If you’re a fan of zombies, demigods, undertakers, and You’ve Got Mail, then this book is 100% for you. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was a lot and I mean that in a positive way. Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted copy.
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?
I had already heard a buzz about this book before I picked it up and I picked it up before the book was officially published, so I feel like that was a good sign that what I was getting into would be stellar. And folks, it was a wild and crazy ride that I wholeheartedly loved.
Mercy is a 30-something-year-old who’s been tirelessly working to keep her family’s funeral business afloat. Her father’s aging, her brother doesn’t care, and in a world where undertaking is passed on from father and son, there’s no room for Mercy to pursue this full time. However, she’s determined to keep it open despite the competition offering to pay a lot to shutter.
Hart is a 30-something demigod who has spent the last fifteen years traveling across the vastness of this world. He’s a marshal, who travels outside of their little world to defeat drudges (aka zombies) and return the lost bodies of loved ones to be buried properly. His work requires him to visit Mercy at her family’s funeral home every few weeks, but it’s not his favorite part of the job.
From the very beginning, you can tell Hart and Mercy had it out for each other. They’ve given each other crude nicknames, refuse to work together, and just really consider each other in any sort of working relationship despite their jobs requiring them to work together. But then one day, Hart writes an anonymous letter and sent it out into the world with no hopes that someone would read it only to have the letter mailed to Mercy. At that point on, Hart and Mercy write deeply intimate letters to each other creating a kinship that would have never happened in their very real lives.
The story reads so much like you’re watching You’ve Got Mail. I think there’s an entire scene that feels frame-for-frame a scene from the movie. For all intents and purposes, you can call this a contemporary romance story with a grumpy/sunshine dynamic that are enemies-to-lovers. But the addition of this strange world with its drudges and demigods really brings a fresh spin to the average romance story.
I will say, I was a bit confused by the world-building when I first started reading. I kept on imagining this book to be a more modern Western, but it didn’t feel like the wild west that we’ve seen in the past. The world is most definitely a fantasy world completely different than the one we know, but with some of the familiar bits to keep you grounded. Yes, there’s demigods that have magical powers and can sometimes be immortal, but then you also have someone making quiches for breakfast. It’s a good blend of reality with fantasy and a touch of science fiction and horror. It really creates a dynamic world that isn’t too difficult to comprehend, but also brings a level of high fantasy you wouldn’t normally see.
The characters in this book are definitely the driving force. Alongside Hart and Mercy, there were Mercy’s family and Hart’s family who all play intricate roles within their lives. Getting to know them and how much they love the main characters and support them truly made the story so much more fun. I love a big cast of characters especially if they’re not directly involved in any conflict.
Overall, this was such a fun story to get into and if you’re not typically a romance fan, then this might be a great one to get into. It was such a weird little world, but I absolutely indulged in it thoroughly.