The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen – Review

Published: August 23, 2022

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: N/A

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Pages: 448 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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?

Well, I was just delighted by this book! After I got over the initial worldbuilding confusion, which was surprisingly in-depth. I was dumped into a world that I expected to be sort of “weird-western” and it was, but it was weirder than I expected. Zombies, demi-gods, animal mail carriers with drinking problems all set in a rather modern world. It really had a bit of everything.

So, even though the world stuff is cool, the best part is really the cast of characters. Mercy Birdsall is the daughter of an undertaker on the island of Bushong. Since her father Roy had a heart-attack, Mercy has been doing most of the heavy lifting so she’s not suddenly burying him. Turns out, Mercy loves this job and her brother, Zeddie, who was supposed to come home and take over after his schooling finished, totally hates it. He wants to be a fancy chef, not preparer of the dead. Mercy’s family (her sister especially) feels like she needs to go and finally live her own life, but what they don’t get is that she’s living the life she wants! She just needs a sympathetic ear – someone she can bare her soul to.

And then there’s Hart Ralston, handsome demi-god marshal. Hunter of drudges (basically zombies). He’s got to be the loneliest man in existence, right up until his former partner and now boss foists an apprentice upon him. He’s dealing with a lot of emotional baggage and seriously needs some therapy. Instead of getting an actual therapist, he writes an anonymous letter addressed “Dear Friend”, pops it in the mailbox and thinks on it no more. UNTIL. It gets a response, delivered by the liquor-loving lop-ear mail carrier rabbit (who does speak, quite a lot). You guessed it, it was delivered to Hart Ralston’s not-so-favorite undertaker, Mercy. Of course, the two don’t know it and continue to exchange letters, finding they really like this other person and they decide they want to meet.

I love the thought of this wonderful, secret pen pal who knows your true soul. I love the cast of characters, particularly the tight-knit Birdsall family. I love the smidgen of mystery thrown into the story. I even rather liked the world-building after I got over the initial confusion. This book was almost a total win for me! I wasn’t super crazy about a certain event at the very end though. It was really emotional and you get a few hints leading up to Hart’s parentage reveal, but ultimately it just felt a bit out of place. Aside from me rolling my eyes at a convenient return to life, I did love this story. I thought it was emotional and fun – would definitely recommend if you’re looking for a good fantasy romance with weird-western vibes (even if technically it’s set on an island). 

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