Parents' Guide to

The Boneless Mercies

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Intense, gender-bent Beowulf tale is a riveting adventure.

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This gorgeously written feminist twist on Beowulf allows young women warriors to seek glory and the men to take supporter and healer roles. Readers don't need to know the story of Beowulf and Grendel to enjoy author April Genevieve Tucholke's Norse tale. But those who are familiar with the Old English classic will be utterly awed at how wonderful the writing, world-building, and narrative arc are in Boneless Mercies. Frey is a mesmerizing protagonist. She yearns for glory, for her name to live on in sagas and songs. She's bound to the compassionate and loyal Trigve, who is the kind of love interest young adult books need more of: young men who aren't afraid of strong and independent women. And more than anything, she basks in the friendship and camaraderie of her fellow Mercies, who are young women with their own stories. She's also fairly bloodthirsty. She wants a good death in battle.

Somehow, Tucholke brings Frey's layers together in a likable whole. In fact, every character is utterly human and believably real, with backstories (most of them tragic) that explain their personalities and outlooks. The evocative prose is almost cinematic in nature: You sense the snowy landscapes, the muddy marsh, the fur pelts, the warmth of the hearth. The action sequences are nail-biters -- the Mercies bleed and bruise and scream in pain -- making the moments of feasting, drinking, and storytelling that much sweeter. Tucholke is a versatile writer, and this is the rare standalone that makes you long for a sequel. It's an ideal pick for fans of epic fantasies like Six of Crows, Seafire, and Frostblood.

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