Book Review: Veronica Roth taps into her Polish roots for 'When Among Crows,' a lore-packed novella

Dymitr is on a personal mission, and it starts with facing the mythical leszy who’s guarding the fern flower as it blooms for the summer solstice.

“When Among Crows,” a novella by Veronica Roth — bestselling author of the “Divergent” series — dives into the world of Slavic mythology. A Chicago native tapping into Polish roots, Roth places nightmarish and intriguing creatures alike in the modern-day city. Whether it’s the woodland leszy, the tragic wraith or the vampire-like strzyga, they’ve each found their place among the mortal humans in the bustle of daily life.

It’s a world where debts create magic, and Dymtir is about to send a lot of scales tipping. Before long, he has a motley crew of unexpected allies.

There’s a Polish saying that opens the book: When among crows, you must caw as one. As Dymitr faces various trials, moving closer to his ultimate, secret goal, the curtains are parted and we see just how many non-crows are hiding among us in plain sight. Their roles in the world are almost as intriguing as Dymitr’s plotline, and could easily make for their own stories, but the novella keeps its focus. When we finally do find out what he’s after, it means so much more for the bonds he’s forged to get there.

Gruesome yet cavalier, “When Among Crows” has action, romance, family drama, fantasy, and a healthy helping of mythology. Best devoured in one or two sittings, the story is tight, the lore inviting and the characters fun. Roth knows how to cleanly fit an arc in under 200 pages without feeling rushed. It’s the perfect length for the story, precisely because it leaves you wanting more.


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