The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke – REVIEW
Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies – girls hired to kill quickly, quietly and mercifully. They help young wives get rid of old husbands, or the lingering sick slip into the next world.
But Frey is weary of the death trade and dreams of a life bigger than the one she’s been dealt. So when she hears of an unstoppable monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a nearby town, she decides this the Mercies’ one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future, far from the death trade, for all the Mercies.
But Frey soon learns the real meaning of sacrifice, and the cost of guts and glory. Her actions may change the fate of girls in the world forever.
“I was a Mercy-girl with no family, no home, no fortune, and yet my blood sang a song of glory.”
Simon & Schuster kindly sent me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I requested this book after hearing it described as a feminist retelling of Beowulf, which sounded amazing. It definitely didn’t disappoint as I devoured it in one sitting. The lyrical writing style was reminiscent of sagas and legends; it was atmospheric and beautifully descriptive, like a tale told around a fire, with a gripping plot that engaged me from beginning to end.
“I would not quietly fade, lost to time, as all the Mercies had before me … I would be remembered.”
Like the sagas the story is inspired by, the Mercies are presented as heroic archetypes. At times this means the reader doesn’t get to experience complex character development but it works in the context of a tale of glory and heroism where stories can often obscure the truth by focusing on the heroic feat without counting the cost. I loved learning the backstories of the Mercies as each was infused with a sense of loss and a yearning to belong. Juniper, in particular, was my favourite character, although the Cut-Queen was wonderfully portrayed and certainly memorable. One issue I had was the confusing romance element. I honestly don’t understand it even looking back. Maybe I missed something?
“Whatever I did next, the Mercies had my back. To the end. Loyalty like this was a rare thing, beautiful and pure.”
Whilst Frey attempts to achieve immortality via the heroic deed of slaying the Blue Vee Beast, it was the everyday bravery of women that stood out to me – the ones who chose to remain in the shadow of the Beast protecting their homes and families. The author subverted the usual good versus bad dichotomy and instead presented a morally ambiguous Beast and one I could even pity. Victory is definitely not as glorious and pure as Frey expected. Certain plot points suggest there is potential for a sequel and I’d love to read more about Frey’s adventures someday.