The Murder of Crows - a superpowered post-apocalyptic trilogy

Posted by Sevhina on Fri, 03/11/2022 - 18:49

In the Free States people love their Capes, the superheroes that defend them. With a few very notable exceptions Capes have a short life expectancy so they established the Academy where kids interested in becoming Capes can train. They also learn how to market themselves and take advantage of any vid and merchandising deals that come their way on the off chance they survive long enough to retire. Damian's father doesn't have a cool villain name like Cemetery Sally or Crimson Death and a body count of one isn't impressive for a necromancer, also called Crows. He only made headlines because he went mad and killed his wife in front of their five year old son Damian. Crows are the most hated Powers for obvious reasons and there has never been a Crow Cape or even one at the Academy and no one wants him there now. Half of his classmates are too frightened to get near him and the other half think they should kill him now before he starts murdering people. But Damian is determined to stay in the hopes that learning control will prevent him from going insane like every other Crow. If not he hopes they can stop him before he does too much damage. As Damian says at the beginning, it's a shame they couldn't do either.

The world building is excellent and original. Reality was altered when an incredibly strong Power had a dream that was part comic book and part western genre that changed both living creatures and geography. Unfortunately for Australians the world he dreamed into being only has six continents. 

See These Bones mostly follows the typical young adult supernatural school script. Damian is the misunderstood underdog determined to succeed despite the hatred of his fellow students. He's a foul mouthed survivor of orphanages and the foster system with a huge chip on his shoulder. He doesn't really care about helping the general populace and just wants to avoid going on a murderous rampage that ends with him in the super-prison known as the Hole alongside his dad. Damian slowly begins to make a couple of friends and discovers that he really might have what it takes to be a Cape but he also starts to discover why necromancers go insane. The most unusual aspect of the book is that Damian's narration in the first person frequently reminds the reader that this story does not have a happy ending despite his progress along the way. 

Red Right Hand covers Damian's second year at the Academy where they are separated into the teams for various simulations that force them to think strategically about how they use their powers. He also gets tangled up in the machinations of a supervillain called Tyrant who claims that Damian is part of his great plan to "save" the Free States. According to Tyrant, the original and most powerful Cape known as Dominion is slowly dying which is allowing the Power Teztaclipoca to expand his territory north from Mexico. Anyone who crosses into Tez's territory becomes a mindless drone of that Power. The addition of Tyrant adds some complexity to the series as well as suggesting that Tez might be the ultimate test of Damian's Power. Still, Damian continues to remind us that everyone was right about him.

In the third book, One Tin Soldier, Damian has progressed to his six month internship as a wannabe Cape. He volunteers for the Mission, a charitable endeavor run by a beast shifter called Mammoth that ventures into the Badlands between California and Missouri to deliver supplies and help to the few struggling communities. Despite having proven himself a hero twice over in the first two books Damian still doubts any Cape teams will take him so he doesn't object when he's asked to volunteer for the Mission and seek out the dreamer who broke the world. This is our first real look beyond the relative civilization of the Free States. In addition to dealing with monstrous animals, evil raiders, and even the spider-queen Power known as Weaver, Damian is once again facing off against Tyrant and his minions. Just as Damian promised, the result is death and destruction even if some good does come out of it.

It's surprisingly easy to get absorbed by these books. The only real criticism in reviews is about the narration promising an unhappy ending. Damian isn't exactly a hero or anti-hero. He sets out to preserve his humanity by learning to control his Power. Embracing his Power requires him to shed his humanity which seems like a good trade in the moment that he's fighting for his survival but it eventually has major consequences. My only complaint about the story is the epilogue. It makes perfect sense given things Damian learned along the way but it seems rather abrupt when it felt like an entire book's worth of details is missing. At least it wrapped up the loose ends. 

The first two books are available in paperback, e-book from Amazon, and on Audible. The third book hasn't reached Audible yet. There are also two short stories set in the Post-Break world in e-book and audio. The e-books are on the Amazon Unlimited list so free for members.