TITLE: The Boneless Mercies
AUTHOR: April Genevieve Tucholke
RELEASED: October 2018; Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
GENRE: YA Fantasy
KEY INFO: feminist retellings, Norse inspired, friendships, prophecies, slow-paced
REPRESENTATION: female MC’s
CONTENT NOTICES: sad deaths, murder
When I found out that there was going to be a genderbent Beowulf retelling dropping in 2018 it immediately became one of my most anticipated 2018 releases, and I was even more ecstatic when I was approved for an ARC of The Boneless Mercies. The Boneless Mercies is a fun fantasy epic which throws us into a Norse inspired world full of monsters, magic and badass bands of women.
Just the other day, I was talking about how much I usually don’t like retellings but The Boneless Mercies is another retelling that I really enjoyed, although in this case I think that’s partly because it didn’t really feel like a retelling. Whilst it contained core essences of Beowulf, such as the landscape, a Jarl whose halls were being tormented by a monster and a ‘hero’ who seeks glory, the story as a whole didn’t remind me much of Beowulf at all. Although The Boneless Mercies has received a lot of attention from being dubbed as a ‘genderbent Beowulf’ I think that it has much more going for it and has enough to make it stand proudly on its own two feet!
🗡️ Although this is clearly a tale of epic journeys, monster slaying and glory-seeking, the heart of the story is very much about the friendships between our Boneless Mercies; our protagonist Frey who leads the Mercies on their journey of glory and her male companion (and ultimate soft boy) Trigve, the wonderful Sea Witch Juniper, battle-scarred and wisened Ovie, and brash archer Runa.
🐺 The various groups within the world were super interesting. We have the Boneless Mercies who perform a very important and macabre role in the death trade where they can be hired to give suffering citizens merciful deaths. The magical Sea Witches who keep themselves hidden away behind a dangerous wall of thorns while they practice their healing magic and prophecy telling. The creepy female Swamp cult who follow a menacing leader who haunt the reeds, ensnaring unsuspecting men. And the Quicks, an all-male band of archers who are renowned for their speed and silence within the forests. I loved meeting characters from these different groups and spending time with them in their unique environments.
🗡️ It was great to be read a fantasy book where all of the main characters are women. Although Trigve joins the Mercies and is around for the entire story, his role is still very minimal when compared to the women and other men are also assigned minor side roles
🐺 An enjoyable, slow-paced and atmospheric tale with lots of interesting dialogue, mythology, magic, monster-slaying, and sex-positivity!
🗡️ There were a few annoying little niggles that interrupted my immersion in the story and stopped me from giving this 5 stars. One of my main complaints is the weird changing of particular words by one letter such as Norse to Vorse and Valhalla to Holhalla. Sounds like a pretty minor thing but it gets kinda irritating when these words are used so frequently throughout the book.
Overall though I greatly enjoyed The Boneless Mercies and it’s a solid 2018 read. It was full of unexpected surprises, atmospheric storytelling, and interesting characters. Like other reviews have mentioned, The Boneless Mercies is pretty much everything that I wanted Sky in the Deep to be!
Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK Children’s for providing me with a copy of The Boneless Mercies in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley. This has in no way influenced my review.