I think the only things THE BONELESS MERCIES has going for it is how immersive this Norse-inspired setting is and how absolutely gorgeous the writing is, but other than that … there truly isn’t much.
Which is sad. I really, really wanted to like this one, and with the set-up promising four badass female mercenaries out to seek glory in such an interesting setting, I was convinced this was going to be an all-time favorite, but nope.
I think the main problem here is that the characters are not strong enough to carry the weight of a story that is 100% character-driven. Which is a problem. The Mercies, Frey and Runa and Ovie and Juniper, with their intricate backstories and the attempt at diversifying their personalities, had all the potential to be a fully-fleshed out, prickly-yet-lovable cast, but instead the writing, which is overly generous with atmospheric descriptions, is actually rather stingy with characterization. The large cast fell flat. Quirk-less. Soulless. Even Frey, the sole narrator, for all her talk of glory-seeking and heroism, felt like she was reading a script that wasn’t her own. It left me scratching my head trying to understand her motivations, which is a damn shame, since every single character in THE BONELESS MERCIES operates on her impulsive motivation to turn around and go hunt a monster.
Let’s dig into that a little deeper. Our MC, Frey, tired of doing Mercy-killings, or basically putting the sick and dying out of their misery for coin, decides that what she REALLY wants to do is hunt a big bad monster to have her name immortalized, ie, what we have here is the desire for glory being the only operator on the entire plot. Which would have been fine … if we actually understood WHY Frey wants to be glorified in the first place. There’s no spark, no sufficient backstory, no justifiable personality in her to warrant this sudden shift in life-goals. I just … I don’t get it.
I’m disappointed. The only reason this scored a three is because April Genevieve Tucholke clearly knows what she’s doing in terms of initially hooking the reader and choosing every word with care, and her writing is truly beautiful and deserves all the recognition for its lyrical style. And the world-building. Oh, the world-building. It’s complete without being overwhelming, thoughtful without being overwrought.
I don’t know why this particular book went as wrong as it did, but I am down to try anything else of hers as long as the plot fully gels with the characters that have the potential to be just as badass and hooky as the setting.