Fairyloot Adult #5: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

At the end of last year, Fairyloot announced that they were going to launch a new product in March 2022, namely Adult Fantasy Book-Only subscription.
While their standard subscription focuses on Young-Adult fantasy with extra goodies, this subscription would only contain fantasy books intended for an adult audience. That box would then contain only a book, with no extras.

As a subscriber to their regular YA subscription, I was given priority to sign up for this new service and as a book and fantasy enthusiast I couldn’t resist of course.

July already brought the fifth box of this subscription. The theme this time was Demigods & Donuts, which I found to be a very bizarre and oddly specific theme.
Just like the previous theme, this theme card was very colorful with a bold color combination, which was again very well chosen for the book of the month.

This book was The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen.

Once again Fairyloot chose to invert the colours of the original cover, while the rest of the design remained virtually unchanged. And while I always like it when they come up with something completely original, in this case I think it’s good that they didn’t change anything, because the original cover is really nice and also fits the story very well . So why change what is already near perfect?

But under the cover Fairyloot has indulged in a beautiful illustration in gold foil on the hardcover. My only regret is that the cover is black. Makes the contrast with the cover very big. Not that I know which colour would have been better, because presumably with a pink or turquoise color the foil would have been less beautiful.
For the edges, they stayed true to the cover, with a nice pattern that also appears on the cover as an extra. The endpapers are also colourful, with fun additional illustrations of the characters. And of course the book is also signed by the author, who also chose a matching colour pen! Always nice to see this eye for detail!

Again a very nice edition! But what about the content?
I really try my best to read these new additions to my bookshelf in a timely manner, and I finished this one in October, a little over two months after getting it. I’m actually starting to catch up! With reading I mean, not so much writing my posts here, lol.

Bannen, Megan – The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy ★★★

Genre: Fantasy – Romance

Hart Ralston is a demigod and a marshal, tasked with patrolling the wasteland of Tanria. The realm the exiled old gods once called home is now a forsaken place where humans with no better options or no better sense come seeking adventure or spoils, but more often end up as drudges: reanimated corpses inhabited by the souls of those who’ve died in Tanria before. Hart tells himself that his job is simple: neutralize the drudges with a quick zap to the appendix and deliver them back to polite society at the nearest undertaker’s, leaving the whys and hows of the drudge problem for men without the complexities of a god in their family tree. But working alone, Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder exactly those questions he’d most like to avoid.

Too much time alone is the opposite of Mercy Birdsall’s problem. Since her father’s decline, she’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son undertakers afloat in small-town Eternity—despite definitely not being a son, and in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart Ralston, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest. The work’s not the problem—Mercy’s good at it, better than any other Birdsall—but keeping all her family’s plates spinning singlehandedly, forever, isn’t how Mercy envisioned her future.

After yet another run-in with the sharp-tongued Mercy, Hart considers she might have a point about his utter loneliness being a bit of a liability. In a moment of sentimentality, he pens a letter addressed simply to “A Friend,” and entrusts it to a nimkilim, an anthropomorphic animal messenger with an uncanny connection to the gods, (and in Hart’s case, a bit of a drinking problem). 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 two unlikely pen pals grow closer, the truth about Hart’s parentage and the nature of the drudges creeps in. And suddenly their old animosity seems so small in comparison to what they might be able to do: end the drudges forever. But at what cost?

The story started a bit too chaotic for me. We never really got introduced to the world, but were literally thrown right in the middle of it, which made for a confusing read as I struggled to understand what they were talking about.
Some of the new terms also made me cringe, since it felt like the author was trying too hard to be quirky. This was amplified by the fact that I had no clue why seemingly ordinary things like a car or a horse were in need of a new silly name such as a duck and an equimaris. There was nothing in the text describing these things, so I had no idea that they were supposed to be any different than our standard cars and horses. Especially the duck thing got on my nerve, since one of the main characters was named Duckers and it just felt like an overload of ducks!

It was only when I was well over the halfway point of the book that the penny dropped that these things were indeed different from our standard cars and horses, because this world required the ability to travel simultaneously over land AND water, which suddenly made these new terms make sense.
Once I understood that, it naturally annoyed me a lot less, but still, I have no clue how these things are supposed to look like and it still felt like a HUGE oversight not to explain this better at the beginning. Because the whole world the author was trying to create did sound really intriguing with its different gods and connections. I feel like something bigger could have been made from this story than just a romance story set in a fantasy world.

Luckily for me, the story itself did manage to draw me in way before me fully understanding these things. So the above is definitely not meant as any shade on the romance genre, you all already know I can enjoy it on occasion.
Although this story did manage to capture my attention, the overall outline of the romance was very basic. In my initial notes I described it as a Hallmark film made interesting by its setting, which for me remains a very accurate description. Without its fantasy world, it would not have been all that unique.

So overall, I did enjoy reading this book, but am saddened that the world wasn’t more fleshed out, because that truly sounded unique and intriguing. The author had some excellent ideas and an original concept, but unfortunately these were left shrouded in mist in favour of a more mundane romance story.
There is definitely potential here, so I will be looking forward to this authors further progressions.