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The Boneless Mercies


The Boneless Mercies

There once was a girl who dreamed of glory. Who ached to hear her name shouted in triumph and awe around campfires by future generations. But Frey is a Boneless Mercy, and as such, people only turn her direction when they’re ready for death. Mercies are a sisterhood seemingly old as time itself. They deal in death, forever roaming the land, hired to kill the old and sick who can afford it. Their services are sought out and are as humane and honorable as can be, but still, they are the cause of unease and ostracized from most of society. The only company Mercies tend to have is a group of their own. For Frey, that includes Runa, Ovie and a young Sea Witch, Juniper. Among their group is Trigve, a kind boy they rescued from a harsh winter.

Frey and her group have grown tired of their incessant wandering through the same lands, taking the final breaths of those too weak to carry on. They all want for something more, but what else is there for a young woman to do? Marriage, tend a farm, try to join the exclusive Sea Witches, or join the cult of the Cut-Queen, someone that sends more fear to people’s hearts than the Mercies themselves. None of these prospects are promising, not to Frey. One day they hear of a horrific beast slaughtering entire villages, laying waste to the infamous armies. It is that moment Frey knows what she must do to feel satisfied, to see her dreams come to fruition. She, with the help of her Mercies, must kill the beast. But it will be no easy task. They will have to make alliances, make agreements and take even more lives. But, if they succeed in everything, they will be welcomed with fame, fortune and eternal glory. More than that, they may have the chance to rewrite fate for all women.

"THE BONELESS MERCIES is...enchanting. [Tucholke's] writing is so vivid, you’ll wonder if your room has suddenly gotten a draft, but no, it’s only Tucholke’s prose manifesting itself into our physical world."

THE BONELESS MERCIES is the second book I’ve read by Tucholke and much like her other work, it was enchanting. Her writing is so vivid, you’ll wonder if your room has suddenly gotten a draft, but no, it’s only Tucholke’s prose manifesting itself into our physical world. But fear not, her writing while haunting is also crisp and will warm you from the inside out better than any embers ever could. THE BONELESS MERCIES is the perfect book to hunker down with during these upcoming cold months.

One of my initial worries when I began reading THE BONELESS MERCIES was that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the characters. The main group consists of five characters, and I know myself to get confused in books about trios, so I thought keeping these characters straight was going to be a lost cause. Miraculously, that didn’t happen. Not even when we were introduced to even more side characters. Tucholke makes it easy for you to get a feel for their distinct personalities, so the characters weren’t easily confused. However, because there were so many characters on such a busy journey, I never felt as fully connected to any of them as I so desperately wanted. We get a bit of backstory on each character, but I couldn’t help but to want even more. Though, this is a story about futures rather than pasts, so I could almost forgive the lack of depth we get to see.

The world of Vorseland is a vast and old one. What we get to see and learn of it is excellent. They’re some of my favorite parts of the whole book. Unfortunately, the book never really delves into the land or the lore. Reading at times felt like intruding on a group of close friends’ conversation. There’s talk about their lives, exchanging stories and their history. As an outsider, you can follow what is being said and make assumptions to fill in the spots, but you can never have a full understanding. That being said, the way it was told isn’t entirely negative. In fact, in a way, I might have even enjoyed this take as it somehow made this work of fiction feel more realistic. Details would be nice to know, but some would be rendered obscure, unnecessary to the lives of these characters. To be all-knowing about ancient stories and the geography of the land would certainly be helpful, but it’s closer to real life in not knowing every little thing. TBM feels more cultured because of this aspect. The lack of details also made me more invested in the world as they were sparse, but beautifully written. It made me want to hang on to every little piece given and try to puzzle them together.

One of my only big qualms with the book is that it never felt as high stakes as it should’ve. There are big battles in this story, but I never felt like I was on the edge of my seat. There was just an overall lack of intensity. There was urgency, for sure. But bloody battles to the death should be adrenaline inducing, even if you’re only reading it. Instead of fights won feeling victorious, they felt rather somber. I can understand the melancholy behind the taking of more lives when that’s the very thing this group was trying to escape, but I can’t help but feel there should’ve been at least one big “Hurrah!” in some manner.

Tucholke’s imaginative take on a classic, strong characters, beautiful world, and lyrical writing is all well and good, but my favorite part of THE BONELESS MERCIES was…the food. Her descriptions of their meals are delectable! Even with plain food and drink at hand, she manages to make my mouth water and fill my nose with the most wonderful aromas. I’d forgotten this was a gift she possessed from my prior readings of her work. Tucholke is most definitely a kitchen witch, there is no other logical solution behind this power.

In all seriousness, THE BONELESS MERCIES has its flaws, but it certainly has triumphs. I didn’t love it quite as much as I thought I would, but I wouldn’t dare dream of saying it disappointed either. This is truly one of those books you have to pick up and see for yourself. But if you’re just looking for an easy going, atmospheric book to get lost in, look no further.

Reviewed by Olivia W., Teen Board Member on November 13, 2018

The Boneless Mercies
by April Genevieve Tucholke

  • Publication Date: October 2, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
  • ISBN-10: 0374307067
  • ISBN-13: 9780374307066