I’ll be honest, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy, available now from Orbit Books hit me like a sucker punch. I didn’t know what I expected from this whimsical, playful tale, but what I did not expect was a genre mash-up that at its heart (or Hart) riffed on the classic tale told in Shop Around the Corner.
The story inhabits a wonderful cross-section of worlds, there are marshals, demigods, the undead, old and new gods, sexy undertakers (which is apparently a thing), and a weird fusion of technology and fantasy. Riding into the tale is a tall, demigod of a marshal named Hart. He’s got a past, is haunted by it, and is lonely and more than a little miserable.
He also finds himself at odds with Mercy Birdsall, the vivacious undertaker of Birdsall & Son, and she seems to dislike him as much as he does her. Unfortunately, they constantly are forced to interact, when Hart and his new partner, deliver recovered bodies to her.
It seems lost souls can take over dead bodies, fresh, or not so, and violently hold onto life that way, but they are always looking for a fresher home. Hart works on freeing those bodies, and getting rid of the lost souls, and Mercy prepare the body for their final journey across the Salt Sea.
But someone wants Birdsall & Son closed, there’s an uptick in the undead, and in the middle of it all, Hart starts writing letters, addressing them ‘To: A Friend.’ Fate and some older gods serving as post officials work at getting that letter and others into the right hands, and so begins a dialogue between Hart and Mercy, without them realizing it, and a love story begins to spring up.
Amidst all the fantastical and fun family elements that come into play, there’s a realness to the relationship that develops, mixed with lust, humor, and pathos.
The book is very much a rom-com tinged with adventure, horror, and fantasy, and it’s damned enjoyable. By the time I realized the book was riffing on You’ve Got Mail and Shop Around the Corner, I was already hooked on the magical world that Bannen had created.
I will openly admit that this kind of novel may not have been my usual thing, but I am delighted I read it, loved watching the relationship develop between Hart and Mercy, and how things would have to play out, there are rules for rom-coms after all, no matter what their trappings.
Megan Bannen delivers a unique fun tale that has aspects that will please fans of a variety of genres, and I heartily recommend this incredibly enjoyable, wonderfully romantic, sexy, and damned funny book available now from Orbit Books.
Check it out.