The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke (ARC): A Fierce Genderbent Beowulf Retelling

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4 stars

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—mercenary 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.

Yet, Frey and her group of Boneless Mercies may change the story arc of women everywhere.

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I really enjoyed this, and it’s not just because of the two gorgeous covers this book has.

This is definitely one of the better fantasies I’ve read, and it incorporates a lot of different aspects that makes this book really really cool. Like, if I wanted street cred, I’d say I read this book.

The premise is just so awesome. A genderbent Beowulf? Like hello there please come and let me read you. It’s about a group of female assassins who do the work that men aren’t willing to do (truth) and mercy kill the old and the sick. And then they decide to renounce this job and instead monster hunt for glory (yes girls you work it) which leads them across different lands.

Plus, it has something that I know is like an super big trend now, but it’s got “Vorse” people aspects which I assume is the author’s Norse/Vikingish inspired group of people. But what makes this book superior to the other bland Viking books is that it incorporates more than just Vorse (there are Sea Witches and Quicks and Mercies and all other types of peoples) and they’re not! all! white!

So yay +1 for diversity and being creative and devising this wonderful magical world with an awesome premise.

Tucholke is such a skilled writer. You can see in the way she weaves the plot and hints at certain occurrences later in the book that she knows how to write and craft a good plot and a complex magical world.

The story was left off with a bunch of potential for a sequel (please be a sequel please be a sequel) but also resolved this book’s storyline. I think this is definitely one of the best resolutions that I’ve read in a fantasy novel before.

The characters’ immediate needs were wrapped up really well, but the world still has certain issues brewing between groups of people that has sequel potential. I think the plot was wonderfully structured and am really hoping for a sequel.

The only issue I really had with this book was the intensity, which ended up affecting a lot of the book for me. The ending was wonderfully tense and intense and it grew more and more fierce as we kept reading, until it slowed down after the climax.

But the first 2/3 of the book felt kind of one-tonal to me, as if the intensity was exactly the same throughout. It was like they had these trials and different happenings along the way to kill the Blue Vee monster, but it felt like the story didn’t really oscillate between more and less intense for things like fight scenes vs. wandering.

Tucholke does a really good job in setting up this fantasy world’s system, and it never felt like she was infodumping us, but rather was easing us into this world. I think this definitely could have contributed to why the book felt a little one-tonal for the majority.

But that doesn’t discount the quality of the writing too much, and this could definitely be just me. I read the first half-ish on a plane and kept getting distracted, so that’s definitely a possibility as to why I felt like I wasn’t really invested in something I should have loved tremendously.

I wanted to fall fiercely in love with characters and ships, but I eventually realized that’s not Tucholke’s writing style. The biggest hint is that it’s a whole girl gang and they’re heading towards near certain deaths, and that Tucholke’s not really setting everyone up for their perfect ship pairing (i.e. it’s not like the entire girl gang is getting matched up with a significant other).

Overall, I did really enjoy reading (especially the last third) and found this to be a very well-written and well-crafted novel. This might not be the book to bring you your next best ship, but it’s well-paced, luscious, and a fantasy I think a lot of people will read.

It may be somewhat untraditional for the genre (no giant sweeping romance), but will definitely appeal to people looking to dive into fantasy.

Thank you so much to Hashtag Reads from Simon & Schuster UK and Fierce Reads @ BookCon from Macmillan for providing me with (two!) advance reader’s copies in exchange for an honest review!

much love, vicky

What untraditional (aka not a Disney movie story) retellings have you read? Are you going to try The Boneless Mercies?

2 thoughts on “The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke (ARC): A Fierce Genderbent Beowulf Retelling

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