cover image The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

Megan Bannen. Orbit, $17.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-39421-5

Bannen’s adult debut (after The Bird and the Blade) mixes You’ve Got Mail, Wyatt Earp, and The Walking Dead to create an ambitious but uneven fantasy rom-com. Hart Ralston, a demigod and marshal in the Old West–inspired land of Tanria, is so lonely that he looks forward to his trips to Birdsall & Son Undertakers. At least when he’s dropping off zombie remains (called drudges), he can play with the dog belonging to his nemesis, undertaker Mercy Birdsall. When Hart writes an anonymous letter to no one in particular—he addresses it “Dear friend”—as a way of processing his loneliness, the note is magically delivered via nimkilim (anthropomorphic messenger animals) to Mercy. It was hate at first sight when Hart and Mercy met in real life, but soon each falls for the other’s pen pal persona—just in time for an uptick in drudges to get in the way of their romance. An overarching fantasy mystery about how and why drudges exist rests uneasily on top of this rom-com framework, and an abrupt tonal shift in the third act will throw many readers. Still, fans of the Ask a Mortician webseries and those who love gore and rom-coms in equal measure will find plenty to enjoy in this quirky outing. (Aug.)