I’m so excited to share my review today for The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen. I buddy read this with Leslie from Books Are the New Black and really enjoyed the story. It’s such a unique and immersive read!
About the Book:
Title: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
Author: Megan Bannen
Page Length: 336
Publication Date: Aug. 23, 2022
Publisher: Orbit Books
Synopsis: 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?
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The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is a quirky, fun, and wholly unique story that I absolutely adored! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one, and it was a delight. Set in a world of magic and zombies and demi-gods, the story follows Mercy, an undertaker trying to keep the family business afloat, and Hart, a marshal who hunts the zombie-like beings.
I could go on and on about this book and how much I enjoyed it! The fantasy elements and world-building are fascinating, and I like how the author throws the reader right into a fantastical and magical world with little introduction. There are no info dumps here, just a world that somewhat resembles ours, though it’s more antiquated while integrating so many unique and fascinating fantasy elements. The story also includes an intriguing mystery, a lot of danger, suspense, and intense moments as Mercy tries to learn more about the unusual happenings and increase in deaths in Tanria and Hart fights the deadly beings that threaten them. As the pair and those close to them slowly uncover some nefarious people and situations, their lives are in constant jeopardy. It makes for an immersive read.
The story is difficult to classify. It’s a romance, fantasy, rom-com hybrid with a strong focus on characters and relationships. I was pulled into the story from the start when we are introduced to two compelling protagonists that despise each other. Mercy and Hart have disliked each other from their first meeting, which has total Elizabeth and Darcy vibes. Pride and prejudice definitely get in their way. Hart and Mercy also have the grumpy-sunshine element going on, much like Elizabeth and Darcy. Hart is moody and broody and is difficult to get to know, whereas Mercy has a more vibrant and positive personality.
Hart is so closed off at the start of the story, which isn’t surprising when his past is revealed. After much loss, guilt, and regret, he struggles to let people in. Mercy has many people in her circle, but she often struggles to be heard. She has a boisterous family that she loves and feels responsible for, but because she is female, she cannot inherit the job and family business she desperately wants, and she finds it difficult to share her feelings with those she loves the most. Mercy faces a lot of pressure and carries the weight of the family’s burdens while trying to keep everything running smoothly.
By chance, Mercy and Hart begin exchanging anonymous letters, and the way they open up to each other through these letters is wonderful. They both show their vulnerability and reveal things about themselves that they wouldn’t ordinarily share. For two people who struggle to express themselves, letter-writing becomes a lifeline for each of them to share their private thoughts. I really liked the epistolary elements in the novel. They give you an intimate view of their thoughts and feelings and reveal so much about the characters while adding to the complex and budding relationship between them.
Mercy and Hart love to antagonize each other, which is why they have taunting nicknames like Merciless and Hart-ache. They basically love to verbally spar with and show their distaste for each other. However, things slowly change for this pair, much to my romance-loving delight. I adored their slow-building love story and the fact that, even when they hated each other, there was so much more sizzling under the surface. They have amazing chemistry, and their relationship is complicated, endearing, fiery, and wonderful!
There are a few other romantic relationships in the story that I loved, especially the romance between Hart’s new work partner and Mercy’s brother. They are both such fantastic characters, dynamically developed and compelling, and their relationship is sweet and charming! Mercy’s married sister has a great relationship with her husband too, and I love how they support each other through some tumultuous times.
Though this is a romantic fantasy with a unique mystery and a bunch of intrigue and excitement, the heart of the story is definitely the relationships. Romantic relationships, friendships, complicated family dynamics, and found families are all explored, and I loved it all. Mercy’s family reminds me of my own. It’s messy and complicated, and there’s a lot of worry, frustration, and stress as they face health problems, career changes, fears of disappointing each other, new arrivals, and more. But at the end of the day, there is so much love there! As angry and frustrated as they get, this family supports each other through the thick and thin. Hart, without really realizing it, has forged his own found family, and I like how this element is explored and expanded upon throughout the story. Sometimes, I feel like his family knows Hart better than he knows himself. They are so patient with him, and their unequivocal support says a lot about their love for him and each other.
I loved this romantic fantasy! It’s quirky and fun and funny, and there’s action, romance, and so many lovely and emotional moments mixed in with some heart-stopping adventure. It’s the kind of story that will make you laugh and cry and feel all the feelings in between, and I can’t recommend it enough. Thanks so much to Orbit Books for gifting me a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.
- The romance.
- Mercy’s family.
She wondered which was sadder: losing someone you truly loved, or never loving someone to begin with.
An arrogant man apologized to obtain absolution. A good man admitted his errors and expected nothing in return.
While I’m not alone, per se, there are times when I feel like I’m at a party standing against the wall when I’d rather be dancing.