The Power of Mercy by Fiona Zedde is the second book in a new superheroine series by lesbian publisher Ylva Publishing. If you’re already a fan of Zedde’s, The Power of Mercy is definitely a bit of a departure from her usual fare, which is exactly why I liked it so much. To be sure, sex is present in this story, but it’s not the focus, nor does it overpower the storytelling, but I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a caveat: this novella contains more than a few depictions of graphic violence, as well as brief references to rape and child abuse.
Our protagonist Mai, or Mercy, is a meta-human. She is the daughter of the powerful Redstone family, one of the sixteen Meta Families living in the North American territory. If you read vampire novels, this may sound a bit familiar to you, if not, it’s okay, you’ll figure it out. Mandaia Redstone, Mai’s mother, is one of the more powerful metas; indeed, she strikes fear in pretty much everyone around her. Mai’s father is a bit of a simp, although her brother is a conniving bastard, as is her cousin Ethan. The family Redstone holds many secrets, and Mai has distanced herself from them because of their moral failures. They also carry a bit of disdain for Mai’s lack of super human abilities; she’s only able to change her skin and fly. We learn later that she has other abilities, but I won’t spoil it for you by mentioning it here.
The novella begins with Mai performing an act of heroism: she saves several humans from a burning building. What’s interesting is that some humans seem to be aware of the metas, but it isn’t clear if this knowledge is widespread or if they have been accepted into “normal” society. At the core of this novella is a mystery: someone is killing meta-humans (and plain old humans too), and Mai is asked to help find the murderer. What follows is an interesting game of cat and mouse, ripe with betrayals, a tiny bit of romance, and an explosive family secret that threatens to disrupt the entire Meta Family order.
As usual, Zedde’s writing is beautiful, but I wish there was more of it. I do my best to review the book I read, not the one I wish I’d read. I think Zedde builds a compelling world of metas that I can lose myself in, but there’s so much going on behind the scenes that I feel like a novella just can’t do this story justice. Related to that is the pacing. It’s fine until around chapter nine, when things start to speed up. And then, in a blink of an eye, it’s over.
Zedde recently mentioned in a blog post that “[I] find myself once again wanting to do other things, to stand up from this box I’ve written myself into, yawn and stretch and see what else is out there for me.” She was referring to the notion that she’s been writing erotica and romance for so long that her readers don’t really want to see her do anything else. That’s a shame; Zedde has exceptional talent and skill, (you need both to be a good writer), and this novella is salient example of what “else” she can do. I also understand that to make a living as a writer, you have to write what sells, but oh, how I wish that more of us would support our beloved writers when they try something different. In this case, it is surely worth it.
Reviewer: Stephanie Andrea Allen
Stephanie Andrea Allen, Ph.D., is a native southerner and out Black lesbian writer, scholar, and educator. She is the author of a collection of short stories and essays, A Failure to Communicate, (BLF Press 2017), and is hard at work on her first novel. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter, Goodreads, or Facebook.