The King’s Mercy by Lori Benton
WaterBrook, 2019. Paperback, 400 pages.
The King’s Mercy is Benton’s first novel to feature a setting outside of the American colonies as it opens on the fields of Scotland during the Battle of Culloden. Readers will be introduced to Alex MacKinnon as he fights against the British monarch and follow him through his imprisonment and his later being granted “The King’s Mercy” of indentured servitude outside of the British Isles instead of death. Alex soon finds himself on a ship bound for North Carolina, away from the remainders of his family and his home.
Joann Carey is the stepdaughter of a plantation owner and former captain on the Royal Navy. After her mother’s death, Joann finds herself as the plantation mistress, but with a servant’s heart that leads her to treat the slaves like family, and caretaker of her younger, developmentally disabled sister, Charlotte. Her life is turned upside down upon Alex’s arrival as the new blacksmith. She starts to lose her heart to Alex as life at the plantation begins to crumble around them as one disaster follows another. She is also forced to consider her father’s overseer, Phineas Reeves, as a potential suitor and she fears for her friend and former potential suitor, Elijah Moon, the previous blacksmith who was maimed in a tragedy, as he recovers from his wounds, both physically and mentally.
After one such disaster, Alex flees for his life and finds himself in Cherokee country. How will this encounter affect him? How will his absence change life at the plantation? How did his encounter there with the Carey’s preacher, the Reverend David Pauling change his perspective? Will his change of heart come too late to save Joanna and Charlotte?
I’ve enjoyed all of Benton’s other works in the past, but I felt this novel was a departure from her usual style. While still set amid the Colonial frontier, her other novels have always focused on the relationships between Native Americans and colonists. This novel only had a fleeting connection to Native Americans and that covered only a brief, but crucial, point in the novel. The content in The King’s Mercy was also darker than anything Benton has written before and that was not something I was expecting. I cannot say more in regards to that without spoiling the plot. Still, the novel’s main characters-Alex, Joanna, Elijah-were strong and well-written. The novel also features Benton’s vivid descriptions and display her depth of research.
Have you read any of Benton’s work in the past? If so, what did you think?
This review is based on a digital advanced copy of the novel obtained from NetGalley. It will be released on June 4th, 2019.