot more of them in the next book.
To conclude, I had such fun reading about this unique world of Sabor. It’s brutal and unfair but the wonderful characters fighting back felt amazing to read about. The author gives this book a very satisfying conclusion, with enough threads wrapped up that it feels complete but also leaving us excited for what might happen next. If you like the trope of characters who can’t get along but have to go on a quest together, then this is the perfect book for you. I promise you’ll enjoy this journey.