Review: The Power of Mercy “ Fiona Zedde

A black lesbian superhero kicks some serious ass.


Mai Redstone is the least powerful of her Meta-human family, with chameleon-like powers that let her change her appearance and little else. That doesn’t stop her from moonlighting as Mercy, the hero who is beloved by humans for saving them from calamities like burning buildings or cars that have made their way into the river. It’s her appearance as Mercy that drew the attention of the enforcers—police for Metas—in Atlanta. Now she works with them on the sly, without her family or her colleagues at the university knowing about her double life cleaning up after Metas who wreak havoc on the less powerful.


When Mai’s powerful, terrible uncle is murdered by the Absolution Killer, both the enforcers and her family want her to track the murderer and turn him over. Except when Mai digs in and starts to figure out what links all of the murders, she’s not so sure she wants to. It’s up to Mai to decide whether doing the right thing means staying loyal to the enforcers or her family, or going a different way.


With action, intrigue, romance, family drama, and super powers, The Power of Mercy has a little bit of everything. The pacing is deliberate and methodical without ever being slow, allowing us to understand who Mai is and get invested in her while the tension around the hunt for her uncle’s killer is slowly ratcheted up. The action scenes were so gripping that I almost missed my stop while commuting to work one morning, and everything to do with Xóchitl, from her first appearance to her last, was masterfully handled and allowed us to see different sides of Mai that we would not have been able to otherwise.


Mai is a fascinating character and it’s impossible to look away as she moves through the book, growing and changing as she learns more about the Absolution Killer and faces her ultimate decision. Her life as a professor is quiet and principled, and it’s so important to her that it’s kept entirely separate from her powerful family (while also being important because it’s separate from them). And though she may not love her work with the enforcers, she clearly understands how important it is, demonstrating her sense of honor.


It’s only when Mai is around her family that we start to understand where her fault lines are, and as we learn more about her past and what her uncle did to her, we are better able to understand her ambivalence as she’s tracking down his killer. She’s a very different person by the end of the book and I found myself cheering for her as I put my Kindle down.


Reading The Power of Mercy is a lot like watching a superhero movie, but even better. Not only do we get to experience a more complex, exciting plot with excellent dialogue and character development, but we get something we haven’t had and aren’t likely to get anytime soon from Hollywood—a black female superhero story that’s written by a black woman. We need more books with diverse characters by authors who are writing from their own experiences, and The Power of Mercy is an excellent choice for anyone looking to read more diversely. And even if you’re just looking for your next great speculative fiction pick, this is a book you should definitely pick up. Its complex themes hold up well against the riveting action sequences, leaving us with a satisfying, thoughtful book that will stick with you long after you’ve finished.


Publisher: Ylva Publishing

Tara Scott is a regular reviewer at The Lesbian Review and you can hear her talk about lesbian fiction on her podcast Les Do Books.


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