This book is pure magic. From the unexpected and abrupt events of the prologue to the leave-you-wanting-more timing of the ending, The Storm Crow dips, dives and dances through a beautifully constructed fantasy world where not all is as it seems. Elements of war, love, mental health, friendship and loyalty are woven together with mythical crows to create an unexpected coming of age story that leaves you breathless. Anthia will grab you with her raw honesty and strength - her struggles with depression, loyalty, power and devotion lend her a realness that rings true every time.
There were several aspects of this book that I really loved. The story itself, which was relatively simple and timeless - girl is forced to marry boy from conquering kingdom, doesn't really want to so she tries to figure out a creative way out of it - feels fresh in this setting. The strong female characters feel natural in their roles as queens, warriors, leaders of rebel armies and spies; at no point are they relying on a man to save them or even advise them. Every single important role in this book is filled by a woman and yet it never feels contrived or out of place. Relationships and love interests are presented with similar ease and authenticity; some of the characters, both male and female, like girls and some like boys. Lines like "She'd been flirting with a girl at Rua's for weeks now." and "First, Shearen has a boyfriend. Second, he deserved it." blend easily, making who someone loves less important than the love itself. The only change I would have liked to see in this regard was a kingdom led by a same-gender couple, as all of the powerful people are heterosexual. Finally, the way that depression is introduced and treated feels so very real, both from Anthia's perspective and from the perspective of those who are trying to support her. It is not something you would typically see in a fantasy book but it is another piece of the puzzle that makes this fantasy shine.
Despite the title, the elemental crows play little more than a supporting role in this book. That being said, they are plot drivers (appearing at nearly every pivotal moment in the book) and important to understanding the interplay between the kingdoms and Rhodaire (Anthia's kingdom) in particular.
In the end this is a story about a princess finding her strength and power, with a little bit of love, intrigue and war thrown in for good measure. Who doesn't love that?
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