The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

I’m a sucker for an intriguing cover and offbeat book description. When I saw the cover of The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy on the new shelves at the library, it was like it called to me. Add in one of the review quotes and I was done for: “A uniquely charming mixture of whimsy and the macabre that completely won me over. If you ever wished for an adult romance that felt like Howl’s Moving Castle, THIS IS THAT BOOK.” —Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss QuotientWhimsy AND macabre?! Done. Let’s talk about this utter delight of a book.

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is the first book in the Hart and Mercy series by Megan Bannen. Hart is a marshal who patrols alone in Tanria, on the lookout for bodies gone astray. It’s a lonely job that leaves him with ample time to think. Mercy has been keeping her family’s business, Birdsall & Son Undertakers, alive by herself for years, waiting for the day her younger brother comes home from school to help out.

From the very first time Mercy and Hart met, it was like mixing oil and water. When he drops off bodies, it always seems to be when Mercy is at the end of her rope. The two push each others’ annoyance buttons just right, leaving them both cranky and exasperated after every encounter. After his last drop-off, Hart is so frustrated that he writes an anonymous letter and sends it out in the universe addressed to “A Friend”. Not expecting a reply, he’s surprised when he actually gets a response. The two begin writing back and forth, finding comfort in being able to share their secrets to each other.

The secret? Hart is sharing his secrets with Mercy, the person he hates the most. The two grow closer the longer they write to each other. This tentative friendship can only last for so long. As chaos starts to erupt in Tanria and their small town, their relationship deepens. How will the two react when their identities are revealed?

The only reason why I give this book four stars instead of five is that I wanted more world building. The explanations of the world were there, but they took place in large chunks that were difficult to follow (this might also be due to the fact that I listened to an audiobook version and had to rewind multiple times to make sure I understood). Regardless, I still loved this book. The characters were adorable and cranky, the family dynamics were realistic, and the twists were devastating. It’s full of magic and demigods and culinary masterpieces and small-town drama. I remain hopeful that the next book in the series will be just as good.

Hart and Mercy series

  1. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy (2022)
  2. The Undermining of Twyla and Frank (2024)

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