End Date: November 26th
Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 352 (hardcover)
Selected By: BillMo
“Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae.
“Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?” – from Amazon
“Holy Avon, Batman.”
“Oh, this is my favorite part,” she said, “essential oils.” The last two words were said in the same tone a dragon might use to say “Spanish doubloon.”
“You and Adam” was short for “please bring a pack of werewolves out to take care of the car-eating monster.”
I like that Adam gave time for his pack to work things out with his wife but hey enough is enough. If they can’t behave then you have got to tell them how things are going to be. I also liked that the pack actually seemed happy about this structure instead of it tearing them apart.
“Take happiness where you can,” he said. “It seldom lasts-‘course, neither does sorrow, right?”
“Death is not to be feared. Death is easy. It is living that is brutal.”
“I glanced over at Zee, who had his happy face on again. It was just…wrong to see a happy face on Zee.”
“Unless you work with Mercy. I’ve been having all sorts of new experiences since I met her.”
BillMo’s Favorite Character(s): Zee.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.
As usual, I’m thrilled to read another installment of Mercy Thompson. Quick read as usual packed with a lot of developments that push the current story along and opens up opportunities to explore additional adventures through some of our new and old denizens of the Tri-Cities.
My appreciation of Mercy remains unblemished by this installment. One of the things that I like about Mercy is she very human despite her supernatural propensities. She understands where she fits in the hierarchy, she doesn’t embellish her importance and remains as humble as she can be despite some of her bolder moves. Mercy isn’t woe-laden for the sake of woe-laden. She does see her own flaws as flaws and does compare herself to would-be rivals. For instance, she is intimidated by the femininity of Adam’s ex-wife, Christie. Logically, she knows that Adam has no interest in rekindling anything with Christie, even for the sake of their shared child of Jesse; but she recognizes how unfeminine she is compared to Christie. She went so far to conjecture that while Mercy made homemade sauce for their pasta meal, she did not make the fresh pasta as Christie would. If this tenant was harped on to infinite, I would have been annoyed, but as it is, it serves to remind us that Mercy while powerful in her own right, is just as insecure as anyone who hasn’t quite fit in all her life.
“Neutral does not work. When you watch your allies commit atrocities and do nothing, who is more reprehensible? Those who rape and plunder or those who could have stopped it but do nothing.”
Mercy, steps up, as does the pack when they do receive a distress call from local law enforcement to handle a Troll on the bridge. The pack and Mercy leaps into protective mode, coming away with a victory and nursing a few scars. One of the pleasant surprises for me was the reemergence of Zee and Tad. To say I was worried about them since they were relegated to the Fae reservation is an understatement. Their arrival, albeit a little worse for wear, is welcome and in tow they have a seemingly young ward who needs the protection of the pack. Mercy, unintentionally sets about a grand gesture of declaring the Tri-Cities the pack territory and the willingness to defend that territory for all to hear and see. Which sparks some additional problems for the pack, but it is to be expected when supernaturals decide to step on each other’s toes without considering the ramifications of their actions.
This leads me to Adam. I’ll admit, I have a huge crush on the fictional pack leader and wish he were in the flesh and living nearby. Despite some of Mercy’s bold statements, he backs her play and sees the bigger picture in all that he does. His actions are straight forward and only partially subdued as his status as pack leader requires. He is the protector of his pack, of his extended family and friends and when Mercy talks, he listens, agreeing with her assessment of the situations as they present themselves. I appreciate that he finally put the pack in their place for some of its members disrespecting Mercy and her union with Adam. Furthermore, as the pack leader, Adam takes on a fatherly role for all the pack and their extended family. There are many scenes where you see he’s giving the fatherly comfort one would expect from a paternal influence, whether to a pack member, a beneficiary of his protection or just as a friend. Adam is extremely older and wiser than all around him, despite his young looks. He takes on the “less desirables” of the werewolf community and extended supernatural community including fae and vampires.
Speaking of the undesirables, Adam accepts a new wolf into the pack at the behest of the Marrok, Bran when he doesn’t quite fit in there. We are introduced to Sherwood, a werewolf with a prosthetic leg with no memory of who he once was. We are clued in that Bran knows who Sherwood is in his past, but I believe that is for us to discover later in the series. I’m gathering that Sherwood may be a force to be reckoned with and we’ll see how much so in future storylines. We are also introduced to Aiden, a changeling child stolen by Underhill an untold number of years ago. Adam agrees with and wholeheartedly extends his protection over Aiden, who is now a target of the Fae community. As with Sherwood, Aiden will possibly produce some substantial storyline material to extend the series even further.
A key point of the novel is politics. No matter what the situation, no matter who is involved politics plays a huge role in all things surrounding Mercy, her pack and the community at large. Adam must play nice with the government because of the Werewolves going public with the government. He also must play nice with the local Fae community to prevent an all out war between their communities. However, even within those subsets, there are politics at play that is obvious to intricate and excellently executed by Briggs. She highlights the nuances, the power plays and general absurdity in how all parties deal with all situations. The intricacies of each situation and rules at play are numerous and sometimes you do have to think back to prior books to remind yourself of the complexity of a situation, even though it seems simple enough.
While this was not my favorite Mercy Thompson novel, I still enjoyed it. I think it will take years for Mercy to actually see her badass-ness for what it is. She’s humble, resourceful and actually does care about those around her. She is not the strongest or the most fearless, but she recognizes her vulnerabilities and still steps up to offer her protection the best way she knows how. She is smart, crafty, resilient and tenacious. There is no unnecessary hand wringing and “oh things are so bad for me” antics (yeah, I’m referencing a series that I once enjoyed but hated the main character…again). There is also no putting people in harms way and not pulling her own damn weight either. I couldn’t ask more of her character. I look forward to more of Mercy and Adam. I also look forward to where our relationships with Sherwood, Aiden and Joel will go if and when they appear again in the future.
Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s): Mercy and Adam.
Esbe read the Ace hardcover version of this book.
Mercedes Athena Thompson-Hauptman is still one bad ass bitch – figuratively and literally. I’ll admit that I fell behind after the release of River Marked (2011), and prior to beginning this month’s selection I was a little worried that, because I’d missed both Frost Burned (2013) and Night Broken (2014), I’d be totally lost – but Briggs does such a great job of reminding her readers of details they may have forgotten from past books (without beating them over the head with the minutiae or wasting whole chapters with recaps) that my concern was quickly proven to be completely unnecessary. For every “What the hell?” moment there were subtle hints or bits of conversation dropped in not far behind that served to clear a bit of the fog.
Having missed Night Broken‘s introduction of Guayota and his effect on Joel, I have to belatedly say here what an awesome addition he is to the Columbia Basin Pack! And that’s saying a lot – River Marked gave us a good look at the full politics and dynamic of pack life, and in the five years since it’s release (and since I’ve read it) I’d forgotten just how much I love every single member of the Columbia Basin pack! Presiding over them all is Mercy’s husband, Adam – confident, controlled, loyal, protective, adoring, damn-fine Adam, with his alpha-wolf suffer-no-fools attitude served up with an extra dose of old-fashioned Southern charm (“Nudge,” indeed. Nudge, nudgenudgenudge.). And the rest of the pack… from Honey’s stoicism and Darryl’s brute force to Warren’s gentle guidance and Ben’s hilarious rants – and everyone in between – they are more than family: they are pack, and while we’re in Mercy’s head, Briggs makes them our pack, too.
“Children are victims – I am neither child nor victim, despite what I look like. It was necessary that I do something to remind everyone that I might be in a child’s form, yet I own more years than anyone here.” I blinked at him, so totally nonplussed that I was robbed of anger. That was an excuse I’d never heard before. “So,” Jesse said in the same cool voice, evidently not as distractible as I was, “not regarding him as a child, I smacked his face with the spatula.”
This is why Patricia Briggs stresses me out so much. She makes us love these people, she forces us to love them… and then she has to go and give them life. In their human guises, the werewolves seem more rooted to the page; they have more weight, they stay put. In their werewolf guises, on the other hand, they tend to scatter off the page, rushing here and there, becoming distant snarls and howls, yips and cries, tied to their alphas and each other by the pack bond which allows them to sense the presence of one another. It’s nerve-wracking to stand on a bridge or wait in a car with Mercy while the pack breaks into hunting groups and rushes into the fray, it’s nerve-wracking to hear them as she does, to feel them as she does, their pain and their anger, their fear and – worst of all – the sudden empty ache left behind when one of them falls.
The fae are as interesting and complex as always, smiling as they play games for which no one knows all of the rules and which are entirely for keeps. One of my reasons for loving Briggs’ series so much more than most other urban fantasy series is because it doesn’t follow the same formula of flashy-magic + heroic-menfolk + damsels-in-distress ÷ lots-of-pointless-sex. Sure, there is flashy magic and a bit of sex, but heroes and those who they rescue come in all flavors, and, most importantly for me, Briggs’ style is just so… smart. With her fae, Briggs’ delves into history and mythology; they toss casual quips regarding ancient history, lost cities, or forgotten deities into conversations in the same way I might reference what it was like to be a kid back when kids actually played outside – it’s a fact of life, something from their own pasts which is relevant to the conversation but to which their audience might not necessarily relate. Besides the usual urban-fantasy fae from Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales, there are those taken directly from the folklore of Germany and Russia, the Slavic countries, Spain, and even obscure bits from South America. And just when you thought she couldn’t surprise you, she gives Joel a twist and introduces Aiden, the Fire-Touched changeling child with a boy’s exterior wrapped around a centuries’ old soul.
“You are going to need a lot of power to stay safe from the Gray Lords. Right at this moment, that means you need to work at making people want to help you – instead of wanting to strangle you and shove your head through a refrigerator.”
But it always comes back to Mercy. I’ve said it numerous times and I’ll say it again: if I had a daughter, I’d want her to read these books over any other in the genre. Urban fantasy typically has only three types of female characters: the ultra-sexy female villain who uses her wiles to manipulate others into doing her will, the ultra-sexy female heroine who shows up with bluff and bravado but ultimately has to be rescued by a Y-chromosome-carrying character, and the rather bland sidekick chick who may or may not be ultra-sexy.
Sometimes there’s an old woman. And she’s usually a villain.
But Mercy is my favorite urban-fantasy heroine because she breaks that mold – she shatters it into a million pieces. She’s no damsel in distress. She’s not trapped in the perpetual state of “twenty-something.” She’s sure as hell not waiting on any sidelines for someone to come rescue her. She’s nobody’s sidekick, she’d kick your teeth down your throat for calling her a “chick,” and she can fix her own damn car, thank you very much. She doesn’t seem to be on a mission to sleep with everyone in town, and she doesn’t simper or pretend to be weaker than she is to win. She’s in her thirties, she’s married, she has sex with her husband and only her husband, and she still kicks ass. She is the weakest member of the pack, and yet they still respect her as their alpha-female; not because Adam tells them to, but because, as with real wolf packs, they recognize that being the biggest and strongest doesn’t necessarily make you the best leader – real wolves follow those alphas who can keep them together and safe, who can maintain discipline, who can be fair. Mercy is “home” for the pack, she is their safety; they come before her house, before her profession, before her pride, before herself.
And she makes the best frosting-covered brownies this side of the Rockies.
Elle’s Favorite Character(s): Baba Yaga. I have a soft spot in my heart for trickster gods to begin with, and Briggs’ Baba Yaga is no exception. She’s clever, subtle, devious, and dangerous – but she’s also fair and operates according to her own set of rules.
Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.