Author: Megan Bannen
Age Category: Adult
Publish Date: August 23, 2022
Print Length: 448
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Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.
Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.
After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.
If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most–Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares–each other?
Set in a world full of magic and demigods, donuts and small-town drama, this enchantingly quirky, utterly unique fantasy is perfect for readers of The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Invisible Library.
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.
THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY is an out of this world ballad about vulnerability and family. Hart, a demigod, patrols Tanrian lands for corpses reanimated by lost souls. He’s slightly grumpy, happy to work solo, and also quite lonely. Mercy runs the family’s undertaker business by herself after her father’s bout of ill health. She’s upbeat, loves her job, and is also more lonely than she realizes. But put the two of them into a room together, which happens often since Hart delivers bodies to Mercy for burial, and they can’t help but claw at each other’s throats. In a moment of daring vulnerability, Hart sends off a note to no one baring how he truly feels about his life. Somehow his anonymous note finds its way to Mercy and she responds anonymously in kind, sharing similar sentiments.
The family subtheme that made the most impression on me was that of the one sibling taking on all of the responsibility while the others do what brings them joy. As someone who has often felt this way, though not in as extreme of a situation as Mercy, I found it very relatable. But I also appreciated the author’s sensible, but passionate, characterization of Mercy. That is, she didn’t begrudge her siblings their life choices. Rather, her frustration centered around their obliviousness to the burden she shouldered and their assumption that she wanted to escape the family business.
Despite this tension, it’s evident Mercy has great love for her family as they do for her. I loved the boisterous family dynamic between the three siblings and their father. Once their family drama hits the fan in an epic way, they still have each other’s backs and they make an effort to work together.
At the height of Mercy’s loneliness, when her family doesn’t seem to understand what she’s going through, she finds solace and validation from her pen pal. On Hart’s end, he realizes how difficult it can be for many to break through his gruff, sarcastic demeanor, which serves as emotional armor. Through their correspondence he realizes that relationships, family or otherwise, are a two way street. It really was quite endearing to see him blossom as he began to open up to the world, to take a risk and be vulnerable.
Although this book is heavily character-driven, I enjoyed the unique setting of the story. It’s quirky, sarcastic, and has the air of an American western meets GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. I absolutely loved the nimkilim, who are immortal mail carriers in the form of animals. They were sarcastic and mouthy and I lapped up their dialogue. I would have liked to know more about the New Gods vs. Old Gods back story. But I was still quite satisfied with the development of Hart and Mercy’s relationship with themselves and each other. Contrary to my past reactions, I found the exchanges between Hart and Mercy more entertaining after the big reveal rather than prior to it. However, there is still plenty of snark to go around.
Perfect for fans of light-hearted fantasy romance, THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY is a heartfelt tale of the importance of connection to others. This is a fun read in a unique world that will send your soul sailing on a frontier adventure.
Content warnings: gore, sex
Reading format: Kindle e-book