I devoured the breath-taking ‘The Undertaking Of Hart and Mercy’ in just over 8 hours; best day’s work I’ve embarked on in a long while.
Kansas author Megan Bannen has created an instantly absorbing new world in this fun fantasy romance novel, with the enjoyably likeable and relatable central characters, Hartache and Merciless, locked in their sworn enemies’ situation. Tanrian Marshall Hart Ralston is the lone figure, riding his equimare across an unforgiving water-based landscape. Undertaker Mercy Birdsall is the hardworking daughter of a failing Father-Son business, constantly reminded by her well-meaning family that it’s time to settle down.
After a particularly gruelling grump session, Mercy’s cutting words incite Hart to put his thoughts down on paper, and a gorgeous unfolding of a story akin to the 1940s film ‘The Shop Around The Corner’, with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan’s pen-pal friendship, begins. If you’re a 90s baby think of Ryan and Hanks in ‘You’ve Got Mail’, with very different tech. Chapter twelve is solely epistolary, deepening theirs, and our, insights through their letters. This writing technique quickens the pace of the heart alongside the story.
However, into this easy-to-visit fantastical world, step equally captivating secondary characters, drawing the reader into a memorable postal service, LGTBQ+ relationships, family commitments, sidekicks and zombie-esque drudges, and everyone works together marvellously, to bring us to the multi-genre plot. Heaps of line-quoting romance, including, ‘if I ever find you holding up a wall at a party, I promise to dance with you’ (I mean, talk about a new spin on waltzing a character away from a corner to the dance floor) meets scene-stealing, zombie-threatening romance that finally brings Hart and Mercy together. The emotive macabre, treating the dead with respect as they travel by handmade boat to the next life, copious amounts of adventure, imminent death, ugly crying (me), exes, secrets, gods.
I’ll take a breath to suggest that ‘The Undertaking Of Hart and Mercy’ would make an incredible celluloid experience, should any Entertainment Focus readers work in the film industry.
Even days of the week have a makeover in this extraordinary novel, as well as the gods and the way we view eternity. Bannen herself sums up her creation in her acknowledgements, thanking her agent for encouraging her to ‘go nuts. Get weird’. Indeed, thank you Holly Root.
I already know I’ll be re-reading ‘The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy’ before the end of the year, simply to spend more time with the characters and their escapades.
Megan Bannen’s novel is released on 25th August with Orbit and is perfect for fans of Very Good Books.
Publisher: Orbit Release date: 25th August 2022 Buy ‘The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy’ now