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The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

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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 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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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 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?

30 review for The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Helen Hoang

    I’ve never read a romance quite like this! It gave me really strong Howl’s Moving Castle vibes, and I admit for much of the book, I saw it like an anime rather than live action. So, for the romance lovers out there who love Studio Ghibli, this is totally for you. It takes place in an inventive fantasy setting with old gods, new gods, and talking creatures that I found captivating and fresh, and the love story between Hart and Mercy, especially their secret letters to each other, was absolutely s I’ve never read a romance quite like this! It gave me really strong Howl’s Moving Castle vibes, and I admit for much of the book, I saw it like an anime rather than live action. So, for the romance lovers out there who love Studio Ghibli, this is totally for you. It takes place in an inventive fantasy setting with old gods, new gods, and talking creatures that I found captivating and fresh, and the love story between Hart and Mercy, especially their secret letters to each other, was absolutely swoon worthy. It’s a enemies to lovers story and I loved their banter. Sending this into the universe: Please make an animated film of this.

  2. 4 out of 5

    toointofiction

    I feel very strongly that you deserve a friend more worthy of you than I am in reality. Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐,8 Spice Meter: 🌶️🌶️ ❗This is a spoiler-free ARC review from NetGalley❗ ⚠️Trigger Warning: Various depictions of death⚠️ 📍Date Released: August 23, 2022📍 I don't know how I managed to pick three different ARCs, all of them great, and all of them including adorable pet dogs that made the stories 100x better. It feels like a blessing, ngl. Another blessing is that I deeply enjoyed all three of these A I feel very strongly that you deserve a friend more worthy of you than I am in reality. Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐,8 Spice Meter: 🌶️🌶️ ❗This is a spoiler-free ARC review from NetGalley❗ ⚠️Trigger Warning: Various depictions of death⚠️ 📍Date Released: August 23, 2022📍 I don't know how I managed to pick three different ARCs, all of them great, and all of them including adorable pet dogs that made the stories 100x better. It feels like a blessing, ngl. Another blessing is that I deeply enjoyed all three of these ARCs even if they weren't all 5 ⭐ reads. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy may have a pretty simple yet straightforward plot, but its execution was very well done. It was humorous, sweet, emotional, and delightfully romantic in that specific haters-to-lovers trope kind of way. Seriously, this trope is magnificent. Not to mention its additional grumpy x sunshine trope that I also find delightful and have been reading a lot of lately. It's the little things in life, right?? 😍😍 For the most part, I found this story terrific. Excellent romance and world-building, extremely likeable and relatable characters, solid plot and subplots. BUT, there were some minor things that didn't really impress me. For example, while the writing was mostly great and very intelligent, it could be a little cringy at times. Just some romantic parts and dialogue. Also, the male love interest, Hart, was a little too obsessed with his female counterpart's boobs, in my opinion. These are the only reasons this book didn't get 5 ⭐ because other than that it was excellent. I liked Mercy Birdshall very, very much. Sure she's the protagonist, she's supposed to be lovable, and in this case, cute. Also, she has a dog and I'll love anyone with a dog. I mean, who wouldn't? Even so, Mercy was very well written, she was pretty complex as a character, strong-willed, and I don't know of any other character that could actually make the position of undertaker (mortician) look cool. I loved her compassion, loyalty, and her determination in the face of adversity. Despite his obsession with Mercy's boobs, Hart was a decent character. As the grumpy one in this relationship, he lived up to his role successfully. He was morose, antisocial, and brooding. It was hard for him to make or maintain friendships which made him a very lonely person. I used to be like that as well, so I was able to connect with him more so than I did with Mercy. He was also kind, sweet, passionate, and hot as fuck. Don't come after me, secretly soft hotties are my catnip. 🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️His being a demigod was a bonus. 😍😍 The romance between Mercy and Hart was really good. Very entertaining. Not that anyone should expect less from haters-to-lovers, of course. Especially when it's combined with the grumpy x sunshine trope. The banter started IMMEDIATELY and it was so so gooood...and hot. 😝😝 I always love that when it happens. I was deeply invested in their relationship, happiness and well-being, but I will never forgive them for making me cry MULTIPLE TIMES. They scared the crap out of me for a minute there. Although, I do enjoy a good cry from time to time. It can be cathartic. As for the other characters, I found them all to be absolutely delightful. Sure, I've had a few favourites among them. A certain humanoid rabbit messenger that was a total asshole in the best way possible and cussed at any given moment, for example. (intriguing right?? 🤩🤩) And Hart's apprentice with the best name I've ever seen, Penrose Duckers. WHO NAMES A KID THAT???? 😂😂😂😂 Despite his weird name, he was an awesome character, funny, sweet, and excitable. Pretty much the complete opposite of his mentor. You can guess how amazing the scenes between them were. You should definitely read this standalone.

  3. 4 out of 5

    mina reads™️

    Personally I had 0% investment in the couple or the main plot 2 stars for the fun dynamics between mercy and her family, the interesting setting and Bassareus the talking bunny mailman

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: The author and I are social media moots and sometimes exchange bants. Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. And remember: I am not here to judge your drag, I mean your book. Books are art and art is subjective. These are just my personal thoughts. They are not meant to be taken as broader commentary on the general quality of the work. Believe me, I have not Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: The author and I are social media moots and sometimes exchange bants. Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. And remember: I am not here to judge your drag, I mean your book. Books are art and art is subjective. These are just my personal thoughts. They are not meant to be taken as broader commentary on the general quality of the work. Believe me, I have not enjoyed many an excellent book, and my individual lack of enjoyment has not made any of those books less excellent or (more relevantly) less successful. Further disclaimer: Readers, please stop accusing me of trying to take down “my competition” because I wrote a review you didn’t like. This is complete nonsense. Firstly, writing isn’t a competitive sport. Secondly, I only publish reviews of books in the subgenre where I’m best known (queer romcom) if they’re glowing. And finally: taking time out of my life to read an entire book, then write a detailed review about it that some people on GR will look at would be a profoundly inefficient and ineffective way to damage the careers of other authors. If you can’t credit me with simply being a person who loves books and likes talking about them, at least credit me with enough common sense to be a better villain. ******************************************* This is a macabre, whimsical, unabashedly soft book. And I adored it. I guess it’s technically what the industry might be trying to call “romantasy” which is to say a fantasy where the romantic elements are as significant as the fantastical stuff. And I actually thought the way the central relationship was woven around the more conventional plot-like elements (the mystery of Hart’s parentage, where the zombies are coming from, what’s going on with Cunningham, the dodgy owner of a chain of funeral parlours) was pretty damn masterful. In any case, the basic setup here is … actually, it’s really hard to summarise. But essentially you have Hart, a lonely, zombie-fighter, demigod marshal, and Mercy, who works for her family’s funeral parlour: a mutual failure to understand the other has created an antagonistic dynamic between them that shows no sign of changing, until—each of them, in their own way desperate for emotional connection—they accidentally enter into an anonymous correspondence. Though, honestly, this is one of those attempts at a plot summary that barely touches on what the book is actually about … and that feels sort of right, because while Hart and Mercy is not explicitly a suspenseful read, unravelling its world-building is definitely one of its pleasures. This may well turn out to be one of those “your mileage may vary” aspects of the story—those accustomed to more traditional fantasy fare, where everything is explained to you the moment it appears, might balk at being thrown into the action like a corpse from the back of an autoduck. For me, though, it really worked. You see, the more you, ahem, scrape the surface of the book, the more you realise that Hart and Mercy inhabit a deeply weird and specific world (the best description I can manage is, a bit wild west, a bit Waterworld, a bit Six Feet Under) but it is also very much their world, one they take for granted as much as we take our own. And there’s a particular sort of immersiveness that comes from only having the details of a setting become relevant to the reader at the point they become relevant to the characters—for example, we learn about the zombies (drudges) and Hart’s work in containing them when he’s mentoring a new apprentice, and the history of the world, with its old and new gods, is only fully explored when Mercy goes to church to pray. In any case, as much as I came to the love the world-building, and how the book approached it, the true heart (heh) of Hart and Mercy is the characters, particularly Hart and Mercy themselves. I adored both of them, although I did end up feeling that Hart was the character with the greatest emotional depth and greatest emotional journey to, y’know, undertake. Mercy is quirky and charming (and enjoys reading romance novels in the bath—what’s not to love?) but the majority of her problems are external: her family’s funeral home is in crisis, her ex-boyfriend is a dick, etc. Hart, by contrast, has a lot of work to do in terms of understanding himself and his place in the world, and learning how to be open to both loving and living. There’s a lot about him that’s painfully relatable, I suspect even to people who aren’t, cough, profoundly damaged themselves. In fairness, though, I do also think that if both characters had equal degrees of the same sort of baggage to deal with it would have unbalanced the book in a different way and, while it was hard for me personally not to feel more connected to Hart than to Mercy, I deeply appreciated what the book was doing with its themes of love, trust and emotional vulnerability, and the way these are inevitably shaped by gender and gendered expectations. “Woman help man learn to emotion, man help women find self-agency” is kind of the unquestioned bedrock of a lot of m/f romance dynamics, and I’m certainly not challenging its value. But something I loved about Hart and Mercy is that the characters catalyse these journeys for each other but, ultimately, they sort their own shit out. Mercy does not need Hart to fix her family’s business—the family fix their own business by talking to each other openly about what they all want and need—and Mercy is never expected to perform emotional labour for Hart. Through the act of loving each other they essentially free themselves and that is a beautiful, beautiful thing to watch unfold. The other thing I found incredibly touching about their relationship is the degree to which communication plays such a significant role. Although, to be honest, there are a very few problems in this book that can’t be solved by a good faith attempt to communicate with someone else—which, again, I found kind of lovely. In any case, it is miscommunication that originally puts Hart and Mercy on the path to mutual hostility, letter-writing that brings them together, a lack of honesty on Hart’s part (he knows his anonymous correspondent is Mercy before she realises he is hers) that brings about their third act reversal, and honesty that brings them together again. Knowing Hart is … not lying exactly … to Mercy is a little difficult read, but it also feels true to where he is, emotionally speaking, at that point in the book. Something I had less patience for personally, though, was when Mercy told Hart she never wanted to see him again and then later complained that he didn’t love her enough to … I don’t even know what? Disregard her? Disrespect her wishes? Compromise her agency? This sudden requirement that Hart be telepathic was an odd note for me in a book that is so otherwise committed to the notion that love, whether it’s love of family, work, strangers, partners, is something you build deliberately and specifically in words and deeds, not something that just happens magically. I’ve spent most of this rambling excuse for a review talking about Hart and Mercy, but I should also mention how much I enjoyed the side-characters too. From Mercy’s rambunctiously loving if not always entirely helpful family to the extremely camp magic owl who delivers the mail. Hart’s assistant, Penrose Duckers, is also a goofy delight although I wish his relationship with Mercy’s baked-good loving brother had been more fleshed out. Queerness is a very comfortable part of Mercy and Hart’s world, which I appreciated, but Duckers and Zedde basically take one look at each other and are then boyfriends? Obviously, they’re secondary characters (and mostly comedic secondary characters) so it makes sense their relationship wouldn’t / couldn’t have the depth of Hart and Mercy’s but it felt jarringly shallow. Especially, as discussed above, in the context of all the other complicated, messy loving relationships within the book. Of course, it’s totally fine for relationships to be shallow and I can see a reading of Duckers and Penrose as a celebration of connections that are nothing but banging and baked goods … except I also got the sense that I was being asked to take them seriously as long-term romantic partners. Which felt, honestly, unearned. I do half-wonder if they got stuck in a sort of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” twilight zone, in that if they’d been allowed to be young daft horny fuckbuddies (which is probably a more accurate reflection of their one-page connection—I mean, Zedde picks Duckers up with the line “well hello” like he’s Kenneth Williams or something) it might have looked like the book was implying queer relationships, or mlm relationships, were physically driven and superficial compared to non-queer ones. Although there is a happily married lesbian couple in the book so who knows? Minor gripes aside, Hart and Mercy really is the most loving book, and its understanding of love so expansive and resilient that I teared up at about the 14% mark and later escalated to bawling on public transport. Given that it’s partially set in a funeral parlour and that Hart kills zombies for a living, death is also a major theme—but even death, in the context of this book, is a soft and loving thing, one that offers continuance, and opportunities for kindness, rather than merely the inevitability of ending. Emotions, in general, are handled with such tenderness here—especially, the unglamorous ones, like fear and, most significantly, loneliness. Not everything is easy in the world of Hart and Mercy, not everything is easy for Hart and Mercy either, but their story still felt like a safe space somehow. Somewhere that I myself could be a little vulnerable the way Hart learns to be. And that is such a gift of a thing for a book to give you. PS - it’s also a genuinely funny book. I should have found a way to work that in earlier, but I was too deep in my feelings. But the levity is the perfect complement to the sweetness and some of the more wrenching moments. For example the phrase “horny illogic” has definitely made its into my personal idiolect.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hannah B.

    ✨A wild and resounding yes but also a wild and resounding what the fuck just happened.✨ I feel like I need to reread in order to really process my thoughts because I really can’t articulate why it worked for me but it absolutely did. Helen Hoang said it was a romance and that’s basically all I needed to know. I don’t really think anything can adequately prepare you for all of the feelings you’re going to feel, so just go into this understanding you’re going to understand nothing until you underst ✨A wild and resounding yes but also a wild and resounding what the fuck just happened.✨ I feel like I need to reread in order to really process my thoughts because I really can’t articulate why it worked for me but it absolutely did. Helen Hoang said it was a romance and that’s basically all I needed to know. I don’t really think anything can adequately prepare you for all of the feelings you’re going to feel, so just go into this understanding you’re going to understand nothing until you understand everything. The closest thing I can compare this to is The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels meets You’ve Got Mail. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy isn’t like The Wisteria Society at all but they’re also absolutely the same. Doesn’t make sense? Perfect. I want you confused, intrigued, and ready to risk it all for these two morbidly hot cinnamon rolls. I laughed, I cried, I wondered aloud what I was reading several times, I blessed the rains down in Africa, I thanked the maker. Seriously, I really did cry. I did not think this book would make me cry. Oh how the turntables… The romance hit me hard and Hart and Mercy really were the perfect enemies to lovers. There were talking animals, dead bodies (so many dead bodies), steamy scenes, and zombies. The world was both foreign, a bit dystopian, and definitely fantastical, but it also had enough snapshots of our normal life to ground my understanding. For example, Mercy read romance novels and loved bubble baths. It was cool to see how both worldviews were entwined, as you’re kinda just dropped into the story without extensive worldbuilding. Again, you’ll be confused until you’re not. Overall, I’ll definitely be reading the next book by the author and will be forever happy I most assuredly judged this book by its (lovely) cover. Give this a read if you want to explore a romance maybe a tad out of your comfort zone! I guarantee the hart (see what I did there?) of the book is rooted in an extra sweet romance between two lost souls, looking for love in all decomped places. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 🌶🌶.75/5 Tropes - Found family - Enemies to lovers - Meet cute angry - You’ve Got Mail esque pen pals - Secondary romance - Workplace romance - He falls first - Hero is a boob guy - Grumpy/sunshine sidekick - Angry they find the other hot Quotes I loved (may be slightly spoilery) ✨ “I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I don’t want to hear ‘I’m sorry, Mercy’ or ‘I don’t deserve you, Mercy’ or ‘I hope you find someone else, Mercy’! I want to hear ‘I love you, Mercy’!” ✨ He spent a couple of hours finishing the copy of Enemies and Lovers that he had checked out from the library during his last visit to Herington. He figured that if he could no longer love Mercy in person, he could at least love her through the pages of her favorite novel. ✨ What was he supposed to say? I’m here to see your daughter to tell her that I’m her secret pen pal and I’m hoping against hope that she won’t hate me forever and might even want to have sex with me tonight? ✨ I want you to worship at the altar of my glorious ——————beautiful, intoxicating —————————pussy. ✨ That is enemy cleavage, he reminded himself. *all quotes are subject to change CWs: There is extensive talk about a dog who passed away in the past, death of loved ones, forensic type corpse descriptions Thanks so much to the publisher for an eARC via NetGalley! All opinions are honest and my own.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melanie (MelReads)

    *2.5 stars💫

  7. 5 out of 5

    destiny ♡ howling libraries

    It annoyed Mercy to no end that after years of putting up with that insufferable marshal, some primal inner instinct continued to think he looked good enough to eat. Well, I adored everything about this. Mercy and Hart are adorable, most of the side characters are hilarious and lovable and a constant nuisance in the best way, the world is fun and unique, the drudges (AKA zombies) are just present enough to keep things suspenseful without ever over-shadowing the romance, and the entire story It annoyed Mercy to no end that after years of putting up with that insufferable marshal, some primal inner instinct continued to think he looked good enough to eat. Well, I adored everything about this. Mercy and Hart are adorable, most of the side characters are hilarious and lovable and a constant nuisance in the best way, the world is fun and unique, the drudges (AKA zombies) are just present enough to keep things suspenseful without ever over-shadowing the romance, and the entire story is a mash-up of so many genres that I never thought it would work, but guess what? It works. I was sucked in from the very first moment Mercy and Hart bickered at one another, and it never got old. Even when I just wanted them to get over their respective obliviousness and recognize what was happening between the two of them, I still found myself enjoying the arguing and angst and reluctant attraction so much. I feel like a lot of enemies-to-lovers stories don't always nail the ratio—either there's too much enemy content with a magical flip switching them to lovers, or they were never enemies to begin with!—but Megan Bannen perfectly showed the gradual shift from enemies to reluctant friends to hot, passionate romance. I loved every minute of this book, friends. I tabbed this poor paperback half to death and already know it's going to be a well-worn copy in no time because this is the sort of story I can easily see myself revisiting very soon. Buddy read with two of my faves, Jamie and Ashley! 🥰 ✨ Representation: Mercy is described as curvy and possibly plus-sized; multiple queer side characters (including depictions of two side romances, one w/w and one m/m) Thank you to the publisher for the review copy! All thoughts are honest and my own. ✨ Content warnings for: (view spoiler)[gore, violence, death, medical content, misogyny, Mercy's father has recently suffered a heart attack (hide spoiler)] ——— twitter | booktok | bookstagram | blog

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    4.5 Stars Gah! I loved it!! Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾 4.5 Stars Gah! I loved it!! Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ruby Dixon

    Hi there! Holy crap, I loved this! At first glance, it gave me steampunky-western vibe? Mixed with magic portals and zombies? And I was like...is this a romance? But the worldbuilding was so damn cool (and the cover so darn cute) I gave it a roll. Her worldbuilding immediately drew me in and I wanted to know more, and by the time they started exchanging letters, I was SHIPPING ALL OF THIS SO HARD. IT'S SO GOOD EVERYONE. I cried like a baby in the last 20% of the book and sighed with happiness when Hi there! Holy crap, I loved this! At first glance, it gave me steampunky-western vibe? Mixed with magic portals and zombies? And I was like...is this a romance? But the worldbuilding was so damn cool (and the cover so darn cute) I gave it a roll. Her worldbuilding immediately drew me in and I wanted to know more, and by the time they started exchanging letters, I was SHIPPING ALL OF THIS SO HARD. IT'S SO GOOD EVERYONE. I cried like a baby in the last 20% of the book and sighed with happiness when I closed it. The enemies to lovers aspect was just delicious and the worldbuilding was fascinating! It kinda gave me Ilona Andrews levels of crunchy, deep-dive worldbuilding mixed with the super-satisfying romance. It's not out for a few months but if you like your romance with really intricate world building and plot, and you love a penpal romance mashed up with enemies to lovers and and and JUST ADD THIS TO YOUR LIST, SERIOUSLY. (view spoiler)[ (Also even though I blubbered as I read this, it really does end happily. Please do not be alarmed, my romance peoples.) (hide spoiler)]

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Unexpectedly solid magical rom com. It is not the most romantic, nor the most fantastical. It's a great compromise between the two that resulted in a fun light hearted read. Extra points because there is a disgruntled postal worker who is a rabbit with a New York accent. Unexpectedly solid magical rom com. It is not the most romantic, nor the most fantastical. It's a great compromise between the two that resulted in a fun light hearted read. Extra points because there is a disgruntled postal worker who is a rabbit with a New York accent.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    I was absolutely psyched when I read the description for this book. Make romance weirder and more imaginative! Make fantasy have more romance! I was hoping that this would be true love, but both the romance and fantasy parts fell under the “good, but not great” category for me. I had fun reading it, but it didn't sink its teeth into me like a ravenous zombie. Surprisingly (and disappointingly), the You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner element was the least successful part of the romance. Fo I was absolutely psyched when I read the description for this book. Make romance weirder and more imaginative! Make fantasy have more romance! I was hoping that this would be true love, but both the romance and fantasy parts fell under the “good, but not great” category for me. I had fun reading it, but it didn't sink its teeth into me like a ravenous zombie. Surprisingly (and disappointingly), the You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner element was the least successful part of the romance. For some reason, I did not expect the comparison to mean “swaths of this story are a literal remake of the inspiration text down to the dialogue.” It gave those parts of the book a fanfiction quality (derogatory). It can be fun to read scenes you’re familiar with play out in a different universe, but this didn’t feel elevated or special in its interpretation of those story beats. On top of that, the novel takes the best part of You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner—the shift from enmity to friendship to love—and collapses the timeline so the shift happens in mere pages. It also takes the part that is the toughest to palatably navigate—that he finds out the truth about their correspondence before she does—and blows it up to take more page space and make it an even greater source of conflict. And on top of that, I found the letters between Mercy and Hart to be pleasant and sweet, but fairly generic. They were not a stand-out in terms of what the epistolary format is capable of stirring emotionally. Despite my qualms expressed above, I was still swept up by Mercy and Hart’s relationship when Megan Bannen wasn’t trying to fit them into marketing bullet points. There is such genuine affection and tenderness expressed throughout this book. Actual tears might have leaked from my Sahara-dry tear ducts?? It was easy to root for these characters and their happy ending. (This 100% fits into genre romance parameters, in case that is a concern. The romantic arc is the central focus, there is on-page sex, and there is a HEA.) I enjoyed the general flavour of the world Bannen constructed. It’s a fantastical setting with contemporary vibes—a place where underwire bras, bubble baths, and sneakers exist alongside portals to other realms, zombies, demigods, and talking animals who deliver the mail. But I hesitate to call what Bannen accomplishes world-building. It’s more like world-blueprinting. The book goes in-depth in terms of some aspects like the belief system (it is very Game of Thrones with the Old Gods and the New and names like Grandfather Bones, The Warden, etc). Enough is explained as you move through the book that you understand the basic contours of the world. I didn’t feel lost, exactly. But I did feel undernourished. I would have liked more detail about the physical space and its occupants. For example, Bannen drops in words like “equimare” and “autoduck”; you can infer through context that they are this universe’s equivalent to horses and cars. However, if you asked me to describe an equimare I guess they are… vaguely scaly? Webbed-footed? As for autoduck, you got me. I mentally substituted in the Penguin’s giant rubber duck vehicle in Batman Returns in lieu of an in-text description. I hesitate to level this type of complaint given the current insufferable state of pop culture criticism (where fans demand an explanation for every single minutia of a story in sneering "but plot holes" commentary). However, I do think there is a way to achieve a happy medium between explaining too little or too much of a fantasy universe, and this book landed just on the side of underdeveloped. Content notes for discussion of parental death (occurred prior to the story), mild violence and gore, and lots of (compassionately cared for) dead bodies. Thank you to Orbit Books and NetGalley for the ARC. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    nick (the infinite limits of love)

    I’m back with another cozy fantasy/PNR book review! INJECT THEM ALL INTO MY VEINS! This is everything that I’ve been asking for because I LOVE fantasy settings but don’t often love how much brain power they require of me when it comes to plot and world-building. These romance-centric ones, like The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, are perfect for me. This book in particular holds a special place on my bookshelf because I feel like it’s a book written for all the lonely readers out there. 🥹 What app I’m back with another cozy fantasy/PNR book review! INJECT THEM ALL INTO MY VEINS! This is everything that I’ve been asking for because I LOVE fantasy settings but don’t often love how much brain power they require of me when it comes to plot and world-building. These romance-centric ones, like The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, are perfect for me. This book in particular holds a special place on my bookshelf because I feel like it’s a book written for all the lonely readers out there. 🥹 What appealed to me the most about The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was the comparison to You’ve Got Mail. Epistolary romances are my JAM. I may or may not have shamelessly begged the lovely publicist for a copy simply because of that. I just knew that I would inhale every word of this book and I DID. Both Hart and Mercy are lonely individuals and that loneliness seeps into every chapter of this book. When Hart, in need of a connection, writes an anonymous letter that winds up being delivered to his real-life nemesis, Mercy, it sets off a chain reaction that permanently alters his life. Their anonymous friendship was delightfully humorous and heartachingly sweet. Through the letters, they bond over their shared loneliness and loss, forging a deep connection. As a fellow lonely person, I was touched by the way Megan Bannen wrote about their alienation. I can’t even begin to describe the pangs felt reading some of the quotes in the book because they are that resonant. Soon enough, they agree to meet-up in person, but when Hart realizes that it’s THE Mercy, he leaves without revealing himself. Hart and Mercy’s dynamic outside of their letters was even more intriguing because they did not get along. They were still attracted to each other, but anytime they were in the same environment, they were ready to off each other. As a reader who knows that they’ve been unknowingly writing to each other, it’s nothing short of comical watching them act like irritable clowns! It provides humor and lightness to the story that I appreciated. I was also unhealthily obsessed with both Hart and Mercy as characters. Mercy has to be one of the coolest characters I’ve come across. She has taken over her elderly father’s undertaking business while also having to care for him, handling her siblings, and dealing with the possibility of losing the family business. She’s got a lot on her plate, but she wouldn’t really have it any other way because she loves her family and the work that she does. Despite all that she’s going through, she’s actually the human form of sunshine to everyone around her (besides Hart). She has this quiet strength that made me love her fiercely. I only wanted for her to find romantic love to add to the love she is showered by her family. Of course, she finds that love in the very grouchy, very sad, Hart, who is a demigod and a marshal. His job is to wander the island to find drudges, which are zombie-like creatures that are not as cute and cozy as the rest of this book. Hart is a sad BOI who loves puppies (😭). It probably makes me a little bit of a masochist but there’s nothing more I enjoy than reading books about sad characters. It’s not the actual sadness I *enjoy*, but the journey to the characters finding happiness. Hart’s sadness are as a result of his job and the sheer number of losses he has faced. Yeah, he’s a cantankerous knob at times, but can you blame him? He’s so hard on himself and so self-deprecating that you can’t help but want for his life to change so he experiences at least an inkling of happiness. Have no fear! While Megan Bannen ushers him through hell and more in The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, she ultimately ends his story on a pleasant and rewarding note. What I like best about these cozy fantasy books is the focus on the different relationships. The secondary characters add even more warmth and coziness to this tale through their varying relationships with the protagonists. You have some very relatable family scenes, a boisterous new sidekick/apprentice who pushes all of Hart’s grumpy buttons, a ridiculously funny scene-stealing talking rabbit! The world itself is wacky and weird, integrating elements of the modern world with fantasy elements. I liked how naturally the world was built and how it never felt overwhelming. I left the book with a good sense of it which makes the writing very impressive in my eyes. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is quirky, lovely, and all sorts of emotional. I really can’t recommend it enough and I hope that Megan Bannen writes more of these relationship/romance-centric cozy fantasies in the future. I’ll be seated!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)

    For all the love this one is getting, sadly it was not one for me. The balance of sweet lightheartedness vs the macabre was a valiant effort but one I couldn't believe all too well, with it instead feeling like a ricochet between the two. It made the emotions of our main two characters feel extreme and ever-changing as opposed to the complicated dynamic I assume was attempted. The timeframe didn't help either, with how quickly everything was acted upon. It also seemed like the book was trying to For all the love this one is getting, sadly it was not one for me. The balance of sweet lightheartedness vs the macabre was a valiant effort but one I couldn't believe all too well, with it instead feeling like a ricochet between the two. It made the emotions of our main two characters feel extreme and ever-changing as opposed to the complicated dynamic I assume was attempted. The timeframe didn't help either, with how quickly everything was acted upon. It also seemed like the book was trying to do too much, with three main branches of issues - the demigod issue, the business issue, and the romance issue. None of these felt intense enough for me to be concerned, or fleshed out enough to understand why everyone was reacting the way they were. It was a weird one where everything just felt very surface level, so my interest just didn't really hook. I think anyone who's a fan of the light fantasy rom-com vibe that seem popular in witchy books at the moment would like this one. Sadly just not for me though!

  14. 5 out of 5

    sil ♡ the book voyagers

    if courtney milan had a baby with zombieland this would be it no, but truly, if you enjoyed hold me by courtney milan but wanted to read a fantasy romcom, you definitely need the undertaking of hart and mercy. the way this book had me in a chokehold!!!! enemies to lovers who suddenly become anonymous pen pals but still hate each other in real life. yes sir yes sir. meet an undertaker heroine who is sunshine and bright colors who hates a grumpy, lonely hero who k!lls zombie-like creatures in this h if courtney milan had a baby with zombieland this would be it no, but truly, if you enjoyed hold me by courtney milan but wanted to read a fantasy romcom, you definitely need the undertaking of hart and mercy. the way this book had me in a chokehold!!!! enemies to lovers who suddenly become anonymous pen pals but still hate each other in real life. yes sir yes sir. meet an undertaker heroine who is sunshine and bright colors who hates a grumpy, lonely hero who k!lls zombie-like creatures in this hilarious fantasy romance! im obsessed with hart because he worships mercy so much, like the way he loves her so fully, so completely, he really can't live without her and omg when you're on his pov it's so emotional. PLUS THIS IS KINDA SEXY TOOOOO like pls orbit really went there im so happy! ps. this does have a romantic hea i promise

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robin (Bridge Four)

    This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 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 an This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 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. Narration: 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

  16. 5 out of 5

    Srivalli Rekha

    Publication Date: 23rd Aug 2022 3.8 Stars One Liner: Entertaining but go with the right expectations Hart is a marshal with the dangerous job of patrolling the wilds of Tanria and preventing dredges from attacking the citizens. Mercy is an undertaker, solely managing Birdsall & Son Undertakers despite the obstacles. Hart and Mercy can’t stand each other. They seem to bring out the worst in the other (do we see sparks flying?). However, they have more in common than they like to think. Both are l Publication Date: 23rd Aug 2022 3.8 Stars One Liner: Entertaining but go with the right expectations Hart is a marshal with the dangerous job of patrolling the wilds of Tanria and preventing dredges from attacking the citizens. Mercy is an undertaker, solely managing Birdsall & Son Undertakers despite the obstacles. Hart and Mercy can’t stand each other. They seem to bring out the worst in the other (do we see sparks flying?). However, they have more in common than they like to think. Both are lonely and pretty much have no life beyond their jobs. When Hart’s letter to an unknown friend reaches Mercy, she responds to it without knowing the sender's identity. Though a tentative friendship is born between them, things could go either way once the truth is revealed. What’s more, Tanria seems to be under attack by dredges coming out of nowhere. Why is there a sudden increase in cases? Who is responsible for this? How does it affect Hart and Mercy? What about their feelings for each other? The story comes from a limited third-person perspective of Mercy and Hart. What I Like: The narration is lighthearted and sprinkled with some bittersweet moments. There isn’t any descriptive prose or lyrical imagery. Though I’m a fan of both, I like that the narrative style suited the storyline and the cover. The side characters are an absolute treat. No kidding. I love them (except for Nathan and another guy). The main characters are decent, though they sometimes act less mature for their age. There’s food in the book, sweet treats and desserts (which is always a plus). It’s the men who cook while the ladies enjoy the delicious servings. The letters could have been better, but I preferred the toned-down version. It also helps that I didn’t even think of You’ve Got Mail. The letters suit the characters (who aren’t philosophical), so no complaints. There are quite a few weird, funny, and eye-roll-inducing moments. The overall effect is satisfactory, which is important to me. What Didn’t Work for Me: The pacing is super slow. A 336-page shouldn’t feel like a 450-page book. It took me four days to read this book (even when the prose is easy). I deleted 0.2 stars for this. The world-building goes a little on and off, and the same happens to the terminology as well. The contemporary slang doesn’t always suit the unidentifiable fantasy period. After all, they are writing letters to each other, and there’s no mention of phones (wired/ wireless). The shift from enemies to lovers is a little too abrupt. Sure sparks are flying, but the transition needs to be smooth. A few threads didn’t seem to conclude properly, especially the Bill part. I won’t elaborate, but it could have been handled better. To sum up, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is an entertaining read if you plod through the slow pace and ignore a few bumps. Don’t compare it to You’ve Got Mail or expect heavy stuff. Thank you, NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK, and Orbit Books, for the eARC. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book. #NetGalley #TheUndertakingofHartandMercy ***** PS: The book has steam of 2ish level and cuss words (including F-bombs).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Corina

    Almost four stars... I'm a big fan of original plots, quirky characters, and solid writing. Happily I can say that the book had it all. I especially enjoyed the developing friendship and then romantic relationship between the couple - I'm such a sucker for romance. The writing was right up my alley, except for some parts here and there that I skimmed - don't ask me why, I couldn't even explain why my attention floundered at times. Overall, I was impressed by the original and very solid storytelling. Almost four stars... I'm a big fan of original plots, quirky characters, and solid writing. Happily I can say that the book had it all. I especially enjoyed the developing friendship and then romantic relationship between the couple - I'm such a sucker for romance. The writing was right up my alley, except for some parts here and there that I skimmed - don't ask me why, I couldn't even explain why my attention floundered at times. Overall, I was impressed by the original and very solid storytelling. And I wouldn't say no to a sequel or another book in this world. Well done!!! ___________________________________ I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Atwater

    The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is one of those lovely books that almost defies description. I mean, you can say the words You've Got Mail with extradimensional zombies—but then you'd also have to add "but it's really cute, actually, and the hard-drinking anthropomorphic rabbit that delivers the mail is probably my favourite character, and—" You know what, I'll start from the beginning. Hart Ralston hunts zombies and delivers bodies to the undertaker to keep them from being possessed. Mercy Bird The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is one of those lovely books that almost defies description. I mean, you can say the words You've Got Mail with extradimensional zombies—but then you'd also have to add "but it's really cute, actually, and the hard-drinking anthropomorphic rabbit that delivers the mail is probably my favourite character, and—" You know what, I'll start from the beginning. Hart Ralston hunts zombies and delivers bodies to the undertaker to keep them from being possessed. Mercy Birdsall is a young undertaker holding together her family's business by sheer willpower. They despise one another, and the banter regularly proves it. But when the two of them accidentally become secret pen-pals, they each begin to fall in love with the mystery person behind their new anonymous letters. Dramatic irony drips from every page of this book—and I mean that in the best way. It makes a few clear homages to the 1940s film The Shop Around the Corner (or its remake, You've Got Mail—I normally reference the remake to people since it's better known, but I suppose I should admit that I haven't seen the later one!). Every time Hart and Mercy start sniping at each other or trying to hide their latest heartfelt anonymous letter from someone, I found myself chuckling at them. It didn't matter that it was such a simple plot device; I just plain enjoyed it. Add in some fantastically strange world-building, some zombie attacks, and some sarcastic divine mailmen, and you've got a fantastic book that is still, yes, almost impossible to describe. Death plays an outsized role in the story, given the somewhat tragic zombies and Mercy's job as an undertaker—but it's handled with empathy and respect, and I came away from the book feeling pleasantly existential. This was a lovely, macabre fantasy romance about life, death, and Actually Living. I cried twice and smiled plenty. All in all, I'd highly recommend it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    h o l l i s

    I'm not sure I can round up on this one. But we'll see how I feel after I peck away at all my thoughts. No word of a lie, it took about 40% of this book for me to get on board. And when I say on board I mean.. one foot on said board. I was like Jack, hanging off the edge, but at least I had stopped drifting, frozen, to the bottom in an attempt to escape. Because the entire beginning? I was | | close to a DNF. Or a one-star (though the final rating might not be much better!). Beyond just not being I'm not sure I can round up on this one. But we'll see how I feel after I peck away at all my thoughts. No word of a lie, it took about 40% of this book for me to get on board. And when I say on board I mean.. one foot on said board. I was like Jack, hanging off the edge, but at least I had stopped drifting, frozen, to the bottom in an attempt to escape. Because the entire beginning? I was | | close to a DNF. Or a one-star (though the final rating might not be much better!). Beyond just not being able to grasp or picture this world (are they cars or part duck? why did it take me 80% to realize equimare was actually half horse half frog-like? did I miss that description or did it not get described at the outset..) and the combination of our world but not, and also fantasy, just did my head in. I appreciate we didn't get an info-dumpy explanation until it could be shoehorned in more naturally but I think this book is a perfect example of being Too Much and yet Too Little. Speaking of which, someone, please, explain the boats thing to me. I started out lost about that and ended lost about it, too. Were they giant Viking-like boats? Miniatures? I swear it was explained both ways and I'm just.. well, honestly, don't bother explaining. Just know I don't get it. Back to me being unable to picture this world. It felt unfinished; like a sketched out concept that should've been fleshed out but wasn't. But maybe that's just me. Imma read some reviews after I finish this. Also, listen, I love an epistolary novel but I have a love-hate with You've Got Mail (it's a concept that infuriates me when I think about the logistics but I can't help but still think of it fondly; but only in vibes and secondary characters, the romance is pure mess, but the drama of pining after someone who actually dislike is delicious). So the moment we shifted away from that? The happier I was. Because I enjoyed it when these two were together. I didn't like (or understand) the rationale for why they were hateful towards each other and, because of that, the switch flips too quickly. Almost.. instantly, if you will. Specifically for Mercy who, much like the aforementioned movie, is the last to know who Hart really is. His infatuation is gradual and makes total sense, though. Which leads me into my Mercy issues. Her whole complaint about how her family just assumes everything about her and never asks.. well, missy, you never spoke up either! Frustrations like this are never one-sided and I lose sympathy with it more often than not. Additionally.. I hate to admit it but I only liked Mercy when she was with Hart. But that's not to say Hart was perfect! I wish there had been some acknowledgement about his mentor's failings or prejudice beyond the little drama that gets tied up with Hart's other friend. Mostly, I'm thinking about a line early on where he reflects on his mentor's observation that undertaker's like Mercy were greedy and opportunist. Did that ever get acknowledged as wrong? Once again, I can't recall. But, much like the waterhorse thing, maybe I missed it. As for the other side characters? I would say most were just noise, either for some attempts at humour, or for added conflict, and I only really actually enjoyed two (Alma and Pen) and, of course, the dog. Truly, the only thing that really kept me engaged was the romance when it was romancey. So let's hope there's another romance -- one that is also weird but a weird I can get on board with! -- to come. Because, yes, I think I would give this author another go. While I have nothing very effusive to say, neither was there anything dramatically terrible, and this might've just been a story-specific fail. So, yes, some good, some not-good, and thus it leaves us here.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fadwa (Word Wonders)

    This book might be starting my cozy fantasy romance era. The grumpy x sunshine, the exploration of loneliness and the sheer love in it made my heart ache. it's a perfect mix of whimsical, macabre and funny. RTC! This book might be starting my cozy fantasy romance era. The grumpy x sunshine, the exploration of loneliness and the sheer love in it made my heart ache. it's a perfect mix of whimsical, macabre and funny. RTC!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Holly (Holly Hearts Books)

    Personal rating: 3.5 Full review to come on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/hollyheartsbooks Personal rating: 3.5 Full review to come on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/hollyheartsbooks

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angela Reads Romance

    Is this a romance or is it a dystopian about stabbing appendixes and wrapping decaying bodies in salt and ghosts taking possession of dead bodies? Somehow it’s perfectly, wonderfully, BOTH! I seriously LOVED this love story. This is one of my favorite books of the year, gobbled this mess up, pre-ordering a copy now to reread later because this is a definite rereading kind of book. Hart is a six foot nine marshal that stabs zombies and drags their rotting corpses to Mercy, an undertaker who salts Is this a romance or is it a dystopian about stabbing appendixes and wrapping decaying bodies in salt and ghosts taking possession of dead bodies? Somehow it’s perfectly, wonderfully, BOTH! I seriously LOVED this love story. This is one of my favorite books of the year, gobbled this mess up, pre-ordering a copy now to reread later because this is a definite rereading kind of book. Hart is a six foot nine marshal that stabs zombies and drags their rotting corpses to Mercy, an undertaker who salts her dead and sings incantations over them before respectfully setting them off to their final destination. And they absolutely HATE each other. *cheers in dystopian* The loathing is real. The loneliness is real. The way these two open up to each other anonymously through letters and fall for each other is SO REAL! With all these palpable feelings all around, this book is an easy read even if you don’t understand WTF is actually happening. Old gods, appendixes, demigods, keys, salt sea, mists!? It took a long time for me to get my bearings on what the actual hell this world was, but Mercy and Hart(!OMG THIS DEMIGOD MAN!) are such interesting characters with so much chemistry, I didn’t care. And when they fall for each other I melted and swooned and cheered and sighed. The heart of this story is romance, and THAT I could definitely follow. ❤️Epistolary romance ❤️Enemies to lovers ❤️Funny side characters ❤️You’ve Got Mail vibes ❤️Squishy sensitive hero ❤️Fiery strong heroine But also 🧟‍♂️Zombies 🧟‍♂️Rabbit god mail carrier who cusses nonstop 🧟‍♂️So. Many. Dead. Bodies. 🧟‍♂️Lots of stabbing. And death. And then more stabbing. 🧟‍♂️More zombies. So just buckle up and be prepared for the weirdest world ever with the hard but secretly SQUISHIEST MARSHMALLOW OF A MAN and the yellow dressed angsty badass undertaker who bear their souls without knowing they’re actually each other’s nemesis 😭🎉 Seriously, this book is incredible and I will rant about it’s weirdness for all my days. ARC was provided by the publisher, review is my own!

  23. 5 out of 5

    aarya

    2022 Spring Bingo (#SpringIntoLoveBingo🌷): Meta Content Notes: (view spoiler)[parent recovering from heart attack; backstory/off-page parental death (cancer); violence; gore (hide spoiler)] Since people keep asking me this question: YES, this is a Genre Romance Novel with a central romantic arc and HEA (happily-ever-after). There is on-page sex. I wouldn't lie to you! *** This is very weird and morbid and funny… I don’t know how to describe what I just read, sorry. 😅 The book defies categorizati 2022 Spring Bingo (#SpringIntoLoveBingo🌷): Meta Content Notes: (view spoiler)[parent recovering from heart attack; backstory/off-page parental death (cancer); violence; gore (hide spoiler)] Since people keep asking me this question: YES, this is a Genre Romance Novel with a central romantic arc and HEA (happily-ever-after). There is on-page sex. I wouldn't lie to you! *** This is very weird and morbid and funny… I don’t know how to describe what I just read, sorry. 😅 The book defies categorization (I say this as a compliment). I wouldn’t do justice to the worldbuilding if I attempted to clumsily explain it, so I’ll spare us all. I was very confused about what the hell was going on for the first twenty percent, but then something clicked and everything made perfect sense going forward. So if you’re struggling in the first few chapters, hang on and give it a chance. Overall: a very innovative You’ve Got Mail retelling in a Shrekian (read: secondary world with contemporary references/objects) fantasy romance. Recommended for fans of The Princess Bride, Pushing Daisies, and Galavant. Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    PlotTrysts

    Absolutely the cutest zombie book we've ever read. Not a single word of that is written in irony. Not only is this a zombie book, it's an enemies-to-lovers epistolary romance set in a fantasy world that is just different enough from our own to make it wonderfully familiar and at the same time skewed. This is the first book in a long time that made us stay up past our bedtime to read. It's funny, it's cute, it makes you think about the inevitable mortality awaiting each human being's existence, A Absolutely the cutest zombie book we've ever read. Not a single word of that is written in irony. Not only is this a zombie book, it's an enemies-to-lovers epistolary romance set in a fantasy world that is just different enough from our own to make it wonderfully familiar and at the same time skewed. This is the first book in a long time that made us stay up past our bedtime to read. It's funny, it's cute, it makes you think about the inevitable mortality awaiting each human being's existence, AND there is some mild spice. Apparently it is exactly what we wanted to read right now. Did we laugh? Yes. Did we cry? Also yes. Did we love this mashup of romance tropes and gaslamp-ish fantasy? DUH. This was a total book binge and we loved every second of it. 11-Word Summary: Meg: A stinking cute romance between a zombie hunter and an undertaker! Laine: Enemy has a great rack and a cute dog, how inconvenient. This objective review is based on a complimentary copy of the novel.

  25. 5 out of 5

    book bruin

    4.5 stars This was such an unexpected and entertaining novel. It took me a bit to get my bearings and understand what was happening in the fantasy world Megan Bannen created, but it was so imaginative and intriguing. Things to look forward to: - The tropes! Enemies to lovers, epistolary, opposites attract, workplace-ish romance, and forced proximity-ish romance. - The world building! Like I said, it was a little confusing at first figuring out the rules and players in this world, but I loved how it 4.5 stars This was such an unexpected and entertaining novel. It took me a bit to get my bearings and understand what was happening in the fantasy world Megan Bannen created, but it was so imaginative and intriguing. Things to look forward to: - The tropes! Enemies to lovers, epistolary, opposites attract, workplace-ish romance, and forced proximity-ish romance. - The world building! Like I said, it was a little confusing at first figuring out the rules and players in this world, but I loved how it all came together. I mainly listened to the audiobook, but I think this might have been easier if I had a map to reference (I believe one will be included in the final book). - Hart and Mercy. These two definitely gave me pride and prejudice vibes and that unfortunate first meeting set them on a path of mutual disdain. I enjoyed the enemies to lovers moments, but the progression to more did feel a bit disjointed (since everyone wasn't on the same page at that point). Mercy and Hart were adorable together though and I might have swooned a time or two at how sweet they were. That epilogue left my heart so happy <3 -The spice! Mercy and Hart may have been sweet together, but they were also so hot! I was not expecting this book to be spicy at all, so I was very pleasantly surprised! - Wonderful secondary characters and found family! I loved the Birdsall family, especially the sibling dynamic. Zeddie and Lilian, as well as Horatio and Baasareus, provided lots of comic relief. The narration by Michael Gallagher and Rachanee Lumayno was so good! Rachanee Lumayno was perfect as Mercy. She captured Mercy's snark and sass so well, but also conveyed so much emotion. Fantasy novels are generally harder for me to listen to because of the intricate world building, but I really loved this one. Audiobook Review Overall 4.5 stars Performance 4.5 stars Story 4.5 stars CW: Grief, death of loved ones (past), fighting/violence, descriptions of: blood, stabbing, death, FMC's father had a heart attack (past), parental abandonment *I voluntarily read and listened to an advance review copy of this book*

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bookphenomena (Micky)

    Headlines: Grumpy-grumpy-together we make sunshine Brilliant fantasy world with easy world-building Who said the appendix was a moot organ? I completely vibed with this book from the first few pages, I knew I was going to love it from the moment I first set eyes on the main characters. Mercy and Hart were completely memorable, completely unique and incredibly loveable, flaws and all. This world was pretty quirky, zombie-laden, a world of water and land but everything about how the world was written w Headlines: Grumpy-grumpy-together we make sunshine Brilliant fantasy world with easy world-building Who said the appendix was a moot organ? I completely vibed with this book from the first few pages, I knew I was going to love it from the moment I first set eyes on the main characters. Mercy and Hart were completely memorable, completely unique and incredibly loveable, flaws and all. This world was pretty quirky, zombie-laden, a world of water and land but everything about how the world was written was brilliant. There was no world-building as such, the author just slowly sowed seeds of how things were, worked and operated in a way that you naturally put the pieces together. Hart and Mercy took centre-stage and kept your focus for every moment. The barbs these two threw at one another were like acid burns but how they came to be friends through letters was everything. The chemistry was onnnnnn (fans face) but the connection was so damn deep. The humps in this story's road were painful and I cried hart-broken. I just felt so much as I rolled with the lives of these two, I felt their frustrations, their amusement, their affection, love and deep sadness. This book swept me off my feet and I hope Megan Bannen has something of a similar ilk in store for us in the future. She wrote the socks off this book! Thank you Orbit Books for the early review copy. Find this review at A Take From Two Cities Blog.

  27. 5 out of 5

    fatma

    The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy tries to do a lot of things--to be romantic, to be poignant, to be funny--and it's not that it fails at those things, exactly, but that it doesn't quite succeed at them, either. On paper, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is a novel that should've been--and that I very much expected to be--an instant favourite. But the execution really let me down here. It attempts a lot, but the writing just doesn't sustain or hold up all the things it's attempting. First, the The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy tries to do a lot of things--to be romantic, to be poignant, to be funny--and it's not that it fails at those things, exactly, but that it doesn't quite succeed at them, either. On paper, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is a novel that should've been--and that I very much expected to be--an instant favourite. But the execution really let me down here. It attempts a lot, but the writing just doesn't sustain or hold up all the things it's attempting. First, the romance: again, on paper all the elements were there, but in practice they didn't come together--which is a shame, because it really was poised to be such a great romance. For one, there's the fact that it's based on You've Got Mail, which is one of my all time favourite movies. For another, it's also such a great setup in general: the enemies-to-lovers, epistolary-romance, dramatic-irony of it all. For me, though, it didn't quite work. I didn't really get why the characters hated each other--the novel does eventually tell us why, but its explanation felt flimsy and not very believable given that these characters have disliked each other for 4 whole years--and then when they did stop hating each other, it felt way too abrupt and not organic enough of a development. The novel spends a lot of time in the beginning setting up the characters' letters to each other, and the letters were nice, but nothing about them really struck me as especially moving or special either. The word I keep reaching for is generic: the letters were nice, sure, but they just never surprised or moved me in any way. (That the romance is inspired by/retells You've Got Mail doesn't do the novel any favours because You've Got Mail does it all--the setup, the characters, the dialogue, the conflict, the resolution--so much better.) (Then again it is one of my all time favourite movies, so a lot to live up to there, I guess.) What I felt about the romance--that it was lackluster, that it was more than a bit disappointing--I pretty much felt about the rest of the novel. The worldbuilding was fine, the plot was fine, but neither elicited anything in particular from me, and they both felt a bit cobbled together in their execution. Had I been more invested in the romance, I wouldn't have minded the weak worldbuilding or plot--I can forgive a novel a lot if I feel drawn to its characters and/or their relationships--but because I wasn't, those weaker elements stood out to me all the more. I think what it comes down to for me is that this novel was really missing a strong sense of narrative voice. (Or maybe that its narrative voice just wasn't to my taste.) Frankly, I don't care about the plot or worldbuilding stuff all that much--or at least, I only care about it up to a point. What I'm really here for is the characters, and I just didn't feel like these characters were that distinct or impressionable. I could tell what The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was trying to do as a novel, but at the same time I could also tell that what it was trying to do wasn't working for me. I can see this novel working for a lot of readers--and again, it wasn't a complete write-off for me--but as a whole it just lacked that strong sense of personality that's at the forefront of the kind of books that I tend to love. Thanks so much to Orbit for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte (Romansdegare)

    One of the strangest, most delightful, most unclassifiable books I've read in a long time. I loved this book to pieces and I cannot wait for other people to read it.   My short pitch is this: he's a zombie-fighting marshal with a secret soft heart, she's an undertaker trying to keep the family business afloat. Their lines of work bring them into constant low-grade bickering conflict but ... they're both lonely too, in their own ways. So when they accidentally enter into correspondence via a mis-de One of the strangest, most delightful, most unclassifiable books I've read in a long time. I loved this book to pieces and I cannot wait for other people to read it.   My short pitch is this: he's a zombie-fighting marshal with a secret soft heart, she's an undertaker trying to keep the family business afloat. Their lines of work bring them into constant low-grade bickering conflict but ... they're both lonely too, in their own ways. So when they accidentally enter into correspondence via a mis-delivered anonymous letter, they start to fall slowly, convincingly in love. It's a little bit You've Got Mail, a little bit Pushing Daisies, but also entirely unique to itself. It's got quirky sweetness with an emotional center of gravity, which it spins itself into a proper angst-fest by about 80%, followed by the most cathartic of HEAs.  The long pitch? Well, there's a lot to say and I really don't know where to start. The world-building is extensive and intense. There are Old Gods and New Gods, and zombie-like creatures called drudges, and people ride all-terrain animals called equimares and drive around in autoducks. The mail is delivered by an uptight prissy owl and a foul-mouthed rabbit, who are on page for all of 10 minutes total and are somehow the best characters of the book. There's an entire mythology around death that is at once totally different from ours, and just familiar enough to be meaningful. It all starts off, to be honest, a bit confusing. The important stuff about death and gods and mortality and drudges gets explained - thoroughly and poignantly and at just the right times. Some of the smaller things like equimares and autoducks are literally never described, the same way a novel in a real-world setting wouldn't tell you what a horse or a car looks like. Readers' mileage may vary on this (and I still kinda want to know more about autoducks) but... through some kind of dark sorcery, it all totally worked.  For me, the best part of this book though was the hero, Hart. He starts the story having just experienced a series of devastating losses: the death of his father figure and mentor Bill, the passing of his beloved dog, and a subsequent grief-fueled estrangement from his former boss Alma and her wife Diane, whose house is the only thing close to a home that he's known. He's adrift and lonely and intensely vulnerable, but it never feels like the book ... takes advantage of that? Or asks us to gawk at it? There's so much compassion for him, especially as we learn more about his past, it makes me a bit emotional thinking about it.  The heroine Mercy is really lovely in her own right, though it was Hart, rather than Mercy, who felt like the moral and emotional center of the book. Still, the relationship felt balanced, as did her own journey involving her family and her love for her job and her desire to care for others while still getting her own needs met. And I really did believe and invest in Mercy and Hart through each of the iterations of their relationship: their (pretty low-key) rivalry, their soul-baring letters, their slow fall into love.  I do think the empathy that the book generates for Hart helps it carry off one of its toughest plot points which is that (view spoiler)[ he figures out Mercy is his secret correspondent before she does, and keeps it from her for a while, including while they start to date as their "real" selves. Normally I HATE any mistaken-identity secret-keeping but... by the time it comes up, you're so deep into Hart's relief at finally being seen and falling in love that, frankly, I felt his terror at coming clean right along with him (hide spoiler)] For those who are curious, there are on-page, open-door sex scenes. It's a hard thing to evaluate but I thought they were ... fine? In no way the best-executed part of the book. In fact, I think if I had one complaint, it would be that moments of sexual attraction in the narrative were written in a way that felt unnecessarily objectifying? So many characters, out of nowhere and at inappropriate times, would suddenly start ogling each other's ass or tits in a way that just did not do it for me. And that felt completely out of character, especially for Hart. It probably bothered me the most in the context of the secondary romance between Duckers (Hart's apprentice) and Zeddie (Mercy's brother) though: two FANTASTIC characters in their own right, whose on-page relationship seemed to boil down to mutual ogling and makeout sessions at inappropriate times, a choice I was particularly displeased with when applied to one of only two queer couples in the book.  A side note of appreciation for Duckers, though, who outside of his thinly-written romantic relationship was one of the BEST characters I've read in ages. He's a delightfully eager and kind of hapless apprentice who looks up to Hart so much. And Hart wants no part of that kind of hero worship, except he never lets it turn into cruelty or neglect. Hart and Duckers's story is part friendship, part mentorship, sometimes almost parental, and one thousand percent one of the best parts of the book. Penrose Duckers forever. The last thing I can say is that... this is a book about death. Sometimes it's about death in a quirky, lighthearted (though never disrespectful) way, like when Hart is fighting zombies early on, or when Mercy is trying to corral her big chaotic family into managing a failing undertaking business. Sometimes it's about death in a philosophical way, as characters consider mortality and immortality, and the role of the gods in their lives. And sometimes it's about death in an utterly heart-wrenching, viscerally emotional, cry-your-eyes-out way. I found the combination of those three things to be incredibly well-done, and oddly restorative. It felt freeing to be handed the constraints of a fictional world in which to contemplate death -- like a kind of scaffolding that held up things that are sometimes too difficult or scary or emotional to bear, so I could tiptoe up to them safely. It's hard to talk about without getting too spoilery, but there are ways in which death feels both more just and more meaningful in this invented world than it does in ours. I found that deeply affirming and thoroughly compassionate, though I think it's fair to say that experience could vary. This is definitely a book to approach with care if that's a hard subject to read about right now. Though if you do pick it up, I think that care is met in equal measure by the author. Whew. That was kind of a mess. So, I'll end succinctly (ha) by saying that if you know me, you'll know how much it means when I say: I cried so fucking hard at the end of this book that I had to apply frozen makeup-removing pads to my eyes to make them presentable the next morning. And I loved it.  Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    captain raccoon.

    woah, what a banger! i am most pleased and happy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5 𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙧𝙚: Fiction/romance/a little fantasy 𝙁𝙤𝙧𝙢𝙖𝙩: eARC 𝙁𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙌𝙪𝙤𝙩𝙚: “Maybe there's a strange comfort in knowing that at least one person feels something for me, even if that feeling could best be described as hate.” “Do you ever look up? I mean really look? I find myself staring at the stars more and more lately, wondering what exactly it is I'm doing here.” 𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙄 𝙇𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙙: Romance (think, You’ve Got Mail) Enemies to lovers Sunshine and grumpy Quirky, whimsical, yet grueling world Emotional and g ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5 𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙧𝙚: Fiction/romance/a little fantasy 𝙁𝙤𝙧𝙢𝙖𝙩: eARC 𝙁𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙌𝙪𝙤𝙩𝙚: “Maybe there's a strange comfort in knowing that at least one person feels something for me, even if that feeling could best be described as hate.” “Do you ever look up? I mean really look? I find myself staring at the stars more and more lately, wondering what exactly it is I'm doing here.” 𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙄 𝙇𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙙: Romance (think, You’ve Got Mail) Enemies to lovers Sunshine and grumpy Quirky, whimsical, yet grueling world Emotional and gut wrenching, but in the best way 𝙁𝙪𝙡𝙡 𝙍𝙚𝙫𝙞𝙚𝙬: I picked this book up since I knew it was coming in a book box subscription later this year. I wasn’t sure about it—generally I’m not a huge fan of zombies or the macabre, but I was intrigued by the You’ve Got Mail romance comparisons and the bright cover. And you guys… I absolutely LOVED it. The first 25% of the book set up the enemies to lovers and the quirky, weird world that Mercy and Hart live in. I struggled a little bit with the world building, names, and general setting at first, but caught on more as the story progressed. There are twists on things from modern society, reimagined for the bizarre world of the Federated Islands (equimares/horses, autoduck/truck, etc). The ‘zombie’ aspect centers around lost souls who search for bodies to join with since they are trapped in Tanria, unable to pass through the locked door to the afterlife. Again, I’m not always a big zombie fan, but this didn’t really bother me because it centered around the journey of life and death. As Hart and Mercy begin exchanging anonymous letters without realizing they are corresponding with their number one enemy, I was quickly sold on their sweet, honest romance. There are happy and hopeful moments, mixed with times where my heart absolutely broke for them both. Hart is 100% a prickly cinnamon roll who should be protected at all costs. I stayed up until 1:30 am reading the majority of this book—I just couldn’t put it down! When I picked it back up to finish the next morning, I absolutely wanted to SOB my way through the last 20% of the book. All the whimsy and hope becomes grief and torture and it just RIPPED my heart out on, like, five separate scenes—but in the best way possible. I’m certain I’ll be thinking about this book for days and weeks to come, and can’t wait to read more from this author!

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