Book Review: The Boneless Mercies
Published By: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Page Count: 384
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Young Adult - Fantasy, Classic Inspired
I remember that at some point (probably in AP Lit) I read Beowulf, but aside from remembering that it was a poem and a monster named Grendel needed slaying, I can't recall much about it. I'm sure this was a saga and there were numerous warriors who tried and failed to slay the beast before a hero emerged to save the kingdom. I was intrigued that The Boneless Mercies was marketed as a gender reversed twist on Beowulf. I decided it was time to give epics a spin again now that I am not required to annotate and write an essay on themes, symbolism, etc. Plus, a band of girls who are planning to take out a monster - how could this not be the stuff of greatness?
The four Mercies are Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa. This group has been together and dealing out mercy deaths throughout Vorseland, a world inspired by Norse legend. Dealing out deaths is not an easy life for a teen girl and all four are tired of working with blood on their hands, so they hatch a plan to chase down eternal glory when Jarl Roth calls for help to slay a beast that is ravaging his villages and slaughtering his people. Men have come from far and wide to slay the beast, but none have been successful. The girls along with their faith companion and healer, Trigve, decide that they are just the group to take down the monster. Finding one's way into a saga isn't the worst way to leave a mark on the world.
After the choice is made the four Mercies and Trigve face trials and tribulations on their journey to Blue Vee. They encounter witches, cruel soldiers, a Cut-Queen, and harsh terrain. Along the way they meet new friends and make new enemies, but they continue to focus on their ultimate goal.
I won't spoil the read for you, but I was in love with this epic adventure from start to finish. I wanted to be friends with Frey, Ovie, Juniper, Runa, and Trigve. Their loyalty to one another and their bravery in the face of unsurmountable odds was enviable. I admired their gumption and tenacity as they worked towards their goal and continued to defy the odds. It was also nice to see strong female characters who were not squabbling over a guy lead the action. Romance is sprinkled in a bit towards the end, but it's an exception more than the rule and there are no dreaded love triangles. This is truly a read for those who are craving a reimagined epic based on classical material.
Reading this reminded me of my fondness for the Greek epics and made me want to know more about the Norse sagas. I might even give Beowulf a read again now that I am older and wiser to see how it compares to this tale. I would have loved reading something like this in one of my literature classes. It was rare to see female heroines in the older texts, so this would have been a breath of fresh air.
I highly recommend spending a winter evening curled up with The Boneless Mercies, a flannel blanket, and a cup of hot tea. This adventure hit the spot as the nights grow darker and longer.
One Last Gripe: I wanted more. I need to know about The Witch War and how Frey tackles the next chapter of her life.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The relationships between the girls and Trigve - we all need friends that have our backs
First Sentence: They say dying makes you thirsty, so we always gave our marks one last drink.
Favorite Character: Frey
Least Favorite Character: The Cut-Queen
A dark standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of female glory.
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.