If you always thought Beowulf needed more female characters, then The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke is the book for you.
Frey is a Boneless Mercies—females hired to kill out of mercy. But she’s tired of the death trade and longs for glory and fortune. When she hears of a monster ravaging a settlement, she decides this is her opportunity to change her life. Banding together with her fellow group of Mercies, Frey sets out to conquer the monster, but she may unknowingly change the world.
I expected this book to be a thrilling adventure of a girl gang hunting and defeating a monster. That’s not what this book is. Yes, there’s adventure. Yes, there’s a girl gang and yes, there’s a monster. But it’s so much bigger than that. So much better.
What drew me to this story are the characters. At first, there were a lot of them to keep track of, but by the end, I understood how each played an important part in shaping the narrative of this story. They are each resilient, powerful characters simply by being themselves. I love their friendship that borders on sisterhood and that they understand each other, even if they do not agree with one another.
The story itself started off slow and wasn’t the sweeping, action-packed adventure I had been looking forward. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enchanting. The prose paired with the world-building introduced a Norse-inspired world that felt lived in and real. I didn’t have to wonder over the magic system or pantheon of gods because the author did a phenomenal job of bringing all of it to life through the actions and words of the characters.
At times, the writing felt muddled as flashback scenes melded with the present and chapters would end and quickly switch to a new scene/event in the next. Once I got used to the writing and was deep into the story, I didn’t notice this as much. This book is also filled with a lot of violence and killing. As the Mercies say, “Death follows them.” It was often hard to read of so much death over a short period of pages, but the ending helps alleviate the deaths with a resonating message.
Overall, The Boneless Mercies is a fantastic female-centric story inspired by legends such as Beowulf and for fans of stories like The Hobbit. It reads like the myths contained within the story and will hopefully stand the test of time like one. I’d recommend this to an older YA or adult audience with interest in fantasy and Norse legends.