Spycraft! Politics! Intrigue! Angst! Magic! What more can one ask from a sequel? The Faithless Hawk returns readers to Margaret Owen’s rich and inventive Sabor from The Merciful Crow with a rush of flame and a shove headfirst into a plot that entertains till the very end.
The Faithless Hawk picks up with Fie and her band on the road, muddling through her new role as Chief by doing her best to keep her Crows safe. This small reprieve doesn’t last long, because King Surimir dies of the plague, making the plan to get Jasimir, the only person standing between the Crow caste and complete destruction, on the throne that much more difficult. Fie and her co-conspirators are forced to act swiftly, or face a future with the ruthless Rhusana as queen.
For those who enjoyed The Merciful Crow, Owen’s sophomore novel is a deeper, more twisted dive into the much-beloved world. While her debut novel largely takes place on the road, the stomping grounds of the mercy-killing Crows, in her second novel, Owen uses her unique magic system to its fullest extent, allowing the reader to get a glimpse into how the other half of Sabor lives and highlighting the continued themes of classism and discrimination that are weaved throughout the series.
There is so much character from the beginning of this series to the end, y’all. Jas, aka the stuck up, annoying boy-prince becomes a leader to rival Fie and a very sweet friend. Fie, through all the trials that come with the role, grows to be worthy of the name Chief. Sure, she messes up (massively) in this book as well, having to make a myriad of difficult decisions and still being insecure in ways that cloud her judgment, but she also learns from her mistakes. Tavin is… well… nevermind that. There were quite a few minor characters who were fantastic, such as Draga, especially since they had their own motivations and weren’t entirely obvious about it. I absolutely loved Khoda and his pragmatism and would’ve loved to read a book from his perspective, but alas, we can’t get everything we want.
The parallels between Sabor and the real world are so obvious, they’re bludgeoned into the reader’s mind on just about every page. While the delivery isn’t necessarily tactful, the subject matter is fairly nuanced and appreciated in the current political climate of not only the U.S., but many countries. The use of the ruling class of the Crows as the scapegoat and the willingness of the middling castes to hate and fear them is reminiscent of the middle class blaming the working class for their ills when the two should unite to fight those at the top who benefit from us all. The willingness of the rich to be bystanders to atrocities as long as they’re left out of it is also, unfortunately, a commonality between the two worlds. That’s not to mention the almost direct lines to be drawn between the Crows and the Dalits of the Indian caste system and the KKK and the Oleander Gentry.
When Fie uses her powers to take on the appearance, and in some ways, the mind, of an upper-class Peacock girl named Niemi, comedic conflict is balanced by the seriousness of discrimination and plain ignorance. This is a regular theme throughout the novel that makes it great, with serious moments balanced by raw humor. That’s why, as much as one might resonate with the darker aspects of the novel, it isn’t hard to laugh your way through the rest of the book. The chemistry between the main cast of characters is undeniable, and their care and banter are proof of it.
The Faithless Hawk isn’t too different from The Merciless Crow in mood or tone—it’s just more. More lore, more world-building and insight into the political machinations of actors throughout Sabor… Ultimately, the sequel answers questions readers didn’t even know they had, and it’s done well. The introduction of past lives into the series is a surprising, if not unwelcome one, and does seem a bit contrived, but ties in well enough with the pre-established world of gods and castes that it’s easy to ignore. The castes are fleshed out to a greater extent, and we get more of a diversity of powers in the second book. We also get some insight into the world of the story, being much larger than Fie’s little band, which we were much more focused on in the first novel.
In the end, The Faithless Hawk proves to be a killer conclusion to this fun and heartfelt YA Fantasy duology.