The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy defies explanation. It’s like if you had Wild West vibes meets undead entities meets “You’ve Got Mail”. With so many elements, you’d think it would be hard to balance them. But The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy ends up delivering a fantasy romance which is action packed and swoony. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Hart Ralston is a demigod and a marshal, tasked with patrolling the wasteland of Tanria. The realm the exiled old gods once called home is now a forsaken place where humans with no better options or no better sense come seeking adventure or spoils, but more often end up as drudges: reanimated corpses inhabited by the souls of those who’ve died in Tanria before. Hart tells himself that his job is simple: neutralize the drudges with a quick zap to the appendix and deliver them back to polite society at the nearest undertaker’s, leaving the whys and hows of the drudge problem for men without the complexities of a god in their family tree. But working alone, Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder exactly those questions he’d most like to avoid.
Too much time alone is the opposite of Mercy Birdsall’s problem. Since her father’s decline, she’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son undertakers afloat in small-town Eternity—despite definitely not being a son, and in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart Ralston, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest. The work’s not the problem—Mercy’s good at it, better than any other Birdsall—but keeping all her family’s plates spinning singlehandedly, forever, isn’t how Mercy envisioned her future.
After yet another run-in with the sharp-tongued Mercy, Hart considers she might have a point about his utter loneliness being a bit of a liability. In a moment of sentimentality, he pens a letter addressed simply to “A Friend,” and entrusts it to a nimkilim, an anthropomorphic animal messenger with an uncanny connection to the gods, (and in Hart’s case, a bit of a drinking problem). 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 two unlikely pen pals grow closer, the truth about Hart’s parentage and the nature of the drudges creeps in. And suddenly their old animosity seems so small in comparison to what they might be able to do: end the drudges forever. But at what cost?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
The premise of The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy immediately intrigued me. I love discovering new fantasy romances and Bannen’s latest release delivers. If you love the feeling of a romance (with some great banter) and want a fantasy Wild West supernatural vibe – this is for you! As someone who’s parents made them watch “You’ve Got Mail” a lot, I enjoy a well executed pen pals who don’t realize the other person is their nemesis. And The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy does this and more. With the addition of drudges (which remind me of zombie like creatures), it’s great for adult fantasy romance fans.
Character Dynamics and Titles
It’s full of fantastic banter which walks the edge of angry tense and simmering chemistry. I love the whole concept of an undertaker and the ways in which Bannen weaves it into the world building is amazing. World building which takes an aspect few might think of – what to do with our dead – and expands upon it, is unique and fascinating. Not to mention The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is dual POV which allows us to get to know both Hart and Mercy. To see beneath their skin at the secrets only you can bear to a stranger.
How alone and isolated we can feel and the ways in which those closest to us cannot see it. Wonderfully clever, I adored the amount of puns in The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy. But also the way the title almost gives me Pride and Prejudice vibes. How both Hart and Mercy could learn to give a little. To find their own hearts and to be more merciful. All the ways in which we harden our hearts and become less merciful. But the ways in which someone can inspire us to reconnect with both.
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We can be wrong about the people we think we know. That they contain multitudes and hidden pieces of themselves that they fear to bring to the light. That their protect and love. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is full of chemistry. It has aspects of family drama, mysterious secrets to uncover, and demigods as well! Find The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.