Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen. This book will be published in exactly one month. So, be sure to add it to your calendars because you won’t want to miss it!
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.
***Thank you to Angela Man and Orbit Books for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This book made me smile so much and was a ton of fun to read. It was so weird but in the best possible ways. The story had such an odd, random assortment of components, including cowboys, zombies, undertakers, gods, greedy corporate tycoons, secret pen pals, talking animals, and family drama, all rolled into a delightful romantic fantasy with plenty of heart and comedy.
My favorite thing about this book was the amazing characters. I almost instantly fell in love with all of them, and each one had clear arcs of growth and, in general, well-developed characterization with a great deal of depth. It is soooo hard to pick a favorite, but I think it would have to be Hart. I love a good grump, and he was my favorite type of grump, one who is really a squishy marshmallow on the inside. I also ADORED Duckers and was absolutely living for the dynamic between him and Hart. It was such a hilarious reluctant mentor / overzealous mentee pairing, and the effect it had of softening Hart’s rough edges was so damn cute to read.
Mercy and her family were also really great. It was nice to see such a wonderful representation of a working-class family just trying to make ends meet. Their dynamic felt very real and down to Earth, and I loved that they provided a positive model for what a supportive, accepting, and communicative family can look like even when not everyone sees eye to eye all the time. Mercy was definitely a ray of sunshine when compared to Hart, but she also had an edge to her that fed a tenacity and drive to succeed despite all the odds being stacked against her.
The romance between Hart and Mercy was filled with plenty of thick sexual tension that oozed off the page. It was a pretty typical enemies to lovers story with some miscommunication/lack of communication thrown in for good measure. However, the inclusion of them being secret pen pals was a fun addition, and I loved that the letters were included in the text. Even though I enjoyed it, I do think the enemies to lovers aspect was undermined just a bit by how quickly the characters admitted their attraction to each other. Hart was already thinking about touching Mercy’s ass before the end of chapter one. It made the ‘enemies to lovers‘ seem more like ‘annoyed to be attracted to you to lovers.’ Their excellent chemistry quickly made up for it, though, and I loved reading all of their banter.
Unfortunately, the place where the book fell a little short for me was in the world-building. I didn’t really get a good sense of the layout of this world from the text, and the passive aspects of the world just didn’t feel that immersive to me. For example, the food in this book could have been a fun way to incorporate some distinctive world-building by creating dishes specific to this culture. Instead the author used contemporary dishes, and every time the characters talked about food, which was a lot, it pulled me out of their world. There were quite a few other uses of contemporary, Earth-centric language, as well, which just pulled me out of the setting each time. That being said, there were actually so many really cool concepts and set pieces in this book, including the zombies and Hart’s demi-god storyline, but they didn’t come together into a cohesive, representative picture that I can think of when contemplating this specific world.
Overall, this was a super fun romantic fantasy with leads who exhibited vibrant chemistry and a supporting cast that complemented them well with a wonderful family dynamic. The fantasy elements didn’t come together quite as well as I’d hoped, but they were still very fascinating and fun to read, as well. This book made me smile, laugh, and tear up before the end. It was a great ride, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys romantic fantasy. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.