The blurb of The Bonesless Mercies had me hooked onto this book and I had to request it. Standalone fantasy with female mercenaries? It sounds so bad-arse and ready to thunder.
They called us the Mercies, or sometimes the Boneless Mercies. They said we were shadows, ghosts, and if you touched our skin we dissolved into smoke …
Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are Boneless Mercies – death-traders, hired to kill quickly, quietly and mercifully. It is a job for women, and women only. Men will not do this sad, dark work.
Frey has no family, no home, no fortune, and yet her blood sings a song of glory. So when she hears of a monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a northern jarldom, she decides this the Mercies’ one chance to change their fate.
But glory comes at a price …
An epic YA fantasy set in a breathtaking new world, this is perfect for fans of V.E.Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, Laini Taylor and Melinda Salisbury
I tried not to have expectations for this and honestly, even my expectation couldn’t have prepared me for this book. It was so different and so unique and I truly commend the author for writing such an eclectic and interesting novel with such an enticing premise. Let’s category up!
Writing & World-Building
This book had great writing and world building. The main aspect of this world is around the main characters who are ‘Mercies’, female mercenaries who are paid coin to take lives, wear dark cloaks and live nomadically and economically. It also involved some sea witches and definitely some magic and violence. What I found so mystifying about this book was how objective it was. Even though we followed through the eyes of the main protagonist, Frey, it felt very much like the reader was someone simply looking into a small window of this vast, intricate world. Being a standalone novel (maybe not, the ending has many awesome possibilities for further novels in this universe), the world building had to be efficient and swift without too much info dump and I think this book did that spectacularly well.
It was a bit confusing at the start with many words we might already have for things having a different word for it, such as Jarl which I’ve assumed means King or Lord of each region/realm in this world. You can soon catch on as the story goes on though with context. It was so interesting how this book felt so Scandinavian and Norse inspired, and I love it! It gave me major Viking vibes and it really added to the tone and the writing style. The unfortunate downfall of this novel’s writing style is that it can make a reader feel quite disconnected because the reader can’t ‘become’ or fully read from the eyes of the main protagonist. Personally, I thought this created a unique quality to the book. It reminded me a lot of Circe and The Language of Thorns. The book felt more like reading a fantastical and epic Norse inspired tale so although it was a story you might not be able to connect with personally, it’s one I really enjoyed reading and hope more novels come out in this world.
The characters were definitely intriguing, we have Frey, Ovie, Juniper, Runa as well as the only male in the group – who I guess technically isn’t a Mercy – Trigve (oooh here’s another name I can’t pronounce and therefore skimmed the whole book, this happened a lot in this book xD). They were all very interesting and had their own personal experiences and pasts revealed in due time throughout the book. I loved their unique personalities and how by at least halfway through the book I could differentiate and really recognise their characters individually too. What did seem a little strange was the fact that these characters have known each other for years now, and it’s only now that they all reveal their pasts one by one throughout the story. I wouldn’t love Frey explaining things about she knew of the other characters more in some instances than just the dark ‘she doesn’t talk much about how she got this/before she became a Mercy’. Other than that they were all great characters and I really grew to care for Runa especially. I found the relationship between Frey and the other characters caught my attention a lot as they are so close but their interactions were so different too in a way. Trigve’s relationship with Frey was plain confusing for me and I didn’t really understand it…I’m up for a spoilery discussion if you’ve read it about that one.
Plot & Themes
Much like the writing style, as I said above, this felt like such a LEGEND or tale. Funnily, it was referred very often throughout the book of all these tales, legends and songs written and told about legendary people in this world’s history and I felt like that was a serious clue as to why this book was written this way because it felt like this story was one of those legends! Literally, after finishing this read, I find out that this a FREAKING GENDER-BEND RETELLING OF BEOWULF – oh you know, just the oldest known living written story in the earliest finding of Old English…
AND things start to make sense. This IS the epic fantastical tale I assumed it was as I read it and it explains the objective writing style so much! If you don’t know what Beowulf is about, it’s an epic story set in Scandinavia where a guy comes to help this King fix his problem of a monster attacking his people by trying to slay this monster. I won’t say the end because of spoilers, lol, but finding this out made everything more understandable.
Anyway, the plot was well written and I thought that the themes of death and violence and peace were explored really well and prominent with all the characters. The only thing to do with the plot I wasn’t too sure with was that I didn’t really understand the incentive to go help this king in this first place. It felt a little misplaced at the beginning but as we read on, the plot itself definitely thickened and witches and knives and death get involved. Not knowing the story of Beowulf, the ending was a total mystery for me as well and I loved how the author ended this book.
This was overall such an interesting and epic read. I can actually totally imagine myself reading this to my kids in the future someday, idk if that’s weird but it just fits the type of cool, kind of scary, dark tale to read to a middle-grade audience and scare them a little. I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you read and loved Circe by Madeline Miller.
If you’ve read it, what did you think of The Boneless Mercies? Or what other books does this make you think of?
Thanks for reading!
Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster Australia for kindly sending me the review copy at my request, in exchange for an honest review. It was a pleasure reading April’s novel.