Every time I look at this book on my shelf, I feel compelled to begin singing 'Mercy' by Duffy. I don't know why. I wonder if all books with titles the same as songs I know the lyrics of would compel me to sing them. Of course, this is all totally irrelevant and of absolutely no importance, but I just thought I'd let you know. 'Mercy' by Duffy is quite a good song, by the way. I like her 'Rockferry' album.
But this review is about Mercy by Rebecca Lim, not Duffy! Mercy is an angel exiled from heaven and randomly possessing the bodies of humans, changing bodies without warning. She has no memory of her past, or much of an idea of who she really is, and she's visited in her dreams by Luc, who I believe is her angelic true love. This plotline - Mercy figuring out who she is, and random visits from angels - is important, but takes the backburner in this novel. At the beginning of the novel she wakes up on a bus, in a new body, that of Carmen, who is short and skinny and not conventionally attractive, but who is an amazing singer. She's on the way to a town called Paradise for a choir performance with two other schools. When she arrives, she discovers she's staying with the Daley family - who seem strange and distant from others - and is soon told about their terrible loss. (And I'm going to stop there because it's a lot more fun to read if you don't know what's going to happen.)
I loved the angels/murder mystery combo. I love stories about possession, and the fact that she had no control over where she went and when she changed was great. I loved the fact that she was the super-powerful paranormal beastie rather than her love interest. It was just different enough from ordinarily paranormal romance to be refreshing, but still fit well within the genre. It's an engaging story, and I'm very interested to read the sequel.
I did figure out the mystery about a third of the way in, and I'm not sure whether I have extraordinary detective skills or whether this was done intentionally by the author so that we have that cringing 'how can she not know?! This is going to end in disaster!' feeling, like in a horror movie. It was a touch frustrating, but I think the novel held up pretty well all the same - too often with series in this genre there isn't a sufficient story in the first book (instead it's like a 500-page intro) and no non-paranormal plotline. I think this book can work as a standalone as well (though some things are solved by the end, there's an over-arching plotline that is still open and entices the reader to read more).
Okay, and there's one thing that bothers me, but that's a convention of seemingly all paranormal romance and would probably massively disappoint the hardcore para-rom (that abbreviation doesn't really work, does it? What do you call paranormal romance for short?) fans if it didn't happen, and that's the fact that both of the story's leads fit a pretty rigid stereotype. He's tall and strong and handsome, and she's sassy. One good thing was that the body the protagonist is possessing is not conventionally attractive (though their true form is tall and beautiful - at least she's strong though). And I get why the characters are like this, but I'd love to read something where the protagonists rebel against the norms for the genre.
I think this will definitely appeal to YA paranormal romance fans, though apart from being partially set in a school, it's not dramatically teenaged - I think adult paranormal romance readers would just as easily enjoy it. I'm terrifically glad to see a Melbourne author getting international success, and I think the series has the potential to become quite popular. I enjoyed it.
Mercy on the publisher's website