The Blood of Crows by Alex C. Pierce

SPFBO Status: Semifinalist

Medium: ebook

Overview (No Spoilers):

Martin and Ren are a clandestine team of thiefs working in a secretive company in the military, the Thirty-ninth, where it is debatable if their missions are on the books or off. After a particularly dangerous job, the duo pull a fast one on their Captain, leading to more freedom than Ren could have imagined. Their celebration is cut short, however, as an unexpected attack leaves Ren seeking answers to what went wrong, wherever that might take him. Along the way, Ren crosses paths with a gruesome murderer who seems to wield a wide range of powers. Can Ren solve the murders before he is blamed for them or worse, he becomes a victim?

The supporting cast is filled with secrets and backgrounds that are riddled with holes, but unfortunately, few of these secrets are filled in by the end of The Blood of Crows. Ren found himself surrounded by a group of loyal friends, Haim, Molly, and Martin, who all seem to be more than meets the eye but are kept in relatively confined roles that keep you from being fully invested in their outcomes. Haim especially has talents that are out of place in the younger daughter of a distant noble family. 

In many ways this novel feels like a prequel where the key players are established, but most of the reveals are kept waiting in the wings for the remainder of the series. The epilogue alone holds enough surprises to fuel a whole new line of questions, along with recasting several of the events throughout The Blood of Crows in a new light, while introducing a shadow party that adds a new layer of intrigue and danger.

The worldbuilding, especially the intricate political system, is detailed and full of individuals out for personal gain, ultimately complicating which parties are pursuing Ren and the motivations behind their pursuit. An interesting magical system is described, but the full range of powers and Ren’s unique capabilities have yet to be fully examined, with vast potential being alluded to.

The story as a whole was so engaging, I would find myself picking up my Kindle at various points throughout the day, eager to find out what mess Ren would find himself in next. With so many secrets left in the fold, there’s countless ways Pierce can continue this mystery.  Overall, The Blood of Crows contains an intriguing magical system, shifting political intrigue, and a murder mystery that leaves our main characters continually adapting to the dangerous environment they find themselves navigating. 

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • What are the Queen’s exact powers with blood magic?
  • Lieutenant Coal probably had her life saved by Molly knocking her out. What happened to the surly guard in the aftermath?
  • What was going on with the raggedy Inquisitor? How does the Praetorian Order mutate the ‘Other’s Children’ into such monsters?
  • Is Martin still alive? Did he know who he was working for and that he was crafting Ren into The Templar’s purpose?
  • Was the gray robed man that startled Rachel in the hallway Laurence?
  • What was the purpose of the ritualistic killings if it was just to cull the most powerful Primaries?
  • Why kill all of the Thirty-ninth?
  • Edward Hughes made a splash in the book when he first interviewed Ren. Especially with the offer to have Ren come work for him, but then he disappeared from the story. That is until he made an unexpected appearance in the epilogue. With Haim as his granddaughter and knowing that she tried to kill the Queen, will she actually kill Ren? What other tasks has she done for Hughes? It was obvious that there was more to Haim than initially established but this was a big revelation that has so much potential from a future story standpoint.
  • How did the Patriarch know Ren and Haim were coming? How did he know what they were after? How did he get them to come that far? What did he want from them? So Patriarch Marchus and Laurence were brothers? Why was he chained to the floor? How did he know about Molly? If he knew about Molly, why did Ren allow her to go back to her shop?
  • So Laurence kidnapped Haim? Did he know whose granddaughter she was?
  • Who sent the henchmen after Ren and Martin? Who sent the Inquisitors? 
  • Why didn’t Ren place the gold cuffs on Laurence after the explosion? Why tie him up with rope if you knew how dangerous he is?
  • Who all has signed the Haven Accords now?
  • Who is the new headmistress of the University?
  • Will Ren figure out how to do the magic that Laurence could do? 
  • Can Inquisitors be changed back?

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