Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
Narrator: Michael Gallagher, Rachanee Lumayno
Published by Orbit on August 23, 2022
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction Fantasy
Length: 12 hours, 15 minutes
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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?
I really enjoyed You’ve Got Mail when it came out and the idea, that if you talked to someone you knew and didn’t like in person on paper or in emails would you feel differently. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was a play on this concept in a fantasy world where spirits who haven’t crossed over sometime take over dead bodies and need to be dispatched.
Hart knows he is a Demigod; he just doesn’t know who his real father is. When he met Mercy years ago, he was struck by her beauty but being the broken man/godling that he was, he totally screwed up their first meeting and managed to insult Mercy’s life’s work in just a few minutes and set them on a path of cold distain for years. Mercy, sometimes called Merciless by Hart runs an undertaking business. In this in-between place, called Tanria, where the demigods live in harmony with the humans and some interesting creatures, Mercy prepares people to cross over once they have left their mortal coil. People are kind enough to her, but it can be an icky job and let’s face it death creeps out a lot of people. She took over helping the business at seventeen and in the last years she runs all the business after her father almost died. But when the plans for the business change, Mercy feels a bit lost and longing for someone to see her in all of this.
Hart is a marshal, out in Tanria, protecting it from the reanimated corpses that sometimes enter the area. Business has been busy lately too, where are all these Drudges coming from? He is lonely and has isolated himself from almost everyone who used to care about him. One night, he pens a letter to ‘A Friend’ hoping that someone out there might get him and how he is feeling. The postal service picks the letter up and delivers it to none other than Mercy, also in need of a desperate friend. This makes sense as the mail is delivered by former messengers to the gods who currently take to form of talking animals. As they both confide in each other their woes and such something beautiful starts to blossom between them.
I liked this story overall. The world is interesting, I liked Mercy and her crazy family who I wish just saw her a little better. Hart, when he wasn’t being a broken mess of a man is so heartfelt and kind. I could see why the two of them belonged together. Mercy helps Hart understand why he has put so many at arms length and helps him begin to open up again to the possibilities of friendships and more. Hart sees Mercy and her hopes and dreams that sometimes her family just accidentally takes for granted. I liked how they bolstered each other.
There is a side story on why there are so many Drudges coming out of the woodworks and why Mercy’s undertaking business is so attractive to the competition that they want to buy it out. I liked how all of those items played out on the side of the romance to keep the story going. Hart’s eventual meeting with his dad was really well done and made perfect sense to who he was and the gifts he had.
Overall a good romance with a smidge of fantasy on the side. Based on this book, I’d check out some of the authors other works.
I always appreciate having multiple narrators when there are different PoVs Michael Gallagher and Rachanee Lumayno felt perfect for their respective roles. Rachanee captured both Mercy’s strength and loneliness even through she is surrounded by family and Michael Gallagher was able to perform Harts PoV so the reader empathized with the decisions he made and his longing and fear to belong to something or someone. I was able to listen at my usual 1.5x speed.
Listen to a clip: HERE
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