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.
Warnings: physical violence
You know, I have read two of Tucholke’s urban fantasies, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (I have yet to read its sequel) and Wink Poppy Midnight, and both of them left me sort of on the fence as to whether I liked it or not. Tucholke’s writing and characterization are quite different, with the plot and characters feeling you left in an uneasy place, so when I started The Boneless Mercies, I was prepared for that unsure feeling again, but I think I definitely prefer her when she writes an epic fantasy like this one over her urban fantasies. Loosely it is a retelling of Beowulf, I guess, and it is about these band of four girls (and the boy they picked up along the way) who are assassins for hire, but only for the sick, dying, etc, though they occasionally take revenge cases in secret. Being in the death trade is an option for those who don’t want the traditional duties of that time, as in, being a wife and mother. They are, however, tired with it – killing, even mercy killing, can weigh on a person.
When Frey decides that maybe they should just quit the death trade, go on an epic quest to make a reputation and get big money, and then join a band of hunters or something (though they would have to live as boys) as the next step. The others agree, because they are also tired of it, and they set out to defeat a monster plaguing a Jarl. Along the way, they encounter sea witches (Juniper is a sea witch) and get info, get into the monster’s lair and do their thing. It is a story about seeking glory, and the Viking setting makes for a good mix. Among the characters, I had some initial ideas about the relationships between them but I was surprised (I though Frey and Trigve would be a thing) and maybe a little disappointed (I thought it might be sapphic) with some parts of the plot. As a plot, it is quite an adventure, and very atmospheric, like you can feel the quest thrumming through the story. The narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, does an excellent job with the narration and the characters, and as Frey, was an apt performer.
Overall, quite an enjoyable read!
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