Wednesday, September 26, 2018

ARC Review: The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: The Boneless Mercies
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
Pages: 384
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A dark and gorgeously drawn standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of female glory. Won in a major six-house auction!

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life.

When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies' one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.

Full of fierce girls, bloodlust, tenuous alliances, and unapologetic quests for glory, this elegantly spun tale challenges the power of storytelling—and who gets to be the storyteller. Perfect for fans of Maggie Stiefvater, V.E. Schwab, and Heidi Heilig.

The Boneless Mercies caught my eye first with its gorgeous cover, then with its haunting synopsis. This book is unique in the way that I always expect anything by April Genevieve Tucholke to be. It's a bit slow and strange and dark, but always interesting. Although I didn't realize at first that this was a Beowulf retelling, I can confidently say it's an amazing genderbent reimagining!

Frey is the main character of this story, although it's really about all the Mercies. I was worried at first that I wouldn't be able to keep up with all the characters, since I tend to have a hard time remembering character names, but each one was unique enough to stand out. The girls have been living and roaming together, working as Boneless Mercies for years. It's their job to bring death to those who seek it. I loved each of them for different reasons, although my favorites were Frey and Juniper, a Sea Witch.

Speaking of Sea Witches, I loved all of the different elements of this world. It would have been simpler to create a Norse-inspired world that only touched on the expected, but the larger mythology Tucholke creates is amazing. I loved the different trials and stories woven in! The world building, while vast, is thankfully not infodumpy.

Most of this book is the lead up to the encounter with the Grendel creature and consists of the aforementioned trials. Once Frey and the Mercies decide to face the monster, they encounter a number of obstacles that they're forced to overcome, always bringing them back to death in some way. And while dealing in the death trade sounds like it might be a bit tough for a YA book, but the subject was handled in a way that never made it seem overly morbid. I really appreciated the way that death was dealt with as just another part of life. The build up did feel a little slow at times, but it paid off in the last third.

One of the things I really enjoyed about The Boneless Mercies was the way the relationships between all the characters were written. There was a boy in the midst from the beginning and another later on, but there was never really one "ship," nor was there a love triangle. All the characters just seemed to flow where they wanted to. There was no jealousy or possessiveness, which is something you don't see often in books. Like I said, everything about this book was unique.

I can definitely see why this book won't be for everyone. It's slow and meandering and the action really takes a bit to pick up, but I think it makes up for it in world building and character development. The Boneless Mercies has the feeling of a Norse poem and it's a bit magical. I definitely recommend it to fans of Beowulf or dark, creepy fairy tales.