by Naomi Hughes
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Pub Date 16 Mar 2021 | Archive Date 18 Mar 2021
Naomi Hughes, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles
Everyone in the Alloyed Empire fears the Destroyer. The metal in her blood gives her incendiary powers, and the coldness in her heart makes her the empress’s perfect weapon…until a rebel attack leaves her with no magic and no memories.
Tal is a royal bodyguard who has long since regretted his idealistic hopes of changing the Destroyer. Now that she’s powerless, he plans to finally end her reign of terror—if he can stop himself from falling for the wicked, funny, utterly unfamiliar girl she’s become.
Nyx was furious when her brother, Tal, abandoned her to protect a tyrant. Now, she hones herself as a rebel assassin until she can kill the Destroyer and rescue Tal. But the closer she gets, the more she realizes the entire empire hinges on the decisions the three of them will make…
A Note From the Publisher
Average rating from 208 members
First of all, I am a sucker for memory loss stories, so the synopsis of this book got me hook, line, and sinker … and it did not disappoint at all. (This is also probably the closet I'll ever get to my dream of 'Overboard' but make it fantasy, so I am Very happy!) Memory loss trope aside - I really enjoyed this book.
While I'm normally quite good at anticipating twists and the overall plot of a story, this book kept me on my toes and surprised me constantly, which made for an enjoyable ride and an addictive page turner.
Two main themes throughout the book are religion and redemption. Their constant exploration, interwoven with the story was fascinating. Tal struggles with both, following his god has lead him down a path of suffering and he struggles to forgive himself for the things he had to do. Elodie might have lost her memories but everyone else still remembers her as The Destroyer, the woman with powers that leave only leave pain and destruction behind. Can someone be punished for a crime they do not remember committing? Can a person gain forgiveness, or is there a point of no turning back?
These two were very complex characters with a lot of internal conflict, and you cannot help yourself but to like them. I loved the bond they developed throughout the story so much (that lake scene will live in my head rent free), my only gripe is that I need more of them!
I also enjoyed what we got to see of Tal's sister, Nyx, she was intense, in the best of ways. Her relationship with Tal was very 'ride or die' to the point that her mother convinces her of two different schemes to save Tal that verge more on the 'die' part. Her mother seems kind of lost in a radical way of following her religious beliefs and not the best mother all together. Her girlfriend on the other hand seems like a good influence in her life and they had great banter between themselves. I only wish we could've seen more of them together because I enjoyed their dynamic a lot.
An enemies-to-lovers young adult fantasy with thought-provoking messages about faith, forgiveness, and the murky line between good and evil, Mercurial is a compelling read! I enjoyed the characters, the magic system, the thought-provoking messages, and, of course, the romance in this standalone novel.
Several characters in the story that stand out as favorites! The Destroyer, also known as Elodie, is so interesting. Though extremely powerful, she feels very alone. She is feared, justifiably so, for her violence and cruelty. Even when she loses her powers, that loneliness envelops her. Her story is so intriguing, especially considering how murky her past is. Plagued by nightmares, Elodie struggles to remember certain parts of her past, and her story becomes even more shocking as the story progresses. It’s clear that Elodie is on her own. Tal is one of the only people she can trust, and that’s mostly because he has taken an unbreakable oath to let no harm come to her.
Tal goes through many internal and external obstacles throughout the story, and his character is so well-developed. Tal is quite devout and is deeply affected by his religious beliefs and spiritual guidance. However, for the majority of the story he goes through a spiritual struggle and tries to reconcile his faith with his ever-changing feelings.
Tal also struggles to understand his changing feelings toward Elodie. At the start of the story, Tal despises The Destroyer and wishes he had never sworn himself to her. He has seen her do, and he has done unspeakable and unforgivable things, and he doesn’t understand why his God propelled him to protect The Destroyer. However, as the story progresses, Tal sees that there is much more to Elodie than just being The Destroyer, especially after she loses her memory. These conflicting feelings confuse and anger Tal. Elodie is more aware and quicker to reconcile her feelings for Tal. There are interesting messages here about trauma, forgiveness, acceptance, and the power of love, and I enjoyed Tal and Elodie’s enemies-to-lovers romance.
Speaking of love, I have to talk about how much I love Nyx, Tal’s sister. Nyx is determined to rid the world of The Destroyer and free her brother, and she is unflinching in her goals. She is a fighter, and she is passionate about those she loves. Though she is brutal and strong and unrelenting, she turns into a softie whenever she’s with her brother and her girlfriend. I love that we see so many sides of her character from her ambitions to her fears and everything in between. Like her brother, Nyx struggles to reconcile her feelings toward The Destroyer and her religious beliefs.
I found the religious aspect of this story really interesting. I didn’t find it preachy but instead felt it was more philosophical in examining and questioning religion. Characters like Tal, his mother, Nyx, and Nyx’s girlfriend show the difference between faith and fanaticism. They also show ways in which religion can help a person and when it can harm. It’s fascinating to see people who read and follow the same religious texts pull opposite interpretations depending on their own motivations and desires. It really makes you think about the different ways in which culture and religion influence people.
The world and magic system are unique and immersive, and the author skillfully creates a dynamic and fascinating setting. In addition to the intriguing world and magic, secrets, lies, fighting for a cause (or person) you believe in, political intrigue, and many heart-pounding scenes make for an immersive read. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
“she was fire, she was mercury, she was death. she was a weapon in the hands of her empress.”
okay okay, lets talk mercurial. when i started this, i was reading possibly my worst read series in the world, so my hopes for this were not that high, i just needed something simple to read. but holy, did i enjoy this book. there are a few trigger warnings, such as poisonings, torture, stabbings, religious martyrdom, vivid descriptions of blood and a few more (you can find those on the authors review of this book). but lets get onto the review (it wont be much indepth as ill rather not give out spoils)
my favorite thing to talk about: the characters
“once, there was a boy who believed”
tal. i loved tal. i love his arc, i love who he is, i love what he stands for, although he is mostly confused throughout the entire book (does he trust the destroyer, does he not? who knows? certainly not him). the man made the dumbest decisions at times but i love him so its fine.
“once. there was a girl who was afraid”
the destroyer was OMG. thats it. thats how i would describe her. she has possibly my favorite character growth and is just full of surprises. she went from heartless warrior to understanding people AH, it was so good to read about. she was so flawed, so violent, such a mess, but so interesting to read about.
“nyx believed in exactly one thing, and that was her brother tal”
now onto my absolute favorite character who i would die for, nyx. nyx is so powerful, so overprotective, and has killer vibes. she, frankly, will kill anyone who hurts her family, and actually said she would (scary stuff). her trust in tal throughout the entire book was fantastic. her character had the most personality and the most attitude for sure. she made reading this book so much fun.
lets talk plot:
this story surrounds a character called the destroyer, who everyone fears in alloyed empire. tal is a royal guard who has to protect the destroyer, who wants to take advantage of the fact she is now powerless to, more or less, destroyer the destroyer (see what i did there). however, what is a fantasy without love right? so of course, tal has to stop himself from falling. and we cannot forget nyx, who is angry that her brother is protecting said destroyer, and plans on killing the destroyer to get tall back. the story follows the journey of these three unique, but not all that different characters.
not once in this entire book was i sure about where we were going with this plot. its full of twists and extremely fast paced ( although it does have a rough and slow start). it has vengeance and fantasy, it's the perfect recipe for a great book. i do have to say though, its not a perfect book, which any book rarely is. i felt we could have had more information of what happened in the two year jump from the prologue to chapter one. however, for what i read, it was super interesting and really well developed.
the world building was outstanding. usually, standalones either have great world building or the trashiest one. but i'm glad to say, i loved this world. also, religion does play a part in here, but it was mostly seen around tal and him coming to terms with the fact that his life is not to be determined by god, but by his own choices (which i think was done wonderfully, it does not throw religion on you at all).
ofc there was romance in this, which i very much enjoyed. i would call it kind of an enemies to lovers, although the destroyer never really hated tal, just would not think about her feelings. but tal definitely hated the destroyer in the beginning.
would i recommend this? yes
will i shove it down everyone's throat? yes
will i make this book my personality for the next two weeks? yes
full review: http://thedragonscribe.com/2021/03/07/mercurial-by-naomi-hughes/
I received this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Mercurial follows the story of three POV protagonists: Tal, who once believed he was on a mission from his god, is now imprisoned by an unbreakable vow to protect a tyrant. Elodie, better known as The Destroyer, the feared and terrible enforcer of an oppressive empire, and the tyrant Tal is forced to protect. And Nyx, Tal’s half-sister and an agent of the rebellion, who will do anything to see her brother free of his oath. Following a failed assassination attempt on Nyx’s part, Elodie finds herself stranded with Tal in a harsh wilderness, devoid of both her memories and her powers. And then things get interesting.
Amnesia-as-redemption is both a thorny and interesting topic, and has been deeply compelling in every medium I’ve seen it in. One of my favorite video games handles this beautifully, but I won’t tell you which one, because I hate to spoil one of the best plot twists of all time, even twenty year later. Oof. I feel old. More recently, I read a book with this trope that handled it cynically, with an amnesiac main character determined to be a good person, and nevertheless descending further into evil with every memory he regains. This book, however, is not that one, and handles the issue with a refreshing amount of nuance.
At its heart, Mercurial is a novel about redemption and forgiveness. How much is enough to atone for past sins? Are any atrocities bad enough to make redemption impossible? The answer, as you may well guess, is “It’s complicated,” and while Mercurial does not necessarily offer concrete answers, it does treat the characters as humans with thoughts and feelings and emotions who are capable of coming to conclusions of their own.
My favorite part of this book was how human all of the characters really were. Every single one of them made one or more terrible decisions throughout the story, ones that made me shout “Why?” and threaten to throw my e-reader out the window. But far from this being a critique, it is actually testament to the author’s writing kills. The author made me deeply care about the characters even as they made me tear my hair out. There was a certain point in the story when I was so frustrated with all the characters and their actions, that the evil serial-murderer tyrant was actually my favorite. Many of the heroes were driven by selfish motives, many of the villains had decent reasons for doing what they did. And yet every single character was human, and I found myself rooting for them even when I hated their guts, just a little.
Without getting into any spoilers, I thought the way the book ended was brilliant, and the way certain things came together, and various actions bloomed into consequences good and bad, was really a sight to behold. Mercurial was tightly plotted and well thought out, and entertaining all the way through.
In terms of gripes (of course there are gripes), I think my biggest complaint was I would have liked more. More of these characters, more of this world. It was obvious everything was deeply developed with care, but we simply don’t get to see enough of it. We know the current ruling government is Bad, based on the fact that they’re apparently burning down a village at the beginning of the novel because … reasons. But I’d like to know more about why they’re bad, why they find it important to burn random villages who might otherwise contribute to the country’s GDP, and if the answer is “They’re just evil for funsies” that’s fine, I just wanted more. The world in this novel is very intriguing, but I feel like we only see just the barest surface of it. I would love to read anything else the author decides to write in this world.
Mercurial is a great book for people who love redemption arcs, amnesia plots, and enemies to lovers romance.
This YA fantasy novel written by Naomi Hughes takes place in the world of The Alloyed Empire. A world where you can swear an everlasting oath on the metal in the world and the metal in you blood gives you power. The novel is in three POVs: The Destroyer, Tal and his sister, Nyx. Their stories all intertwine in interesting ways. Mercurial is a story of love, friendship, sacrifice and how manipulation can lead to destruction.
The writing was great, it is written in third-person. We jump between the perspectives of Tal, The Destroyer and Nyx. This was a short book but it was well-written and very easy to get through. Overall, the writing was great, though it was written more for the audience of the middle grade genre, rather than YA. The plot was well planned and had some expected twists and some unexpected ones as well.
The characters of the book were great! Tal had some great internal conflict regarding his faith, his oath and his charge. This added a lot to the plot and to Tal himself. He was loyal and kind but he was also fiercely protective of the people he loved and was willing to give up everything for them. I really like how in his perspective there was description of how the magic and the oath work. It was really well explained. The Destroyer was the most interesting character in this book. Throughout the book, there were glimpses of who she would have been, if it were not for the decisions made in the past. Nyx is a great character because of how much she cared for the people she loved as well. She gave up her dreams and hopes to save her brother and she risked her life multiple times to ensure the safety of others. I also enjoyed how her relationship with Helenia was written in without having any coming out moment or justification of the relationship. Their love and devotion just is. No need for explanation.
Overall, I really loved this book! The writing was thoroughly planned out and easy to read. The plot was original, fast-paced but also easy to understand and read. It really sucks you into the story and it's descriptive enough to immerse yourself wholly in The Alloyed Empire. And the characters were dynamic, interesting and very morally grey from all the POVs (as I mentioned before I LOVE some morally grey characters). Definitely a MUST READ!
Admittedly, I had neutral expectations when I started reading the first chapter before bed last night. Before I knew it, it was nearly 1am. Though I received an advance copy, I’ve just pre-ordered a copy for my collection.
In these magical pages, you’ll find — not one, but two — ship worthy romances. You’ll get tension with an “enemies to lovers” situation and an achingly beautiful sapphic couple. You’ll get villains worthy of scorn. You’ll get world building reminiscent of the most favorite stories of fandom.
With “Mercurial,” you’ll get a cast of fiercely strong, imperfect, diverse, compassionate characters with depth that may touch your soul as they have touched mine.
All the romance is PG, which could have been turned up a little bit. The characters are adults, after all. Something PG-13 would have fit in nicely, ya know?
> “He was finally free of her, and yet more of him belonged to her now than ever before.”
>“Damn,” said a weak female voice, again faintly familiar though he still couldn’t quite place it. “That was… my second favorite blade.”
> “Stop being stupid,” Helenia snapped.
> “I am obligated to do no such thing.”
## About Mercurial
The story starts when Tal — at the tender, beautifully naive age of 16 — pledges an oath to protect the Destroyer. With his life. For the rest of his life. What’s more? His pledge is bound by magic until death. Tal is compelled by his faith in the prophetic visions given to him by the Unforged God.
Two years later, Tal lives life as her bodyguard. Each day, he’s tormented by his hasty decision and commitment to the Unforged God. Each day, he bears witness to the Destroyer’s unspeakable violence and crimes against humanity. Time and time again, Tal is compelled by magic to protect the Destroyer from her assassins. Resentment, rage, disgust, and anger silently build in Tal. Every ounce is directed at himself, at the Destroyer, and at the Unforged God.
The catalyst for our story begins with (yet another) assassination attempt. As Tal pursues the assassin to avenge the Destroyer, he realizes the assassin is his sister, Nyx. And then, dear reader, we’re plunged into the icy depths of “Mercurial,” as told by Tal, Nyx, and the Destroyer.
Hughes expertly navigates the vast, deep gulf between good and evil, right and wrong. Through tragedy, trauma, and the question of humanity, “Mercurial” is a reminder of the resilience of love. Perhaps, the greatest tragedy is to live a life without love. To tolerate a world without love and acceptance. It is a reminder that we need more acceptance to heal. To become something better.
> “Regret is not absolution.”
Most refreshingly, “Mercurial” is an unexpectedly critical examination of the institutions of religion and belief. Set in a monotheistic world with saints and scripture befitting a fantasy novel, I found myself contemplating the nuances and depths of belief. Hughes depicts the complexity that comes with religion and the social interpretation of religious text and ideologies.
> “It portrayed a god who was the exact opposite of the god from Saasha’s scripture, and yet the two verses were found only a few pages apart.”
Hughes masterfully weaves a deeply touching story as the characters examine and question their belief in the Unforged God. She examines the the very human way people can look at the same text and extrapolate different meaning, shaped by their lived experiences. Shaped by the social and political values of the time.
> “I still curse his name every once in awhile. I doubt I’ll be over it anytime soon. But anger is not the absence of belief.”
Hughes’ critical examination lies beyond the framing and interpretation of religion and belief. We can all read the same book and walk away with our own interpretation. It’s the same reason book twitter is up in arms about Darkina, Nikolina, and Malina right now.
And I say _all_ this as a long-time atheist. Hughes’ examination is approachable, welcoming, and unbelievably human. “Mercurial” is a wonderfully sophisticated, emotionally intelligent page-turner. I can only hope more people find it as fulfilling as I have.
Forever a fan,
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