Book ReviewsBooksFeatures

Book Review: ‘When Among Crows’ by Veronica Roth

Share this:

A story of pain and redemption thick with Polish folklore, When Among Crows by Veronica Roth is not for the faint of heart. Set in the underground world of supernatural creatures Roth shares the story of a human, Dymitr and Ala, a zmora, as they seek to end a curse and find retribution. When Among Crows asks some hard questions about spiritual debt, revenge, penance, remorse, and atonement. What is the best way to pay for our crimes? And who should decide our punishment? 

[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Tor for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of When Among Crows contains some spoilers!]

When Among Crows is a modern monster story

Veronica Roth takes Poland’s ancient creatures of the night and creates a modern-day story of horror. Dymitr seeks out the monsters of Chicago (all Polish transplants) with an unusual offer. One of their own is cursed. The curse has killed Ala’s whole family, jumping from member to member as each one succumbs to the terror it brings. But Dymitr has a cure for it. A special flower that only a mortal can pick or touch with the power to heal anything. But he’s not offering something for nothing. He wants a meeting with Baba Jaga, the most powerful witch around. 

Just to make things interesting, there’s a time limit. The flower is slowly dying and will be useless in about 36 hours. Ala doesn’t know Baba Jaga directly, but she knows someone who might be able to help. That’s Niko, her contact. But even he doesn’t have a direct line to Baba Jaga.

Will they be able to find the reclusive witch in time to save Ala? And what exactly does Dymitr want with Baba Jaga in the first place? Most mortals want to be as far from her as possible, yet he’ll stop at nothing to reach her. What is he hiding? And how will it affect Ala and Niko when they find out?

Veronica Roth turns monsters into mobsters

Veronica Roth takes an interesting approach to monsters in When Among Crows. She reimagines them as a mafia, with each type of creature being a different family that runs a particular racket related to their monster abilities. It made me giggle to see these terrifying creatures of the past morphed into (arguably) terrifying creatures from our present.

The great thing is that it worked really well. Each “family” had their own racket and didn’t interfere with what the other families did. There was mutual respect and help between the families, but ultimately, each family looked out for itself. And there was a head “godfather” figure that all the families bowed to, Baba Jaga. Turns out monsters make good mobsters, who knew? It was a really innovative way to take ancient creatures and fit them into the modern world.

When Among Crows by Veronica Roth.

When Among Crows by Veronica Roth: a fast read for strong stomachs

Dymitr and Ala’s story is a quick one. At just 176 pages, it’s really more of a novella than a novel. I read this on my Kindle, so I didn’t realize how short it was and was caught off guard when the story suddenly ended. There was enough time that the main story was wrapped up satisfyingly. I actually really liked how Roth ended the story. There was a nice symmetry and completeness to the story that was very satisfying. 

But the length did mean that other storylines that Roth started were left hanging. From the way the story ended, there’s a good chance that Roth intends to continue Dymitr’s tale, and she’ll probably address those loose ends then. Still, with a few more pages she could have finished them up in When Among Crows and that would have been far more satisfying for me as a reader.

When Among Crows may have been a short story, but sweet is definitely not an adjective that fits with it. The story is very dark. The characters move through a seedy underworld of violence and death. Blood and cruelty is rampant everywhere. The characters have to fight and kill their way to their goal. And the flashbacks are equally bloody. There were parts that made my stomach squirm and a few sections where I just skipped ahead because I didn’t want to deal with the gore or pain the characters were going through.

Some of the characters seem to revel in the blood, others dislike it, and some accept it as life. Dymitr’s relationship to pain is especially complicated and disturbing. Anyone with a weak stomach or an abusive past might want to pass because there’s definitely a lot packed into a small package with this book.

Overall, When Among Crows is a quick read with some good characters. Dymitr is a puzzle to figure out, and Ala is a shining light of purity. I really loved her. Niko is a good guy in a tough spot. He never asked for his role in life, and he just makes the best of it. Although honestly, none of the main characters asked for their roles in life, and they’re all trying to come to terms with who they were, who they are, and who they want to be. The fact that they keep trying to be more than what the world has labeled them is inspiring.

Even though there’s a lot of gore in Veronica Roth’s story, I really enjoyed it and I think that others will find hope and inspiration in this dark tale of redemption too.

My rating: 7/10

When Among Crows by Veronica Roth is available to buy on May 14, 2024. Do you plan to check out this book? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. 

An Intrigue of Witches (A Secret Society Mystery, 1) by Esme Addison

An Intrigue of Witches by Esme Addison Review Banner

Marvel: What If…Loki Was Worthy? (A Loki & Valkyrie Story) by Madeleine Roux

What If...Loki was Worthy? by Madeleine Roux A Marvel Novel Review Banner

Share this:

Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

Luna Gauthier has 220 posts and counting. See all posts by Luna Gauthier